Eating a Rainbow – Exploring how you can support your health by encouraging diversity in the diet.
You might have heard the popular dietary advice to eat a rainbow, encouraging you to include a colourful mix of fruits and vegetables in the diet, but have you ever wondered why? Plant foods are full of incredibly beneficial chemicals known as phytonutrients (plant nutrients). Plants produce these chemicals to protect themselves from predators, the sun and pollution. Some come in the form of colourful pigments (lycopene, carotenoids and anthocyanins to name a few) which all have their own protective properties. Studies have found that higher concentrations of these phytonutrients found in the blood have been associated with lower risks of developing certain chronic health conditions, so the more colourful and diverse plant foods you include, the better. In fact, a lack of variety in the diet has been associated with increased signs of inflammation and ill health. A colourful diet ensures that you are getting a variety of these compounds.
The benefits don’t stop there, it isn’t just absorbing these phytonutrients that benefit us. At the moment the microbiome (read gut bacteria) is a very hot topic in research and there are studies looking into phytonutrients and their impact on our gut bacteria. It turns out that there are beneficial plant compounds that we don’t absorb well from our food – it is estimated that only about 5 – 10% of polyphenols are absorbed – the rest pass into the colon where the majority of our gut bacteria are found. These polyphenols are broke down by the gut bacteria producing many other health promoting chemicals that have been linked to reducing inflammation, improved gut function and promoting growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Now for those of you familiar with Hippocrates’ famous line, “All disease begins in the gut”, this is great news.
How incredible! It isn’t just that the absorption of phytonutrients directly impact us to benefit our health, it is the interaction with the bacteria in our gut that also has a positive influence. A rainbow diet means that you are taking in a range of beneficial phytonutrients, each with different health benefits. So do your bit for you and your gut bugs and eat a rainbow!
Marjolein is a nutritional therapist with a particular interest in gut health and it’s impact on hormones. She works one-to-one with clients on a 12 week basis.
You can find her on Instagram @hormoniously or reach out via email on email@example.com