SUNDAY MAGAZINE

Healthy colours in your food

Paint your dishes with naturally coloured food and enjoy good health.

HEALTH WATCH

Dr. V. GURUMOORTHY

Eat your fruits and veggies: They cover the entire spectrum of minerals, antioxidants, fibre and vitamins. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

Eat your fruits and veggies: They cover the entire spectrum of minerals, antioxidants, fibre and vitamins. Photo: Sandeep Saxena  

Photo: Sandeep Saxena

A BALANCED diet rich in a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, dark, leafy greens, whole grains, pulses, legumes, sprouts, seeds, nuts and smaller portions of low-fat dairy products provides almost all the macro and micro nutrients.

While taking a balanced diet, one should also calculate total calories needed and monitor the source of those calories. Sixty per cent of the caloric needs must come from carbohydrates, the rest almost equally divided between good quality proteins and fats.

The ratio between saturated and unsaturated fats must be heavily in favour of unsaturated - both mono and poly. This is the most effective way to guard against obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and many forms of cancer.

Multi-coloured vegetables and fruits are packed with nutrients in their most potent form, and effectively cover the entire spectrum of vitamins, antioxidants, minerals and fibre.

But they should first be washed thoroughly to avoid certain food borne illnesses. Raw or steamed vegetables retain their full nutritional value. They should not be subjected to encounters with butter, ghee, cheese or oil.

Antioxidants are a heterogeneous group of substances comprising vitamins C and E, betacarotene, selenium and certain specific plant compounds (phytochemicals).

Antioxidants boost our immune system and effectively counter age-related degeneration. They are particularly important during phases of rapid growth. They protect our body from the harmful effects of the highly reactive oxygen free radicals, constantly generated within and outside the body.

Free radicals react destructively with many cellular components causing cell damage and leading to many diseases from cataract to cancer, heart disease to dementia.

Folic acid (a member of the vitamin B family) maintains the integrity of DNA. It also prevents neural tube defects in the foetus.

Women of childbearing age should take folic acid daily. It is easily obtained from a diet rich in fruit and vegetables especially dark leafy greens such as spinach.

High fibre foods (almost all vegetables, greens and fruits) occupy space leaving less room for high fat, calorie dense foods. A fibre rich diet lowers cholesterol levels, decreases the rate of glucose absorption from the gut, maintains normal bowel structure and function and prevents diverticulosis and colon cancer. Artificially hardened vegetable oils (called trans fats or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils) are worse than saturated fats.

They are present in many processed foods, in fast foods, in commercial baked goods and in deep fried foods. Most fast foods are poor in vitamins, micronutrients and fibre content but tend to be high in simple sugars, refined starches, cholesterol-raising saturated fats and sodium.

Obesity, with all its attendant risks, is reaching epidemic proportions with fast food consumption being a major cause.

The health benefits of a plant-based diet are immense. It can prevent, retard or even reverse many life-threatening disease processes. It is the key to reduce cancer risk.

Nutritional supplements and man made vitamin pills, though useful, are no match for Nature's colourful gifts that are complete disease fighting packages.

Carotenoids especially betacarotene in green, yellow, orange and red vegetables and fruits.

Vitamin C in fresh fruits especially citrus family.

Vitamin E in nuts, seeds, wheatgerm.

Selenium in garlic and grains.

Lycopenes in tomatoes and watermelons.

Leutins and zeaxanthins in dark leafy greens.

Isothiocyanate in the cabbage family.

Sulforaphane in broccoli.

Isoflavones especially Genistein in soyabeans, a protective plant estrogen.

Resveratrol in red grapes.

Pectin in apples.

Flavanoids in fruits and black tea.

Polyphenols especially epigallocatechin gallate in green tea.

Phthalides in celery.

Allylic sulphides (allicin) in garlic.

Tannins in berries and green tea.

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