What exactly does ‘Eat the rainbow mean’?
Eating a diversity of colourful foods can be an easy way to get a complete range of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to thrive. ‘Eat the rainbow’ means quite simply, that the colour of your food can tell you a lot about its nutritional value, and eating a variety of colours is one sure method to get as many of those vitamins and minerals as possible (and eat a broad, diverse amount of food in the process).
Eating a nutrient dense diet full of colour is thought to protect us against a variety of illnesses, and there is increasing evidence that it can also help in relation to fertility…so eat a rainbow to give your health and fertility a boost!
Red and pink
Berries such as strawberries and raspberries are full of anthocyanins which are thought to provide protection against some cancers, cardiovascular disease and also help to slow down the ageing process. They contain antioxidants and are rich in ellagic acid- this is thought to possess antibacterial and antiviral qualities. Red vegetables and fruit usually contain some amount of lycopene (tomatoes are an excellent source) which has protective benefits to the body.
In relation to fertility, there have been some studies conducted into the beneficial effects of lycopene on male fertility. Research has been carried out to examine the effect of the antioxidants in lycopene in helping to protect developing sperm from free radical damage and possible DNA damage. In women, recent research has indicated that lycopene may be useful in reducing the abnormal activity of cells and as a result may reduce the adhesion effects of endometriosis.
Examples of red/pink foods: tomatoes, peppers, melon, loganberries, raspberries strawberries, red currants, cranberries, pomegranates….
Yellow and orange….
Beta carotene gives the orange spectrum foods it’s vibrant colour and is thought to help boost immunity, keep our heart healthy, fight against dementia and certain cancers. Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables are abundant in vitamins C and A.
Carotenoids are the main antioxidants found in orange vegetables and fruits. Carotenoids are important for healthy eyes, mucous membranes and skin. Yellow and orange foods also contain Lutein, which helps to maintain healthy vision.
In relation to fertility, beta-carotene (which the body converts into vitamin A) helps to produce the female sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone). These hormones are important for ovulation and for the regulation of the menstrual cycle. Beta-carotene is the plant-based precursor to vitamin A. It helps to protect us from conditions related to oestrogen dominance, including breast cysts, heavy menstrual bleeding and ovarian cancer.
Examples of yellow/orange foods: citrus, squash, peppers, oranges, gourds, satsumas, apricots, carrots.
Green fruits and veggies are high in vitamins K, B, and E. Green foods often contain Quercetin which can act as an anti-inflammatory.
Green foods also contain Lutein, which helps to maintain healthy vision. Leafy green vegetables such as kale are a good source of carotenoids which may help to prevent heart problems and reduce the risk of lung and breast cancer.
In relation to fertility, green vegetables are an excellent source of folate and iron. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and is found in supplements. Folate is important as it helps to prevent neural tube defects.
Examples of green foods: Broccoli, kale, spinach avocados, asparagus, grapes, kiwi, apples, greengages, peas, beans.
Blue and purple
Blue and purple fruit and vegetables contain high amounts of anthocyanins which help keep the urinary tract healthy and also help protect our memory. Purple produce are also high in vitamins C and K.
Blackberries and blueberries contain ellagic acid (thought to possess antibacterial and antiviral qualities) and catechins which are thought to help reduce the risk of cancer.
Purple grapes contain reservatrol which is a flavonoid and is thought to help protect the heart and provide some protection against certain cancers.
In relation to fertility the antioxidants in blue and purple fruit and vegetables protect against cell damage and cell aging, so help to keep those reproductive cells at their peak by eating these healthy fruit and vegetables!
Examples of blue and purple foods are: Blackberries, blueberries, grapes, blackcurrants, bilberries, beetroot.
We’ve only begun to scratch the surface here and we will look at each colour of the rainbow in terms of healthy foods in more depth over the coming weeks with a few recipes to go with each colour, but the bottom line is that each colour group helps support different aspects of our overall health and fertility and they also brighten up our plates and mealtimes too – making us want to enjoy our food – so the more diverse you make your meals the better! It is important not to focus on one or two particular colours though – ensure you eat a healthy balanced diet and you can’t go wrong.
Some tips to help you include lots of colour in your diet:
- When you’re writing your shopping list, add 2-3 new plant foods each week.
- Keep a variety of colourful produce (berries, leafy greens, etc) in your freezer for easy juice/smoothie making.
- Make time to chop some veggies in the beginning of the week or have a few bags of frozen vegetables in the freezer. This makes it easy to grab a handful of chopped veggies for a soup, casserole or stir fry in the week.
- Keep fruit in your kitchen or on your desk at work for easy access to it as a ‘snack’.
- Batch cook so that you reach for healthy nutrient dense meals when in a rush rather than ‘fast food’.