I made a rainbow salad for Ana tonight. Red peppers, grated carrot, corn cut from the cob, green beans, beets and eggplant.
I was just having fun with Ana’s veggies and Ana made me laugh as she sang the rainbow song, red and yel-low, green, blue, purple… all through dinner.
Whilst I was putting the salad together, it did get me thinking back to the “five a day the color way” campaign that ran from about 2002 until 2007. The campaign promoted the idea that different colored fruits and veggies contain different kinds of nutrients. The greater the variety of colors in your diet, the greater the variety of nutrients.
The science behind the color wheel is a bit tricky. It is too simplist to say that a certain colored vegetable equates to specific benefits. For example, orange fruits and veggies usually contain carotenoids. The beta carotene in sweet potatoes, carrots and pumpkin our bodies convert to vitamin A which is good for our eyes. The orange citrus fruit, however, isn’t a good source of vitamin A, (but it does contain vitamin C and folate so don’t rule those oranges out!)
Red fruits and veggies often get their hue due to their lycopene content. Lycopene (in tomatoes, watermelon and guava) may reduce the risk of some types of cancer and has been beneficially linked to prostate cancer. Cranberries, strawberries and red grapes look red however, not because of lycopene but because of their anthcyanins content.
Even though the science behind the campaign isn’t perfect I think the concept is still great. Sure, there’s lots we don’t know about the nutritional benefits of fruits and veggies and how their natural plant pigmentation plays into that but there is plenty we do know (or we’re at least pretty sure of). It’s fair to say that consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables from a variety of colors will give us a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals which is good for our health. Combining a range of colors in our veggie dishes is a pragmatic approach to assuring consumption of a range of nutrients. It also looks pretty and might just make your toddler sing as she eats her veggies!
What colors have you had today?