Nature brings colourful food to enrich the sensory experience

Anthocyanins in some fruits and vegetables can combat Cancer (The Parental Magazine)

Sandhya Govind
Auckland, April 16, 2022

The act of eating is a multisensory experience that stimulates not only our sense of taste, but also our sense of sight, smell, and touch.

Nature offers us a vast array of foods, mainly in the form of fruits and vegetables, that contribute to a rich sensory eating experience, and at the same time, provide us with a wealth of nutrients. When it comes to providing a visual experience, nature can supply us with a rainbow of colourful foods abundant in naturally occurring chemicals called phytonutrients, that are predominantly present in plant-based foods.

How phytonutrients help

These phytonutrients help prevent chronic disease, strengthen our immune system, and help maintain normal bodily functions. Herein arises the concept of ‘Eating the Rainbow,’ which involves filling our plates with a variety of naturally colourful foods daily for good health. Most of these foods fall under five colour categories – purple/ blue, green, yellow, orange and red.

In this and the four subsequent articles, I will be discussing the various ways in which the phytonutrients contained in the foods in each of these colour groups contribute to our health and wellbeing, beginning with foods that fall in the purple/blue category.

Blue and purple-coloured fruits and vegetables are packed with phytonutrients, the most important of which are anthocyanins and polyphenols.

Sandhya Govind

Anthocyanins can combat Cancer

Anthocyanins are coloured pigments responsible for the purple, blue and red colour in fruits and vegetables, with purple and blue-coloured foods containing the largest amount. Research has shown that the anthocyanin pigments in these foods possess strong antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that, if consumed regularly, can help prevent obesity, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, and other cardiovascular diseases through various mechanisms. It is also believed that anthocyanins can improve overall eye health and help maintain good eyesight, including night vision.

Anthocyanins may help prevent cancer by preventing the formation of new blood vessels that supply oxygen to cancerous cells.  When cancer cells are deprived of oxygen, they are unable to multiply and ultimately die.

The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of anthocyanins are the major contributors to their beneficial cardiovascular effects.  It has been found that inflammation leads to the formation of harmful plaques (atherosclerosis) in the major blood vessels that can cause thickening of the blood vessels, preventing proper circulation of blood, which may lead to conditions such as coronary heart disease and stroke. The anti-inflammatory properties of anthocyanins could help prevent this.

Research has shown that anthocyanins may help in improving cognition and memory and delay age-related cognitive decline and perhaps even the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. It has also been shown that anthocyanins could positively enhance one’s mood, which may help prevent depression.

Blue and purple-coloured fruits and vegetables are packed with phytonutrients (Adobe Stock)

Benefits from Polyphenols

Apart from the rich benefits gained from the anthocyanin content of purple/ blue fruits and vegetables, there are other advantages to be gained from certain other compounds such as polyphenols contained in them. Polyphenols are phytonutrients that have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This could help them to reverse the damage that may have occurred in our cells due to ageing, pollution, and unhealthy lifestyle practices.

Studies have shown that polyphenols can help promote good bacteria in our gut and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. This creates a healthy gut microbiome that helps the digestive system to function effectively and also strengthens the immune system, thereby helping the body fight off infection and disease.

Polyphenols can help control blood sugar levels by preventing insulin resistance (the inability of the body to respond properly to the hormone insulin, which leads to high sugar levels).

They also stimulate the body to release sufficient amounts of insulin when it is needed. This reduces the risk of developing diabetes and can also prevent obesity, both of which could be caused by insulin resistance.

Purple/ blue fruits that can be included in the diet include blackberries, blueberries, bilberries, blackcurrants, purple/dark blue grapes, plums, purple figs, acai berries, prunes, and raisins. Purple/ blue vegetables that can be included in the diet include eggplants, purple cabbage, purple carrots, purple cauliflower, purple potatoes purple sweet potatoes/kumara, and purple corn. These vegetables are also rich in various other nutrients that contain a wide range of health-enhancing properties.

Visual sensory experience

Adding a medley of colours to our plate will provide us with a wonderful visual sensory experience, as well as an array of delicious flavours, textures, and aromas that cater to the other senses, and synergically contribute to an overall feeling of satiety. This is above and beyond all the benefits they offer to our health and wellbeing, especially when it comes to helping to prevent and fight disease.  So let us paint a picture of good health and vitality for ourselves by colouring our plates with the rich variety of colourful foods provided to us by nature.

Good nutrition and a healthy balanced diet are of utmost importance to our health and wellbeing. As much as possible, we should strive to achieve this through the food we eat rather than supplements. Nutritional supplements should only be taken if they are prescribed by a health care professional after a personal consultation.

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 the ‘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 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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