Since discovering the term “eat a rainbow” I use it all the time with my kids as a really lovely way to teach them about food and notice the different colours on their plate. My 5 year old and I often count the colours as she eats and she now does is automatically and tells me “Mummy, today I have 5 colours on my plate”. “So what” you may ask? For me the “what” is that by counting colours she is engaging with the food and is keen to have as many colours as possible on her plate which for parents is a green light to give more vegetables. New colours are often a curiosity and even if she doesn’t like them she will ask for something else in that colour on another day so slowly slowly we are embracing a wide variety of vegetables.
In our series “Eat Healthy” we have been looking at different food groups and the recommendations that are given, in particular a series of suggestions from BANT (British Association of Nutritional Therapists) who recommend the following:
- Eat a Rainbow: a varied diet of 7 differently coloured fruit and vegetables per day.
The government guidelines recommend eating 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables a day. The media has bombarded us with 5-a-day for the last couple of years and there are a scary number of products which use “part of your 5-a-day” in their marketing campaigns even if the product seemingly contains little fruit or vegetables.
Bant are recommending 7 portions a day above. Within the nutrition industry the recommendation is 10 pieces a day with 2-3 portions coming from fruit and 7 portions coming from vegetables. Fruit contains natural sugars which add to our overall sugar intake. Vegetables contain much lower levels of sugar or no sugars at all so eating a wide range of colourful vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, beetroot, rocket, avocado, sweet potato, carrots, cauliflower can provide great nutrients without the sugar. Fruits which contain lower levels of natural sugars include apples, pears, oranges and berries.
So what are the benefits of eating a rainbow and how do they contribute to our health?
Fruit and Vegetables contain vitamins and minerals
Minerals and vitamins are a group of nutrients required for our health such as vitamins A, B, C, D, E and Iron, Potassium, Magnesium and many others. They are present in most foods and a diet which incorporates a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, dairy, nuts and seeds, beans and pulses help support a balanced intake of vitamins and minerals.
Why are vitamins and minerals important in the body?
Minerals and vitamins perform many functions in the body and it is important to get a good balance for good health and to avoid deficiencies. A good intake of minerals and vitamins supports digestion, healthy ageing, immune function, detoxification, energy levels and has beneficial effects on skin, hair, nails, teeth, bones, and much much more.
Fruit and vegetables contain Antioxidants
Fruit and vegetables are a rich source of antioxidants. Antioxidants support the immune system and prevent cell damage caused by free radicals which come from the many pollutants we come in contact with every day (air con, heating, traffic pollution, medications). Exercise can cause stress to cells and antioxidants help repair the damage and keep cells strong. Eating a wide variety of colourful fruit and vegetables such as peppers, berries, grapes, plums, carrots, tomatoes as well as nuts and seeds can support general health and immune function. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/antioxidants-your-immune-system-super-foods-optimal-health
We’ll finish this article with a saying “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”. You may not associate this saying with eating healthy but a little bird told me that if we get the right vitamins and minerals then the pounds (our weight) will literally look after itself. Worth a try!