Grab the five colours of the Food Rainbow and stir your palate

Image from iStock Photos

Sandhya Govind
Auckland, July 9, 2022

The sight of a rainbow with its beautiful array of colours always evokes positive feelings of hope and happiness in most of us.

Of these colours, orange is believed to have an energising effect on people.

The concept of ‘eating the rainbow’, i.e., filling your plate with fruits and vegetables from the five colours of the food rainbow – Blue (Purple), Red, Green, Yellow and Orange – has an equally positive effect on our body and is able to offer protection against a wide range of health conditions as well as numerous chronic diseases.

This article, the fourth in my series about the benefits of eating foods from different colour groups, will discuss some of the health benefits that can be reaped by eating orange-coloured fruits and vegetables.

The most important component of orange-coloured fruits and vegetables are the yellow-orange-red pigments called carotenoids that give them their vivid shades.

The most common carotenoids that can be found in orange-coloured fruits are alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin.

The power of Vitamin A

Of these alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin can all be converted into vitamin A by the body, though beta-carotene has the strongest ‘provitamin A’ activity when compared to the other two.

Vitamin A is a powerful natural antioxidant that is essential for the maintenance of the integrity of the skin and mucus membranes. This helps with immunity because when the mucous membranes are healthy, they are able to trap bacteria, viruses, and other infectious agents, and prevent them from entering the bloodstream. It also plays an important role in maintaining healthy eyesight and can prevent night blindness and age-related decline in eyesight.

The carotenoids beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin play a vital role in maintaining the reproductive health of both men and women. These carotenoids protect the ovaries and help them function properly and have also been shown to contribute to higher sperm concentrations in men. They also decrease the risk of women developing conditions such as endometriosis and could also reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Sandhya Govind

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin cannot be converted into vitamin A by the body, but they are of vital importance when it comes to supporting visual function and protecting the eyes from developing eyesight-threatening conditions such as age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Lutein and zeaxanthin make their way to the macula of the eye (the centre of the retina), where they are able to block most of the harmful blue light emitted by the sun as well as modern digital devices. This prevents damage to the macula and protects eyesight.

The following are three important, orange-coloured fruits and vegetables that offer significant health benefits:

Oranges

Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C which is necessary for the formation of collagen; maintaining cartilage, bones, and teeth; increasing the absorption of iron by the body; helping with the proper functioning of the immune system; controlling infections and assisting with wound healing.

They are also a very good source of pectin, a soluble fibre. Fibre-rich foods benefit the body in various ways. The soluble fibre forms a gel-like substance in the stomach, which is able to trap harmful LDL cholesterol, thereby preventing the body from reabsorbing it into the bloodstream. Fibre can also absorb harmful chemicals and pollutants in the digestive tract and prevent them from damaging the cells of the colon, thereby offering protection from colon cancer. Fibre can also help keep blood sugar under control. This is because the body cannot absorb and break down Fibre, and as a result of this, fibre-rich foods cannot cause a spike in blood sugar and can help to keep it in the target range.

Image from Super Teacher Worksheets

Carrots

Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A as they have a very high content of the carotenoid’s alpha-carotene, beta-carotene as well as beta-cryptoxanthin that can be converted into vitamin A by the body. The other carotenoids contained in carrots are lutein, zeaxanthin and falcarinol. They are also a moderate source of vitamin C with one cup of carrots providing approximately 10% of the daily requirement of vitamin C. This, along with the carotenoids in carrots, can help strengthen the immune system.

Some nutrients in carrots may be lost in the cooking process, while others become more bioavailable when carrots are cooked. Therefore, carrots should be eaten in both raw and cooked forms.

Sweet Potato (Kumara)

Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes have been found to have amongst the highest levels of beta-carotene of any fruit or vegetable, which gives it superior ability to raise blood levels of vitamin A. They are also a good source of Vitamin C, manganese, copper, vitamins B5 and B6, biotin (vitamin B7), Fibre and potassium. Sweet potatoes have sometimes been called a “3-in-1” product as they have the high starch content of cereals, the high vitamin and fibre content of fruits as well as the high vitamin and mineral content of vegetables

Though it is a starchy vegetable, boiled sweet potato is considered to be a food with a moderate Glycaemic Index (GI). It is believed that boiling sweet potatoes retains resistant starch which does not get digested in the small intestine but ferments in the large intestine and creates beneficial gut bacteria. Resistant starch also contains fewer calories than regular starch and it lowers a person’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases as it is able to improve the body’s ability to respond to insulin, thus lowering the impact it can have on blood sugar levels. It has been found that a longer boiling time reduces the GI value even further.

Carotenoids are fat-soluble compounds. It is therefore important that they are consumed along with some healthy oil or fat, as the fat helps them to be better absorbed into the system for optimal benefit. It has also been shown that cooking helps release the carotenoids in food and increases bioavailability.

It is very important to note here that this article only talks about the nutrients that are naturally found in foods and not supplements. Nutritional supplements should only be taken if they are prescribed by a health care professional after a personal consultation, as they might be harmful if taken incorrectly.

Moreover, please seek professional advice before making any major dietary changes. This is especially important if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, are already on medication or supplements, or are suffering from any medical condition. The information provided in this article is not to be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor, especially if you have any concerns regarding your health.

Sandhya Govind is a qualified and trained Naturopath and runs ‘Sandhya’s Naturopathy Clinic,’ an integrated Natural Medicine facility, which helps people rediscover optimal health, radiance and vitality naturally. Email: sandhyanaturopathy@gmail.com; The above article (which she sent from Chennai, India) should be read for general information purposes only and not taken as individual advice. Please always consult your GP or other authorised persons or agencies for personal advice. Indian Newslink and Sandhya Govind absolve themselves of all responsibility or liability in this connection.

 

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