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Branch out and eat your rainbow

We’re used to salivating over Farrow & Ball paint colours aren’t we? But there’s an even more gorgeous palette of colours probably sitting unnoticed in your fridge. Really! I mean, have you ever stopped and really looked at a crate full of fruit and veg? They’re gorgeous!

Before you start thinking that I while away my days sitting in awed contemplation of a butternut squash, please be assured that I cook like most people – ie. absent-mindedly. I’m generally just grabbing a cucumber or red pepper to chop without really registering what they look like. Every now and then, though, I just get hit between the eyes by how colourful veg are. Like last week when I pulled up some Chioggia beetroot from my allotment and just had to smile at their fabulous fuchsia pink and white stripes which reminded me of Blackpool rock.

All very nice, you might say, but what’s that got to do with health? Well, for years, the mantra we’ve been given is to get our 5 portions a day and I think, much like our wardrobe, many of us get stuck in a rut of eating the same fruit and veg every day. Eating any veg or fruit is a big plus as they help reduce inflammation and can help you avoid conditions like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and more. But you’re not really getting the full benefit of these wonderful foods if you keep to a very restricted choice. That’s because each plant colour represents a different family of healing compounds and they have a synergistic effect so the more you combine your colours, the more benefits you get. In other words, eat your rainbow!

A great benchmark is to aim to eat twice as much veg as anything else on your plate. Don’t limit yourself – there are so many delicious plant-foods to experiment with and different ways of preparing them. Just remind yourself that you’re eating medicine!

Here’s a brief guide so you can see which colours have which health benefits:

Yellow

Eg. Banana, lemon, peppers, pineapple, ginger root, squash, honeydew melon, yellow tomatoes.

Anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, cell protective, eye, heart, skin and vascular health properties.

Orange

Eg. Carrots, mangos, apricots, cantaloupes, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, turmeric, oranges, tangerines, peaches, papayas, nectarines, peppers.

Anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, immune supportive, reproductive and skin health.

Green

Eg. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, bok choi, kale, artichoke, asparagus, avocado, bean sprouts, peppers, melon, celery, cucumber, edamame, green beans, green peas, green tea, chard, lettuce, spinach, limes, okra, pears, watercress, courgette, olives.

Anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, neurological, hormonal, heart, liver and skin health.

White/brown

Eg. Leeks, spring onions, garlic, onions, celery, pears, endive, cauliflower, mushrooms, nuts, ginger, cocoa, coconut.

Anti-cancer, anti-microbial, gastrointestinal, heart, hormone and liver health.

Blue/purple

Eg. Blackberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, figs, purple grapes, plums, purple broccoli, aubergine, cabbage, onions, kale, aubergine.

Anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, cognitive, heart, skin and liver health.

Inspired to branch out? Make your plate into a rainbow and you might just catch yourself eyeing up your dinner as a piece of (natural) art. Ok, so your red cabbage, kale and tomato salad may not be Poldark, but it looks stunning while doing you a whole lot of good. Enjoy!

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