Do your body a great kindness by adding more colors to your diet.
The other day I saw a young girl, maybe six or seven years old, wearing a T-shirt that read “Kind is the new cool.” It caught my eye because I’m a curious journalist, and I decided to do a little digging. As it turns out, this phrase and iterations of it like “Being kind is cool” are all the rage among young girls as a way to stop bullying. How cool is that!
So it got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could have a similar catchphrase about what a healthy diet should look like? From a dietary perspective, there is nothing cooler than a colorful plate, so let’s have our catchphrase be “Color is the new cool.” And here’s why.
Colorful fruits and vegetables contain powerful compounds called polyphenols that have a positive impact on health on many levels. Polyphenol compounds have been shown to reduce cancer risk, improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance heart health. Now that’s really cool!
Best-selling author, chef, and “culinary translator” Rebecca Katz says, “The deeper and richer the color, the more phytochemicals and antioxidants are in your food, making them anti-inflammatory and rich in flavor.” And that’s the absolute coolest thing about colorful foods—they taste great!
It’s not surprising that colorful foods are also high in flavor because the foods with the highest content of polyphenols—those health-promoting compounds—include tasty seasonings like rosemary, oregano, and basil, as well as yummy fruits like berries and grapes. Deep red tomatoes, bright yellow yams, and vibrant green spinach and broccoli also contain powerful polyphenols.
“By eating a diet that has every color in the rainbow represented,” explains radiation oncologist Dr. Matt Mumber, “we can be assured we are receiving a broad spectrum of phytochemicals, nutrients, and fiber in the natural state in which they are best put to use by the body.” And, of course, those deep colors are the result of rich, fertile soils that need to be supported.
As enlightened beings, we strive to do the right thing in our communities, at work, and with our families. It’s true that being kind is cool, and so is a colorful plate. So this holiday season and beyond, embrace the mantra that bland is boring and color is cool. Your health, your taste buds, and the planet will thank you.
The More They Stain, The Better They Are
One category of potent polyphenols featured extensively in the scientific literature is anthocyanins. These are the compounds found in fruits and vegetables that give them their bright blue, red, and purple colors. How much of these polyphenols do we need? According to Dr. Tina Kaczor, naturopathic oncologist and editor in chief of the Natural Medicine Journal, “The simplest means of ensuring that people get enough anthocyanins is to encourage consumption of blue, purple, and/or red foods at most meals or snacks.”
If this is not possible, a dietary supplement that contains a variety of polyphenols including anthocyanins may be a good option.
“My personal favorite way to describe which foods are rich in anthocyanins is to tell my patients that the worse the given food will stain a shirt, the higher the concentration,” says Kaczor. “I remind them that the color and the nutrient are one and the same.”
Katz, who is the author of several amazing cookbooks, including her latest, The Healthy Mind Cookbook, has this advice: “I like to think of my plate as a canvas to paint.” Katz reminds us that “we eat with our eyes and all of our senses, so when we see a colorful plate we are more likely to savor what’s on that plate and feel more satisfied.”