Written by Neha Chandna - Dietician, Nutrition Educator, Exercise Counselor with an M.Sc. in Dietetics and Food Service Management from SVT. She has worked with corporates such as HDFC and Standard Chartered as well as BPOs and MNCs on the Right ways of eating and living!
Just like the colours around you to make you feel happy and active, a variety of colours in your food would also keep your heart happy and at its best. Nature has given us numerous foods with lovely natural colours that are meant to be included in our diet to help increase our overall nutritional quality. Eating a rainbow of colours provides you with health benefits that cannot be replicated by supplements.
Make sure your plate has a variety of at least 3 colours at a time. Let's look at the benefits of different colours to add to your colour quotient:
1. Red: Red foods get their colour from pigments like lycopene and anthocyanins, which are great antioxidants that protect the cells of the heart from oxidative damage, reducing cholesterol and improving overall circulation to the heart. Foods with the colour red are tomatoes, cherries, cranberries, red bell peppers, beets, strawberries, watermelon, pomegranate, red grapes etc.
2. Orange and Yellow: These foods get their colour from pigment called carotenoids. They have high a amount of antioxidants like Vitamin C and bioflavonoids which protect the heart against damage, reduce cholesterol, and improve heart function. These foods are mostly a good source of potassium, which helps to reduce blood pressure. These include papayas, oranges, carrots, pumpkin, mangoes, peaches, pineapple, yellow peppers, lemon, sweet lime, etc.
3. Green: These foods get their colour from a pigment called chlorophyll. They contain a good amount of phytochemicals like lutein and indoles along with high levels of folate, which help to reduce the risk of heart diseases and attacks. Foods with this colour include spinach, methi, coriander, celery, parsley, mint, broccoli, capsicum, peas, cabbage, kiwi, avocados, etc.
4. Blue and Purple: These get their pigment from anthocyanins, which have great anti-aging properties. They increase circulation and reduce the risk of cancers, stroke, and heart disease. They also keep cholesterol under check. The common blue/purple foods are blueberries, plums, eggplant, purple cabbage, prunes, black currants, black jamun etc.
5. White: These foods are colored by pigments called anthoxanthins. They may contain chemicals such as allicin, which helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure and also reduce the risk of stomach cancer and heart disease. White foods include garlic, onions, cauliflower, potato, corn, turnips, mushrooms, etc.
As a thumb rule, you must include 2-3 servings of fruits and 3-4 servings of vegetables in your daily diet. Apart from these foods, include high fibre foods like oats, brown rice, ragi, jowar, and high-vitamin-E foods like almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts, pistachios, etc. in your diet to help your heart function better.