Posted by: Kara @ The Foodie Dietitian | May 23, 2010

Veggies. Taste the Rainbow.

Sorry to rain on Skittles parade but do you really taste the rainbow when you eat skittles? I don’t know about you but I mostly taste sugar coated chewyness. You know when I can taste the rainbow? When I’m ROY G. BIV’in it with my veggies. (You remember ROY G. BIV from school right?! The way to remember the colors of the rainbow!)

Now I understand it might be hard to find an indigo or a violet veggie..but u get my drift right? The more colorful your meal is the better! Why, you ask? Aren’t all veggies created equal? If I get at least one veggie on my plate isn’t that enough?! Of course, one vegetable is better than no vegetables! But let me give you the scoop on the colors of the vegetable rainbow…aka PHYTOCHEMICALS!!

Phytochemicals are the chemicals produced by plants. Sounds kind of boring right? WRONG! Phytochemicals are these superman (or wonderwoman) nutrients that can cure the world of deadly diseases. Ok I exaggerate. These nutrients are not essential to our bodies; they are not needed to help us grow or to support bodily functions. BUT they can have some superpowerful health benefits like preventing or treating chronic disease. So what does this have to do with the colors of the rainbow? Well, every R.O.Y.G.B.I.V that you eat, you ingest a different phytochemical! That’s right, phytochemicals are often found in the pigments of your fruits and veggies. So the brighter your produce and the more colors on your plate, the more supermanwonderwoman nutrients you’re putting in your body!

Want the breakdown on these phytochemicals? Let’s break.it.down.now.

  • Carotenoids: think yellow, orange, and red. Some studies have shown intake to be correlated with reduced incidence of heart disease and cancers.
  • Chlorophyll: think green mean fighting machine. May reduce risk of some cancers.
  • Curcumin: gives tumeric its yellow color. May have beneficial effects on cancers, cystic fibrosis, inflammatory diseases, alzheimer’s disease. So spice up your life!
  • Flavonoids: (have a number of subclasses): red, blue, purple berries, red wine, black, green, & white tea, citrus fruits, yellow onions, green kale and broccoli, apple, parsley. Cardiovascular benefits! May also have effects on cancers and neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Garlic: (organosulfur compound): studies have shown garlic to be correlated with inhibiting platelet aggregation aka cardiovascular benefits. Onions and leeks also fall into this category and may help prevent gastric and colorectal cancer.
  • Indole-3-carbinol and Isothiocyanates: (derived from glucobrassin and glucosinolates, respectively): cruciferous veggies like  broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, radish, rutabaga, and turnip. May have effects on certain cancers.
  • Lignans: flaxseeds contain the most, also found in broccoli, kale, strawberries, apricots, Brussels sprouts. May be involved in the prevention of cancers, cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.
  • Phytosterols: think plant-based oils. Lowers that bad-guy LDL cholesterol and may decrease risk of cancers.
  • Resveratrol: purple, red & blue. just think wine and berries. YUM. Reductions in coronary heart disease! May also decrease risk of cancers and increase your lifespan. Not too shabby for drinkin a little vino.
  • Soy Isoflavones: soy protein, edamames (green soybeans), tofu and tempeh. Lowers LDL cholesterol and may reduce risk of coronary heart disease.

Phew! That was a lot of info. You still with me? Good! Let’s summarize that up. Phytochemicals, which include the more familiar term antioxidants, are found in a variety of fruits and veggies and may help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. Research on phytochemicals is limited, some studies are in preliminary phases and have only been tested on animals so far. What we do know that’s definitely proven is that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts is going to give us loads of health benefits. So it won’t hurt you to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables anyway! Plus you may just be settin yourself up for some smooth-sailing later in life, free of chronic disease!

So, in conclusion, taste the colors of the vegetable rainbow and become a chronic-disease fighting superhero. Last but not least, check out the link below for a delicious recipe which is so colorful and inspired me to talk about phytochemicals! A perfect dish for the summer. Grab the veggies from your local Farmer’s Market!

Tofu and Sesame Noodle Salad from WholeFoods.com 

Bowl packed with phytochemicals! (I opted out of the cucumbers..only veggie I can’t stand. Sorry cukes. Nothing personal)

Sesame sauce for noodles

Baked my own tofu marinated in soy sauce

Mixin it up

Voila!

Peace, love, and food,

Kara

Do you have a colorful recipe you would like to share?!

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Responses

  1. Great blog post! I couldn’t have explained phytochemicals any better. Love your enthusiasm when you write! Gets me all excited about nutrition too. Woohoo! And awesome photos! Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Monica!!! That means so much! You share the same enthusiasm when you write too girl! Loved your last post on bikram yoga bc I’ve been there, done that, and it really left me feeling like a new person! Congrats again on becoming an RD!

  2. […] Bring on the veggies! Since I like my meals pretty colorful (remember the rainbow on your plate), I decided to add a little something to the dish. Yea peas are green but they actually don’t […]

  3. Wow, I agree, great write up! I am looking forward to reading more posts!

  4. […] Eat your fruits and veggies! Not only are fruits and veggies low in calories, loaded with vitamins and minerals, and packed with fiber, they also contain chronic disease fighting phytochemicals, such as antioxidants. Read more about phytochemicals here. […]


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