We have all heard the term “eat the rainbow” but is it really true and what does it mean for our bodies? Plants are full of phytochemicals, these are nutrients that we get from plants and they are beneficial for our health. They are found mainly in the skin and are part of the plants immune system, this is why we should always try and eat the skins.
Phyto chemicals are packed with antioxidants. Melanie Cutting our Chelmsford chiropractor and Medical Herbalist says,” Did you realise that plant foods are 64 times higher in antioxidants than animal foods?” Antioxidants protect our cells from free radicals and reduce our risk of developing certain diseases and ageing. For example, studies have shown that plant-based foods high in flavonoids can reduce mortality rates by 25% as well as significantly decrease the instances of heart attacks.
Here are possible health benefits of just a few phytochemicals:
- Carotenes: Offer free radical protection.
- Curcumin: Blocks carcinogens , is anti-inflammatory and protects against DNA damage.
- Isoflavones: Increase blood vessel dilation and reduce symptoms of menopause.
Melanie, who practices Functional Medicine alongside Medical Herbalism and chiropractic says , “Lifestyle Medicine is a fast growing branch of medicine teaching how changes to diet, exercise relaxation and sleep for example can dramatically improve our well-being.”
A varied diet gives you a wide range of nutrients; use pungent herbs and spices like garlic , ginger, turmeric, basil and coriander. They all add flavour, warmth and colour to your meals and also those quality phytochemicals. Broccoli and spinach are superfoods and there is so much you can add these to. Fold in spinach at every opportunity- having a Bolognese? -fold in spinach- pasta sauce? fold in spinach. Brassicas one of the healthiest vegetables grown in abundance in the UK, savoy cabbages, cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli are full of phytochemicals with health benefits. Try savouring up your breakfast- vegetables are not the ‘go to’ breakfast for many but give it a try and you may get hooked. Pre-prepping food for the week and adding a final hit of fresh herbs or vegetables will also make life easier.
Our bodies produce free radicals as part of normal metabolism and you don’t want to have too many of these hanging around because they promote ageing, inflammation and cancer. Chronic inflammation is the cause of most diseases including cancer, heart disease and arthritis. Plants are full of antioxidants and these are useful because they help remove free radicals from the cells and reduce their effects.
Curcumin is a phytochemical found in turmeric that has good research as an anti-cancer, anti- inflammatory effect. But it is important to note that it is difficult for the body to absorb and works best as the whole fresh root with black pepper. Plants are always best eaten fresh rather than as a supplement; there is good reason why there are multiple chemical compound in a species, they work synergistically and is often why there is a history of cooking things together. Black pepper is invariably be used by Asian cooks alongside turmeric in dishes for its taste but with the great benefit of improving the absorption of curcumin the active anti- inflammatory chemical in turmeric.
Our Chelmsford chiropractor wants you to truly reap the full benefit of phytochemicals and all you need to do is eat a varied and colourful whole food, plant-based diet.
Eating the rainbow is an easy way to remember to add phytonutrients to our meal. There is so much dietary advice on the internet and media; what to eat what not to eat but if you go to the supermarket with an open mind and look for the freshest looking food available and remember to have a basket full of different colours then you will drastically improve your nutrient levels. Don’t forget that frozen vegetables are often better than fresh as it has been picked and frozen within hours and the vitamins and minerals preserved.
Try my recipe below for a quick lunch or breakfast.
Sweet potato subzi
2 tbsps coconut oil, butter or olive oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
3cm piece fresh root ginger grated
150g frozen peas
2 spring onions
1 tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
150g sweet potato cut into 1cm cubes or any other starchy root veg
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful of fresh coriander
100g fresh yoghurt
One fresh red chilli chopped finely
Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the mustard seeds. When they start to release their aroma add the spring onions cook for a minute and then add the cumin, coriander, turmeric, seasoning and grated ginger along with the sweet potato.
Cook gently for 8-10 minutes until the sweet potato are soft and then toss in the peas.
Cook for a further 1-2 minutes until all the vegetables are cooked through.
Finely chop the coriander stir half through the vegetables and stir the other half through the
yoghurt with the chopped chilli. A squeeze of lemon juice over the top will add to the flavour.
This can be served with brown rice or wholemeal Indian bread if you like.