Eat the rainbow – which nutrients are in which colours?

‘Eat your greens’ is a common phrase, but what about the reds, oranges and purples?

As well as bringing a bit of variety to your plate, eating a wide range of coloured fruit and veg has serious health benefits too.

All plants contain phytochemicals – naturally occurring chemical compounds which vary from plant to plant.

The term ‘phytochemicals’ usually describes the compounds that aren’t essential nutrients, but still have health-boosting benefits – like antioxidants for example.

To reap the rewards of as many different phytochemicals as possible, nutritionists recommend eating a “rainbow” of coloured fruit and vegetables.

Here’s a run down of the shades that should be filling your plate, and the essential and non-essential nutrients they’re rich in…

The Greens

Think… Kale, spinach, broccoli, rocket, watercress, parsley

Heaps of Vitamin A, C and E can be found in most green foods as well as important nutrients including iron and zinc.

Most greens have a ‘super food’ status because they are so nutritionally dense and are packed with antioxidants, which help protect your body from free radical damage while also boosting your immune system.

Green foods are also packed with chlorophyll – a detoxifying, cell regenerating and anti-inflammatory wonder proven to aid fundamental functions like circulation and digestion.

A great way to boost your greens intake is with a smoothie – try this great recipe from HEMSLEY + HEMSLEY to get you started.

The Oranges

Think Sweet potato, carrots, butternut squash, cantaloupe melon, pumpkin

Orange foods are rich in beta-carotene, a carotenoid compound which gives them their orange hue.

A powerful antioxidant, Beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A by our bodies to support a healthy immune system as well as regenerating and regulating skin cell production.

Beta-carotene is a fat-soluble pigment, so to get the most from your orange fruits and veggies try eating alongside skin-soothing healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado and nuts.

The Reds

Think Beetroot, tomatoes, peppers, pomegranate, strawberries

Red fruits and veggies are great sources of another carotenoid compound called lycopene. Another super-antioxidant, it does everything from fighting heart disease to decreasing the risk of strokes and cancer.

Our bodies can actually absorb more lycopene in its cooked form – cooked tomatoes are one of its richest sources.

Red fruits including strawberries and cherries are also great sources of collagen boosting Vitamin-C; so if your skin’s looking a little lacklustre try snacking on a small handful.

The Purples

Think Aubergine, blackberries, purple cabbage, plums, blueberries

Purple and blue hued foods are rich sources of the antioxidant Anthocyanin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties.

Anti-inflammatory foods are a great addition to any diet, but particularly good for those who suffer from inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, eczema, rosacea and urticaria.

Alkaline foods tend to be anti-inflammatory, as opposed to acidic foods which generally cause inflammation in the gut. Nobel Prize winner, Ragnar Berg, was the first to support a 70% alkaline and 30% acidic diet, claiming that disease could not survive in an alkaline environment. He also showed a link between acidity in the gut and eczema flare-ups.

Something to bear in mind if an inflammatory skin condition is causing you trouble.

Which colours are you going to be adding to your diet? Tweet me some snaps of your rainbow plates!

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  • tess

    Forgive me, since this is off topic, but I was hoping you might consider doing a blog post on the essential oils in skincare products. There are essential oils in many natural brands that I love, including Pai. (I adore and rely on the Pai Calming moisturizer for my incredibly sensitive and redness-prone skin!) I know essential oils can have loads of benefits.

    However I know some brands avoid essential oils. I’ve read that they can sometimes be irritating to sensitive skin and can also dehydrate and age the skin. What do you think of the idea that EOs should just be used for therapeutic use and not for daily application to skin? I would love to hear your thoughts!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Tess, Absolutely! Please suggest any blog posts that you’d like to see – I’m always open to suggestions. You’re right, some essential oils can have therapeutic and skin benefits, however in large and concentrated amounts they can be very irritating for sensistive skins as well as drying. We use absolutely miniscule amounts of EOs in our products, so they’re very, very unlikely to cause any irritation. Hope that helps! x

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