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Eating the rainbow & food diversity

Updated: May 26, 2020


To recap from last week- first, mindfully introducing a slow pace and a more conscious element to your eating, and secondly, eating for satisfaction and tuning into our hunger and fullness. The idea is that by building up and layering these habits, we increase the pleasure and satisfaction we get from food. When we really focus on how we feel, before, during, and after eating, we can begin to notice that it feels good to eat healthfully. If we can let those good feelings drive our choices, it will feel a lot easier and more natural to eat well. The second practice that we wanted to talk about is ‘ eating the rainbow’ where you consciously aim to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. So what does that mean? Why is it important to focus on diversity in our diets? When you think about what you ate yesterday or two week ago, how different has the food on your plate been? Often-time we may be tempted to stick to a few fruits & vegetables that are family favourites and fall into a routine. But the truth is that diversity is a good thing, particularly for our gut! In fact, the best way to achieve a healthy gut microbiome is to consume a varied diet. A number of studies have found that the type of food you consume affects your overall health and your gut health. The reason being because different foods (fruit & veg) have different macro and micro nutrients and hence a diverse diet establishes nutrient adequacy . The phrase ‘eat the rainbow’ is relevant to our health because the colour of your food can tell you about its nutritional value, and hence eating a variety of coloured fruits and vegetables is a foolproof way of making sure that you can get the full range of vitamins and minerals that nature has to offer us!

Let’s talk a little more about the relationship between colour and nutritional value. The colour found in certain fruit & veg are derived from the different phytochemicals present within them. Phytochemicals are chemical compounds that are produced naturally by plants, examples include carotenoids, anthocyanin, polyphenols, resveratrol etc. Red fruits & vegetables for example contain a number of phytochemicals including anthocyanins and lycopene that are known to be potent antioxidants. Certain colours found in food indicate the presence of specific nutrients; for example, orange and yellow fruit & veg (citrus fruits, pineapple, bell peppers, peaches, papaya, sweet potato, carrot, pumpkin etc) are rich in both Vitamin C & A. Now when it comes to purple fruit & veg like grapes, eggplant, blueberries, purple cabbage, beets they have an abundance of Vitamin C & K. Whereas green fruit & veg (spinach, avocado, green beans, broccoli, okra, zucchini) are high in Vitamin B,K & E. Eating a wide variety of colourful plants is one the most impactful habits we can adopt. We know that adding more plants to our diets is associated with numerous health benefits. We can feel confident of accessing the full range of different phytonutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and the different types of fibre necessary for healthy digestion by eating different plants of all different colours. Taste and seasonality should guide our choices, we should always eat what we enjoy and what is appealing to us. But we can also aim to mix things up, be open-minded about trying new things and be aware of including a wide variety of colours that make up our weekly diet. Opting for seasonal produce is highly recommended because it’s more likely to be fresher and have a higher nutritional value.

We should aim to be regularly eating between 5–10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day- again, not a hard and fast rule, our diet is bound to vary day to day. Over the course of a week or month is the length of time we want to examine whether we are generally eating fresh, colourful produce regularly- rather than freaking out over meals or even days. It can be tough to get all those fruits and vegetables in, so here are some tips below to help us get more colourful fruit and vegetables into our diet, focus on bringing in the most manageable small changes first rather than seeing the steps below as a chance to overhaul! 5 ways to get more colour and variety in your diet 1. Try one new vegetable or fruit per week. Whether you cook or someone else does the cooking, try seeking out a different coloured vegetables, like pumpkin, beetroot or red amaranth (something that isn’t normally part of the weekly repertoire), and incorporating this into the weekly menu. Simply stir fry, roast or chuck it into a mixed vegetable curry. Or you could try creating your own salad by following Copper + Cloves easy steps to building ‘a modern Indian salad’

2. Whenever you are cooking a meal, try to think how you could add a new colour to it. One of the easiest ways to do this is to have spinach, methi leaves or amaranth leaves in your fridge so you can add greens to any dish- stir them through any curry gravy right at the end of cooking, add them to a sabzi and you can even add them to scrambled eggs or an omelette. The same goes for frozen peas- they can be stored forever without going off and can be added to so many dishes at the last minute without careful planning. Slicing cherry tomatoes and drizzling with olive oil and torn basil makes any 3. Herbs and spices count! Adding fresh coriander, dill or mint leaves to a salad, stew or curry, and cooking with fresh turmeric, ginger and garlic all add to the variety of phytonutrients you get! 4. Mix up your breakfasts. · Top your toast with smashed avocado, chopped tomato and mint leaves with a drizzle of olive oil. · Cut up fruit and nuts and sprinkle over your porridge or cereal- banana, strawberries and flax seeds are a great topping. · Take your masala omelette to the next level- rather than just tomato, onion and a little chilli, add fresh greens, grated zucchini or peas into the mix! · Pack your sambhar full of vegetables. Try to flip the balance by stuffing it full of gourd, drumsticks and tomatoes as well as any other vegetables you have lying around. 5. Have a colourful rosti instead of toast under eggs once in a while. Grate beetroot, potato, onion and carrot (or just one or any combination of these) into a bowl with some salt, pepper, and one whisked egg. Add a teaspoon of jeera seeds and some shredded fresh coriander. Mix well- then take a tablespoon, roll into a ball with your hands and then flatten. Pan fry in 1 tsp hot oil until the edges start to go crispy on one side and then flip. These are perfect topped with poached, fried or scrambled eggs for breakfast or a light lunch! I hope these tips are helpful, actionable steps to including more colour in your diet. The key thing to remember is, having a healthy relationship with food is as important as eating healthy food. Don’t allow aiming to eat as many colourful fruits and vegetables become a rule that causes anxiety as you strive to meet it or causes guilt when you fail to meet it. Start where you are- if you currently think you eat a very limited range of colours, think about how you could eat just one additional colour a couple of times per week and build up from there. Adding more colour should be a fun and happy endeavour!

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