We live in a world where “Healthy Eating” is like going to the gym. Some days, we just don’t want to do it. What’s worse is how easy it has become to not do it. With fast food joints on every corner and prepackaged foods in the grocery store, temptations are everywhere. Now, you’ve all heard it before: “A diet high in fruits and vegetables may help lower your risk for heart disease and cancer and helps with weight management and blood pressure control...” We know this and yet so few of us regularly consume enough of “the rainbow.” Maybe we need to start looking at this from a different perspective: how fruit and vegetable consumption impacts psychological well-being.
What if I told you that eating more vegetables and fruits would make you a happier person?
You’re probably thinking, this girl is crazy, right? Think again. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables seems to boost life satisfaction, mental well-being, and happiness, according to a new study. Researchers analyzed the diet habits of 80,000 men and women in Britain. The more fruits and vegetables they ate, the happier they were. Those who ate seven servings daily were happiest. In another study from New Zealand, it was found that eating fruits and vegetables makes you calmer, happier and more energetic. Apparently, eating fruits and vegetables predicted improvements in positive mood the next day, suggesting that healthy foods may improve mood.
Now for some of you, this might seem like common sense. However from my experience, there are some skeptics out there. I often tell my clients to simply include one serving of a vegetable or fruit every time they eat. Trying to convince them that they will start to feel better after a couple of weeks of doing this has proven to be quite the task!
So what is the exact link between consuming the rainbow and psychological well being? No one knows for certain but it’s most likely the synergistic effect of all the nutrients that fruits and vegetables provide. These include fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals include a diverse range of biologically active compounds found in plants. They provide plants with colour, flavour and natural protection against pests. Phytochemicals are thought to be responsible for much of the disease protection granted by diets high in fruits, vegetables, beans, and plant-based beverages such as tea and wine. Examples of phytochemicals are carotenoids from carrots, chlorophyll from plants, curcumin from turmeric, indole-3-carbinol from broccoli, resveratrol from red grapes and isoflavones from soy. Although phytochemicals are not considered to be essential nutrients (yet!), the evidence is increasing and pointing to their health-boosting effects.
Let’s take a closer look at the fruit and veggie rainbow and what some of the different colors have to offer, shall we?
Colors: YELLOW and ORANGE
These tasty little treats contain beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, and vitamin C. These nutrients can help reduce age-related macular degeneration and the risk of prostate cancer, lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, promote collagen formation and healthy joints, fight harmful free radicals, encourage alkaline balance, and work with magnesium and calcium to build healthy bones.
Lemons are the smallest among citrus fruits yet contain more health benefiting nutrients than oranges. Their acidic taste is due to citric acid, a natural preservative, and digestive aid. Studies have found that citric acid may help dissolve kidney stones. Lemons are an excellent source of ascorbic acid (vitamin C), a powerful antioxidant that helps the human body develop resistance against infectious agents and scavenge harmful, pro-inflammatory free radicals from the blood. Naringenin is a flavonoid found in abundance in lemons. It has been shown to possess lipid lowering and anti-inflammatory effects both in vitro and in vivo. There is also evidence to support that it inhibits hepatitis C virus production and has potential for treatment in diabetes.
Although kumquats taste just like that of citrus fruits, they are distinguished in the way that they can be eaten completely including the peel. The peel is rich in many essential oils, including limonene, pinene, and bergamotene. Together, these oils impart the special citrus aroma of kumquats. Fresh kumquats are packed with numerous health benefiting flavonoid antioxidants such as zeaxanthin. In nature, zeaxanthin appears to absorb excess light energy to prevent damage to plants from too much sunlight, and is therefore studied for its important role in eye health.
Juicy and delicious, red fruits and veggies contain nutrients such as lycopene, ellagic acid, quercetin, and hesperidin. These nutrients may reduce the risk of prostate cancer, lower blood pressure and reduce tumor growth and LDL cholesterol levels, scavenge harmful free-radicals, and support join tissue in arthritis cases.
Unique pigment antioxidants in the root as well as in its top greens are thought to offer protection against coronary artery disease and stroke; lower cholesterol levels within the body, and have anti-aging effects. The root is a rich source of the phytochemical compound trimethylglycine (TMG). TMG is studied for its property of lowering homocysteine levels in the blood. Homocysteine is a non-protein amino acid, used in the production of other amino acids. Elevated homocysteine blood concentrations have been identified as an independent risk factor for the development of atherosclerosis.
