As spring changes to summer the range of colours in fresh picked produce expands…from the many shades of green to reds, orange, yellow and even purple. The beautiful array on the stands at the farmers’ markets pleases the eyes, yet there’s more to all that colour than meets the eye…
Colours have the power to alter moods and lift the spirit. Each color has a specific frequency and vibration which gives it specific properties. Colour therapy uses these properties to affect mood and enhance well-being. Frequencies and vibrations can affect the energy fluctuations and patterns within our bodies.
Colour really is more than what meets the eye, especially when it comes to fresh produce.
What Gives Fresh Produce Their Colour?
Ever wonder what gives fruits, vegetables and herbs such an interesting and varied colour palette?
It’s a class of chemical compounds called phytonutrients. “Phyto” comes from the Greek word for plant. Phytonutrients are chemical compounds produced by plants.
While the patterns for the production of these compounds are written in the DNA of plants, they are triggered into production by external events. These events include weather variations, day length changes, temperature, nutrient availability patterns and others factors. Even being touched by animals and humans can set off a phytonutrient production process!
Thus the production of phytonutrients is altered by growing conditions, which means growing conditions affect the colour of fresh food… And we all know flavour is closely correlated with colour.
Could this be one reason why vegetables grown without the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides often seem more flavourful? Why broccoli grown in windswept gardens tends to be darker green and more intensely flavoured – even when cooked?
Under stress plants produce different amounts of phytonutrients to help them stave off pests and pathogens. Those phytonutrients help the plants withstand stressors and stay healthy.
It’s a means for them to protect themselves since moving around just isn’t an option. Plants have adapted to being rooted in one place by generating a wide range of chemicals to aid them. In fact, scientists have found more than 25,000 phytonutrients present in vegetables and fruits. Most of these phytonutrients are rich-coloured pigments that give fresh produce their wide range of colours.
Red, orange and yellow plant foods are typically high in carotenoids. The phytonutrient, lycopene gives tomatoes and watermelons their red colour. Dark green leafy kale contains over 50 different phytonutrients including kaempferol and quercetin. Ever-popular spinach contains polyphenols and alpha lipoic acid.
How Phytonutrients Can Help You Too
While plants produce these phytonutrients for their own benefit, they’re beneficial to those who consume the bounty of the harvest those plants produce.
The phytonutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin help prevent two common types of eye problems: cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Another class, betalains, aid in the body’s detoxification process. Some phytonutrients help our cells communicate better, others help prevent mutations at a cellular level, some fight inflammation, others are powerful antioxidants. Many have functions we are only beginning to understand.
It turns out that the natural colours in our food indicate which phytonutrients that food is rich in… making colour truly more than a pleasure to the eyes. Consuming a range of colourful natural foods can help us stay healthy, boost our energy and more…
So make your next meal a colourful work of art. It can do more than stir the appetite with greater eye appeal… it may just lift your moods by other means, beyond appearance. Even beyond the pleasure of creating an edible work of art.
Colourful produce is good for your health. So once you’ve gathered up the colours for your colourful dinner palette, you may be wondering just how to get the most of those phytonutrient benefits hidden inside.
Some Tips to Get the Most From Your Colourful Plant Produce
- Steaming and water-less cooking tends to retain nutrients better than boiling vegetables in water. Simply cook to the point of desired tenderness or softness and not longer.
- Certain phytonutrients become more absorb-able after cooking. Some of these are contained in foods such as carrots, mushrooms, asparagus, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, peppers, tomatoes and potatoes.
- Frozen vegetables generally hold onto their nutrient content better than canned ones.
One Phytonutrient Powerhouse You’ll Want to Include in Your Healthy Eating Plans
One vegetable quite high in phytonutrients is the humble beet. And now we have them available at our stands, fresh from our farm, complete with leafy greens. Those greens and stems are edible, although many are just as red as green. They’re an excellent source of the phytonutrients, particularly beta Carotene and Lutein. Those beets with more red generally have higher levels of betalain pigments which help our bodies to detoxify effectively… and that’s just a start.
Those tops are packed with goodness. Here’s a simple and quick recipe to enjoy that goodness.