Eating the Colors of the Rainbow
123rf.com/ Sergei Vinogradov
by Jeffrey Green
Starting at a young age, many people turn their noses up when it comes to eating vegetables. Perhaps it’s the memory of being fed the dull, unseasoned and unappetizing meal. Even when “open up, here comes the choo-choo train” is used, getting children to eat their vegetables is a chore. Maybe it’s the texture, smell, appearance and color of baby food that’s the reason why so many dislike eating vegetables.
Some vegetables are better than others, although they’re all good for the body in some way. Besides being the most vibrant of vegetables, red, purple, blue and orange earth-grown food is the best source of powerful body-healing compounds.
Colorful fruits and vegetables are packed full of different chemical compounds and pigments that make the edibles so bright. All natural foods with hues of red, orange, yellow, blue and purple contain anthocyanins, which have been touted as perhaps the strongest of all antioxidants.
The pigment in anthocyanins gives food its purple and blue hues. Lycopene, also an anthocyanin, is a carotenoid pigment that gives food a red color, and beta carotene is responsible for giving yellow and orange colors to foods. If fruits and vegetables have one of these vibrant colors, it is certain that they are not to be overlooked. Foods packed full of antioxidants are the best for the body. Breaking the word down, “anti” means against and “oxidants” means any substance that initiates oxidation.
The process of oxidation is necessary in the body. Glucose is oxidized into carbon dioxide, which creates the energy needed to function. Oxidation, however, also causes serious damage to the body and is the culprit in the aging of vital organs. The more antioxidants in our system, the more help our body is getting to stay healthy, slowing the aging process. In some cases, antioxidants can actually reverse the damage caused by free radicals—the cause of numerous damaging diseases, conditions and compromised health.
Antioxidants are most beneficial because they combat free radicals throughout the body. These pesky radicals are molecules that are unstable because of a gain or loss of an electron. Oxidation is a normal process of any living thing. The use of oxygen in our body creates free radicals, so is a normal occurrence. Having an abundance of free radicals in the system can cause advanced aging and is responsible for initiating disease and illness in the body.
So it does make sense that we should listen to the mantra of millions of parents throughout time: “You’re not leaving the table until you eat your vegetables.” Because the most colorful vegetables are best for the body, they can be consumed in so many different ways. They make a beautiful addition to any plate, offsetting the bland color of meats and most starchy foods.
Try cooking vegetables in a different way. Add seasonings that haven’t been tried, or combine a rainbow of vegetables together to create an inviting side dish. With the ever-growing interest in juicing and making smoothies, try a few of the most vibrant foods in with homemade drinkables. They will probably not be recognized as a superfood but as a colorful addition.
No matter the manner of consumption, it is vital that these foods become a part of a regular diet. It makes sense that the more good food in the body means a happier and healthier one. Nature is medicine, so pick up some carrots, beets or whatever colored vegetable catches the eye.
Jeffrey Green, MA, is an educator and freelance writer. Green’s studies have led him to the world of plant medicine and its many benefits. His work is centered on educating the public on alternative medicine. Green can be reached at 520-437-8855 or [email protected].