Eat the rainbow, eat the rainbow...
You may hear that hundreds of times, but it’s critical to really eat foods that represent the colors of the rainbow. I’m talking about functional foods that have potent aspects beyond basic nutrition. I’m talking about food in its natural state.
At this time of the season, the leaves of trees aren’t quite dead. I’m noticing a lot of oranges, yellows, and reds on the leaves. There’s something warm and supportive about these colors, perhaps because they emanate boldness and density.
Fruits and veggies in blazing oranges, yellows, and red contain important plant compounds called carotenoids that convert to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin in which most people are familiar with for helping with eyesight and night vision. However, vitamin A also strengthens the immune system, promotes bone growth, reduces inflammation, naturally slows down the aging process, and makes skin glow.
Fruits and vegetables like carrots, butternut squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, orange and yellow bell peppers, passion fruit, and grapefruit all contain carotenoids (dark leafy greens have them too!). Three of the most common carotenoids – alpha-carotene, beta carotene and beta cryptoxanthin – can be converted from foods into vitamin A in the body. This nutrient is needed for good vision in dim light, normal growth and development, a strong immune system and to keep the skin and cells that line the airways, digestive tract and urinary tract healthy. But thanks to their antioxidant activity, there’s also evidence to suggest that carotenoids – and especially beta carotene, found in orange and yellow food – might help to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers, especially lung cancer.
For red foods like pomegranates, cranberries, and beets, which contain the potent antioxidant lycopene, prostate health is maintained.
The zest of yellow and orange citrus fruits is also a good source of limonene, a phytochemical that helps keep lungs healthy and may prevent cancer.
A little fat helps the body to absorb ingredients like beta-carotene, lycopene, and limonene from foods so don’t be afraid to add a little fat, whether that’s roasting sweet potatoes with a little olive oil or serving pepper and carrot slices with hummus. Puréeing and cooking also makes it easier for our bodies to absorb and use phytochemicals such as beta-carotene.
How to eat more autumn colors:
- Bake sweet potatoes and melt coconut oil, ghee, or butter
- Make carrot ginger soup
- Swap your regular roasted potatoes for roasted sweet potato and butternut squash
- Add carrots to winter stews and casseroles
- Make your own homemade butternut squash soup
- Add grated carrot and yellow and orange peppers to salads
- Top porridge with dried apricots
- Make a fruit salad using cantaloupe, pineapple, mango and oranges
- Make your favorite pasta dish out of spaghetti squash instead of regular pasta
- Top squash curry’s with lemon zest
- Make beet burgers from the pulp of beet juice
- Add pomegranate seeds to your salads or roasted vegetables
Although vitamin A deficiency is less common, if you find that your immunity is very low and/or you are experiencing trouble seeing in dim light, connect with me to set up a nutrient and supplement analysis.