Eat The Rainbow!Apr 01, 2016
— This article appeared in the April, 2016 Bamboo Telegraph, Singapore
If you have never considered the colours on your plate, let me give you some food for thought! Visit a local wet market or grocer and cast your eyes upon the produce. You will see a bevy of colours and textures.
So, what do colours have to do with your food? In a word, phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are what gives food its vibrant colour. There are thousands of different phytonutrients that occur naturally in plant based food, whole grains, legumes and nuts.
Here are some colors and how they benefit you:
Blue, purple and dark red food is full of resveratrol. These foods keep your heart healthy and your brain sharp. While you may cringe at the price of blueberries, don’t despair! There are many fabulous options available in this color range. Japanese purple sweet potatoes are well priced and sweeter than regular sweet potatoes. Singapore also has a variety of eggplant. Try Japanese (long, thin), Indian (small) or even Thai (very small, green and sour – best used in soups or stews).
It’s no surprise that the term, “eat your greens” is associated with eating healthy. Green colored foods are some of the most nutrient dense. The color comes from chlorophyll and lutein which amp up enzymes to clear out toxins, help protect your eyes from cataracts and boost energy. Greens are also high in iron, vitamin C, calcium (spinach, broccoli) and protein (peas, kale). Singapore markets offer a variety of delicious greens. Try bok/pak choy, kai lan, or sweet potato leaves in your next stir fry, or try ulam rajah in your next salad. Don’t be shy to ask uncle or auntie at the wet market how they prepare them!
Orange and yellow food get their color from carotenoids. Carotenoids act as antioxidants and help repair damaged tissue, protect against skin cancer and repair DNA. These foods are high in alpha and beta carotene which converts to vitamin A and is important for eye health. Try mangos, golden kiwi (sweeter than their green counterpart), pineapple, papaya and pumpkin. Sprinkle some dukkah on pumpkin and roast for a delicious side dish or add to rocket for a meal salad.
Lycopene colors food red or pink. Lycopene helps protects against prostate cancer, heart and lung disease. Try guava juice from your local juice stand or sprinkle pomegranate seeds over you next salad.
White, tan and brown foods contain allicin and anthoxanthin which helps lower cholesterol and supports the immune system. Singapore offers a beautiful array of mushrooms. Try a variety for different tastes and textures. Jicama (also known as mung kwang, yam bean and tapioca), legume, nuts and bananas are also available.
Fruits and vegetables are components of a healthy diet. Think about starting your day with juice, snacking on baby carrots and having fruit for dessert. When you put together your next meal aim for at least three colors. Not only will your health benefit but your plate will look beautiful too!