Eat Your Colors

 We've all heard the phrase "Eat your colors!"  but do most of us know what it means?
A lot of people think that Mother Nature is into pretty things and that is why she makes such a variety of colors and flavors. I've come to learn that everything we see in Nature has it's purpose. It's like a huge educational jigsaw puzzle and I don't claim to have all the pieces but here is what I have gathered during my years of exploring.
 When it comes to healthy food, a lot of us focus on things like Protein, Fat , Fiber, Omega-3 Fatty acid, Carbohydrates, but we never talk about Purple, Orange, Green, or Yellow. We sometimes even talk about Vitamins and Minerals, and how adding them to our daily regimen will make us healthier, but again we never talk about White or Red ( well, maybe sometimes, and it's always about wine with those two).
 It turns out that there is a lot to learn about colors, and colors are not colors at all, they are tiny miracle workers, called phytonutrients, created by Nature to heal and protect.
 There are thousands of phytonutrients identified by scientists. They are only found in plants ("phyto" = plant in Greek) and work together with the vitamin, mineral and fiber content of those plants to protect them from damage or heal any damage that is already done. They have the same effect on the human body and that is why a rainbow on your plate every day will definitely keep the doctor away.

All green plants contain chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is one of the great detoxifiers of the body. It helps the liver produce enzymes which help the body get rid of potentially carcinogenic substances. Chlorophyll also delivers oxygen in your blood and it will help a great deal if you are anemic. It builds the blood,as we herbalists like to say. Midwives often recommend some form of chlorophyll to women who lose a lot of blood during labor in order to heal their system and build back their strength. The darker the green color of a plant, the more chlorophyll it contains.
Green plants are also full of Vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, and Omega-3 fatty acid. So if you are worried about blood clots, high blood preasure, or if you want a healthy baby , eat your greens.

When it comes to reds,there are three main things to remember : resveratrol, lycopene, and capsacin. You want all those as your friends. Resveratrol is found in red grapes and red wine ( yes, I said wine, you can open that bottle for dinner). It helps inhibit inflamation in the body. Capsacin is found in hot red peppers, like cayenne or chillis. If you ask Dr. John Christopher, founder of the School of Natural Healing, cayenne is a heal-all. It will bring blood to parts of the body that need it most in order to start the healing of those parts. It will help with poor blood circulation and can save you from a heart attack,. It will also heal your sore muscles and stop a bleeding ulcer.
Lycopene is a phytonutrient that has become more known in the later years. It is a carotenoid that has proven cancer preventing and heart strengthening benefits. Your best source of lycopene is cooked tomatoes. Cooking makes this phytonutrient more accessible for the body.

We've all heard that purple foods contain a lot of antioxidants and that is why we should eat blueberries in our oatmeal/yoghurt every morning. The color purple ( and some hues of red and blue) in fruits, veggies and flowers, comes from a compound called anthocyanin. It gives the plant a potent cancer fighting power, it can lower blood pressure and "bad" cholesterol, and since in Nature it is all about balance, it also increases "good" cholesterol. Purple plants and foods have been a part of almost every culture and healing system around the world. Think of Elderberry, and it's potent anti-viral and anti-microbial properties; or enjoy a bowl of Forbidden rice with it's beautiful purple/almost black color, it contains more anthocyanins per serving than blueberries. Purple foods also have the ability to heal and improve the function of the liver.

Yellow fruits and vegetables are full of carotenoids and flavonoids, as well as Vitamin C. As children we were told that eating our carrots will help keep our eyes healthy and our vision good. Guess what? Mom wasn't joking.  Beta-carotene is one of the most active compounds in yellow and orange colored fruits and vegetables. It gives them their distinctive sunshine color and helps keep our eyes happy and healthy.
Vitamin C rich foods help boost our immune system, help our body rebuild collagen supplies, keep your artheries clean and your blood preesure where it needs to be. Think about that : there is even a disease , called scurvy, which is caused by defficiency of Vitamin C in the body. It is that important!

 So, next time you are in the supermarket, or the farmers market, or even better, your own garden, try a new color. You don't even have to explore the exotic foods stand. If you like carrots, try them in purple or yellow! Purple potato salad , anyone? Or maybe, try some yellow and purple beans, instead of their green cousins, this spring! And most important, have fun with your food! Anyone can be an artist!

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