We’re always being told to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, but I prefer a different kind of five-a-day: you should aim to eat five different colours of vegetables daily - try eating the rainbow!
Variety is good for the bugs that live in our guts, collectively known as our microbiome. Having a healthy microbiome is important to our mental and physical health and, while research in this area is ongoing, in general the ideal microbiome is a diverse one. These bugs live off the food we take in and, in return, provide a huge array of services to the human body, such as manufacturing vitamins or hormones, and supporting our immune systems.
Our gut bugs love plant-based fibre, so a simple way to improve our microbiomes is by eating vegetables. When you start eating differently, your microbiome starts changing within two or three days. Getting different vegetables into your diet every single day not only improves the diversity and strength of your microbiome, but also provides incredible compounds known as phytonutrients. These have literally thousands of benefits.
Different coloured foods contain different phytonutrients, all of which have different benefits. Red foods, such as tomatoes, can reduce the risk of some types of cancer or heart disease. Orange foods, such as carrots, promote healthy vision and a healthy immune system. Green vegetables, such as broccoli, help control hunger. Bitter foods such as kale help you keep full. Brightly coloured fibre-rich vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, red onions, asparagus, red lettuce, shallots, carrots, artichokes and olives, also contain polyphenols, a special kind of phytonutrient that helps keep our body healthy, improving brain function, reducing blood pressure and much more. So eating the rainbow is an excellent way to look after our health!
Use the rainbow chart (download it here) to help increase the number of colours you and your kids eat.
A few practical tips:
- Print out the rainbow chart and stick it on your fridge door, then tick off all the colours you have consumed in one day
- Involve friends, family or work colleagues to help you stay motivated
- Get into the habit of snacking on veg – carrots with hummus, cucumber with tahini, and celery sticks with almond butter are a few tasty options
- Add two vegetables to every meal, including breakfast. If you’re having eggs in the morning, try adding spinach and avocado
- Roast a whole baking tray of colourful vegetables drizzled with olive oil, then eat some for the evening meal and save leftovers in the fridge for lunch the next day
- When serving kids, serve them their vegetables first. Only dish out the rest of the meal when they have eaten their vegetables