Auckland, July 27, 2022
Yellow is a bright, sunny, radiant colour that usually raises one’s level of energy and feeling of wellbeing. Nature has provided us with a variety of yellow fruits and vegetables packed with numerous vitamins (especially Vitamin C), minerals and other phytonutrients, which contribute in innumerable ways to our health, wellbeing, and happiness.
They are full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that among other things help prevent and fight disease, keep the heart healthy, and keep the skin elastic and youthful looking by helping with the formation of collagen.
Veritable source of energy
However, one of the most important health benefits to be gained from yellow fruits and vegetables is the beneficial effect that they have on our digestive system. Various yellow fruits and vegetables contain particular natural digestive enzymes that are able to break down the fats, proteins, and carbohydrates in our food into smaller molecules that are then moved out of the stomach towards the small intestine where they can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream.
Once the nutrients are absorbed, the remaining waste material reaches the colon to be eliminated. This process of elimination is also helped by the high fibre content of yellow fruits and vegetables such as mangos, avocados, and bananas, which serve as an energy source to increase the population of beneficial bacteria in the gut microbiome which help keep the colon healthy.
The three main types of digestive enzymes that are important to maintain good digestive health are: proteases that break down protein into smaller molecules; lipases that break down fat; and amylases that break down carbohydrates like starch into simple sugars. Some of the yellow fruits and vegetables that contain enzymes that help with digestion include pineapple, papaya, mangos, bananas, avocado, and ginger.
Pineapples and papayas contain proteases that help break down proteins and help them to be better absorbed into the bloodstream. The protease contained in pineapple is the natural enzyme bromelain, while papaya naturally contains a protease called papain. Papayas should be eaten ripe and uncooked to reap the benefits of the papain, as exposure to heat can destroy these digestive enzymes. It is important to note that pregnant women should avoid eating papaya as it may stimulate contractions.
Ginger is a yellow vegetable that naturally contains the protease zingibain. Apart from helping with the breakdown of proteins, it is believed that zingibain can also help boost the body’s own production of digestive enzymes. Ginger also contains a phytochemical called gingerol which helps with digestion by ensuring that food can efficiently move through our digestive track. Ginger has also been used traditionally to treat nausea and can also help reduce bloating and flatulence.
Ginger: benefits and drawbacks
However certain people should exercise caution while taking ginger. It can function as a blood thinner. Therefore, people who are on blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin or aspirin should avoid it, or only have it after consulting their doctor.
Ginger can also increase the secretion of bile, which is then stored in the gall bladder, so people who suffer from gallstones should consult with their doctor about whether it is safe for them to include ginger in their diet.
Mangos and bananas naturally contain the digestive enzyme amylase which breaks down carbohydrates into simple sugars. The amylase in these two fruits becomes more active and functions more efficiently when the fruits ripen. Bananas also contain a digestive enzyme called glucosidase that also breaks down carbohydrates.
Avocados contain the digestive enzyme lipase, which breaks down fat molecules and it is especially beneficial when eaten along with fatty food.
Multiple benefits of Lemon
An important yellow fruit that benefits the digestive system in multiple ways is the lemon. Lemons are very acidic fruits. The citric acid found in lemon juice can help boost gastric acid secretion in the stomach. Gastric acid helps break down food, which facilitates better absorption of nutrients as the food moves through the digestive tract.
Though it is sometimes believed that acidity can harm the stomach, it actually helps with digestion, as the acidic environment helps the beneficial bacteria in the gut to thrive. Lemons also contain other phytonutrients such as hesperidin, nobiletin and rutin which have been shown to protect against gastric ulcer. Lemons are also a rich source of pectin, a soluble fibre that can lower blood sugar levels by slowing down the digestion of sugar and starch.
This article concludes my series on the health benefits that can be obtained from each of the five colour groups of the food rainbow. It does not necessarily involve making drastic changes to the diet. It is all about increasing the diversity of your daily meals. It could be as easy as putting fruits and vegetables from every colour group into your cart when you are out grocery shopping – spinach, kale, blueberries, eggplants, tomatoes, beets, carrots, oranges, sweet potatoes, lemons, ginger – the list is endless, and making sure you include as many of these as you can in every meal. Remember, the pot of gold at the end of this rainbow will be the enhancement of your health and wellbeing.
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 Naturopath with her own practice. She writes a regular column in Indian Newslink on various aspects of food and wellness. She lives in Auckland.