Lots of colour on your plate not only makes your food look good but also keeps you fighting fit.

A “Rainbow Diet” is one that includes foods of different colours by adding different kinds of fruits and vegetables into your diet. Most of us know that including generous servings of fruits and vegetables in the diet is the cornerstone of good health, but we lack the motivation to do so.

Besides, the effort that goes into the processing and preparation of vegetables and the ever spiralling cost are huge deterrents towards ensuring a salad, one or two vegetables and an after meal fruit. But everyone must include more fruits and vegetables in their diet because they have special ingredients that not only prevent but also delay the onset of many diseases.

Essential nutrients

Vitamins like vitamin C, compounds called carotenoids (some of which can be converted to vitamin A in the body), vitamin K, riboflavin, and folic acid are found in many vegetables and fruits. In fact, guava and gooseberry are some of the inexpensive sources of vitamin C. Vegetables like capsicum are rich in thiamin, a member of the B complex family of vitamins.

Some vegetables like potato, sweet potato, tapioca and yam and fruits like mango, banana and sapota make a fair contribution towards energy intake. Most vegetables and fruits are high in water and fibre contents and low in calorific value.

Many of the greens — Amaranth (mulai keerai and araikeerai), manathakkali, mint and cowpea leaves — are packed with iron. Green leafy vegetables like agathi, amaranth, drumstick and fenugreek leaves also have generous amounts of calcium. Green leafy vegetables are also high in potassium and magnesium, low in fat and sodium, all of which are cardio-protective.

Phytochemicals

More recently it has been reported that vegetables and fruits contain compounds called phytochemicals, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and immune-boosting properties and promote good health and a high quality of life. There are thousands of phytochemicals packed into fruits and vegetables. 

Flavonols are found in lemons, oranges, plums, peaches, apricots, apples, green leafy vegetables, yellow capsicum, onions and broccoli.

Naringenin — found in all citrus fruits, especially grape fruit — known to reduce blood cholesterol and glucose concentrations.

Anthocyanidins are found in red grapes, pomegranates, strawberries, cherries and plums and are cardio and neuro-protective.

Yellow fruits like mangoes and green leafy vegetables and carrots are rich in beta carotene which is converted to vitamin A in the body and also helps fight cancer.

Red fruits like tomatoes and watermelon contain lycopene, which is important for fighting prostate cancer and heart disease.

Fisetin — found in strawberries, blueberries, apples, grapes and onions — is being studied for its anti-ageing effects

The most natural way to overcome constipation is to increase intake of green leafy and other high fibre vegetables and fruits.

Their high water and fibre content and low energy values promote satiety and decrease energy intake and could be important in weight management. Nutritionists recommend regular moderate exercise and many servings of soups and salads for those who need to shed a few pounds. Substituting fruits and vegetables for a calorie dense evening snack helps weight loss.

Benefits

Other health benefits include prevention of or delaying type 2 diabetes mellitus, protection against esophageal, stomach and perhaps colorectal, lung and mouth and pharyngeal cancers; reduced risk of cardiovascular events and stroke. A diet packed with raw fruits and salads can help prevent Amyloid plaque formation in the brain, which leads to Alzheimers disease.

Emerging evidence also shows a beneficial role in reducing risk of cataract, diverticulosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and even hypertension. In fact, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) plan recommends generous intake of fruits and vegetables.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) recommends that adults eat at least five kinds of vegetable and two kinds of fruit every day. Most experts do not consider potatoes as a part of these seven servings.

The key to good health is therefore to include plenty of fruits and vegetables. Ensure that your shopping bag is filled with colour. Both variety and quantity is the key. Lastly, go seasonal. This is the best way to ensure quality and an affordable price.

Begin early

Train children to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Add pureed or smooth vegetables and fruits to cereals as first foods and introduced to infants at about six months of age.

The quantity, consistency and variety can be increased as the child grows. This way, resistance to vegetables and fruits at a later age is likely to be minimal.

How much?

Start with five servings of fruits or vegetables.

Slowly increase to at least seven servings through the day.

One serving = 75 gm.

Easy to use

Make fruit juice

Add to salads, pastas and raitas

Make sandwich fillings

Puree into soups

Keep a fruit bowl handy

Fill half your plate with vegetable; then add other foods

Keywords: health tipsdieting