The Vegetable Rainbow
“Traffic light” vegetables – red, yellow and green – are often advised as a great way to eat a healthier diet. But what if you want to do the whole rainbow? Here’s how to put a complete rainbow of vegetables on your plate.
Many red fruits and vegetables contain carotenoids such as lycopene, an antioxidant that is thought to lower cancer risk as well as improve the skin’s ability to protect against harmful UV rays.
Raw tomatoes are high in Vitamin C and cooking or canning them increases their concentration of bioavailable lycopene. Research suggests tomatoes may lower cardiovascular risk associated with type 2 diabetes.
Orange vegetables get a lot of their colour from carotene, and the body converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A.
Pumpkin, one of Australia’s favourite vegetables, is highly versatile. From pumpkin soup to roast butternut with lamb, American pumpkin pie to a stuffed and baked Jack-o’-lantern, it’s packed with Vitamin A and is rich in the B vitamins.
Early research suggests it may be beneficial for insulin and glucose levels.
Yellow vegetables get their sunny colour from xanthophylls such as lutein, an antioxidant that studies show may reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Yellow squash is a great source of Vitamins A and C and is also high in manganese which helps the body process fats, carbohydrates, and glucose. If you can get hold of it (or manage to grow it) the weird and wonderful spaghetti squash is the perfect low-carb alternative to pasta. Or try long strips of yellow zucchini for a gluten-free “tagliatelli”.
We all know that green vegetables are good for us: leafy greens in particular are amazingly rich in folate and calcium. They’re also super low in calories so great for weight control.
Broccoli provides significant amounts of fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and folate as well as other nutrients. Like other brassicas it contains diindolylmethane which is being trialled by the US National Cancer Institute as a therapeutic for numerous forms of cancer. If you’re bored of little trees, try the fantastic fractal structure of romanesco broccoli.
Blue vegetables are rich in anthocyanins which research indicates may have analgesic properties as well as neuroprotective and anti-inﬂammatory activities.
Blue potatoes are a delicious alternative to the white and red-skinned varieties, and can make wonderful coloured gnocchi and mash. Potatoes have the least calories of all starchy staples and are much higher in Vitamin C than grains. You’ll also find blue sweet potatoes that can be cooked in similar ways.
Dark blue vegetables also get their hue from anthocyanins, but in even higher quantities.
Eggplant, aka aubergine, is a solanum in the same family as tomatoes, but gets its wonderfully rich colour from the anthocyanin nasunin. Studies suggest this is a powerful antioxidant.
Purple is a very fashionable colour for veggies, with new purple varieties of kale, broccoli and carrot appearing all the time.
Purple-and-white turnips are an often overlooked root vegetable that’s delicious roasted or slowcooked in a stew.
One great tip for getting yourself to eat more veg and more varieties is to pre-prepare them. After your weekly shop or visit to the organic markets, wash and cut up capsicum, broccoli, beans, squash and whatever else you like and store them in a large container in your fridge. Each meal you can just grab a handful and steam, stir-fry or bake. For a snack just enjoy them raw with a hummus dip.
About the Author
Chloe Quin is wellness expert with online health insurance provider Health, whose mission is to help Australians access affordable healthcare that’s easy to understand. Also a qualified yoga instructor, Chloe is passionate about empowering women to boost their health and fitness in fun, family-friendly ways.