These green machines contain chlorophyll, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium, folate, vitamin C, calcium, and beta-carotene. The nutrients found in these vegetables may reduce cancer risks, lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, normalize digestion time, support retinal health and vision, fight harmful free-radicals, and boost immune system activity.
Artichoke is a popular winter-season edible flower bud from the Mediterranean region known since ancient times for its medicinal and health benefiting qualities. Artichokes contain bitter phytochemicals called cynarin and sesquiterpene-lactones. Scientific studies show that these compounds inhibit cholesterol synthesis and increase its excretion in the bile and thus; have overall cholesterol reducing effects on the blood. Artichokes also contain antioxidants such as silymarin. Both in vitro and animal research suggest that silymarin has hepatoprotective properties that protect liver cells against toxins.
The king of herbs, basil is one of the oldest and popular herbal plants rich in health benefiting phytonutrients. This highly prized plant is revered as the "holy herb" in many traditions all around the world. Basil herb contains several flavonoids like orientin and vicenin. These compounds are studied for their potential antioxidant protection against radiation-induced free radical damage. Basil leaves contain several health benefiting essential oils such as citronellol and limonene. These oils are known to have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
Colors: BLUE and PURPLE
Contain nutrients which include lutein, zeaxanthin, resveratrol, vitamin C, flavonoids, ellagic acid, and quercetin. Similar to the previous nutrients, these nutrients support retinal health, lower LDL cholesterol, boost immune system activity, support healthy digestion, improve calcium and other mineral absorption, fight inflammation, reduce tumor growth, act as an anticarcinogens in the digestive tract, and limit the activity of cancer cells.
Shallots or eschalots are long slender bulbs in the Allium family of root vegetables. In general, they differ from onions in being smaller, and grow in clusters of bulbs from each plant's root system. The bulbs are characteristically less pungent than that of onions and garlic, which makes them one of the favorite ingredients of chefs all around the world. Shallots have a much stronger nutrition profile than onions. On a per weight basis, they have more antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins than onions.
They are a rich source of flavonoid antioxidants such as quercetin and kemferfol. They also contain sulphur compounds such as diallyl disulfide, diallyl trisulfide and allyl propyl disulfide. These compounds get converted to allicin when you chop or crush the shallot. Research studies show that allicin reduces cholesterol production and it is also found to have anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal activities. Allicin also decreases blood vessel stiffness by releasing the vasodilator, nitric oxide (NO) and thereby helps to lower blood pressure.
Color: WHITEContain nutrients such as beta-glucans, EGCG, and lignans that provide powerful immune boosting activity. These nutrients may play a role in activating natural killer T cells, reduce the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers, and balance hormone levels, having the potential to reduce the risk of hormone-related cancers.
Coconut is the mature fruit of the cocos nucifera palm. Since ancient times, coconut holds a unique place among the millions of inhabitants in South-East Asia, and the Pacific islands. It is one of the most sought-after ingredients in the kitchen as it is found in almost every delicacy prepared in these parts of the world. The important saturated fatty acid in the coconut is lauric acid. Lauric acid has been shown to increase HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) levels in the blood. HDL cholesterol has a positive effect on the coronary arteries by preventing vessel blockages (which leads to atherosclerosis).
Folks, I have barely touched on the punch all of these colorful fruits and veggies pack. Tune in monthly as we zero-in on specific colours from the rainbow and what fruits and vegetables will be beneficial to you and your family!
Célène Guspie, Registered Dietician, BSc (Nutrition) is a Dietitian who embraces the Holistic approach to nutrition and health. She has been working for Optimum Health Vitamins since 2010 and obtained her degree in Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Alberta in 2004.
During the past several years Celene has had the opportunity to work with community members in the areas of weight loss, chronic pain management, vitamin supplementation and developing individualized food plans. More recently, she completed her internship to become a Registered Dietitian, where her areas of focus included nutrition for heart and kidney disease, diabetes and intestinal concerns. She has always been very interested in the field of Nutriceuticals and Holistic Nutrition.
She is currently working on Rosemary Gladstar’s ‘Art and Science of Herbalism,’ along with many fellow co-workers, and her goal is to become a Nutritional Consultant Practitioner so that she may help people achieve and maintain balanced health through nutrition and appropriate supplementation.
In her personal time, Celene enjoys being creative in the kitchen, spending time in the mountains, and all things outdoors.
Through Optimum Health Vitamins, Celene offers individual and group nutrition consultations as well as individualized menu planning.
“To book an appointment with Celene – call 780-432-5464”