You probably know by now that we love living foods around these parts. Eating a raw foods diet has helped us feel more vibrant than we would have thought possible just a few years ago. But like any mode of eating, we have learned that there are healthy, life-supporting methods for thriving on living foods, and ways to go out of balance.
The old saying “variety is the spice of life” applies to what we eat. Diversity does not just keep our palettes happy; it also keeps our bodies healthy. Eating only a few kinds of food, even if they are healthy, can set us up for nutritional deficiencies.
One of the most fun ways to ensure we get a wide variety of necessary micronutrients is to eat by color. The bright colors of living foods denote the presence of phytonutrients, little nuggets of nutritional treasure. Each color has its own unique properties and essential vitamins and minerals. Eating a rainbow everyday ensures that we get a full nutritional package.
Foods take on the bright hue of a setting Sun because of the antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene supports the health of the heart and cardiovascular system. It also can help prevent prostate cancer. Eating lycopene supports eye health, and may prevent macular degeneration (one of the leading causes of blindness in the elderly).
Many red foods are also high in folate and vitamin C, and tomatoes are an especially good source of lycopene. Enjoy strawberries, tomatoes, cranberries, cherries, red beets, red apples, raspberries, and watermelon for the goodness of red.
Orange and Yellow
Foods in the orange to yellow range, like carrots, yams, squash, oranges, grapefruit, peaches, lemons, mangoes, and pineapples, receive their pigment from carotenoids. Carotenoids support the brain, the eyes (ever stare into the cross-section of a carrot?) and the liver.
One type of carotenoid, beta-carotene, is converted by the body into vitamin A. Vitamin A is essential for the immune system because it supports white blood cell function. It also balances the rate of cell growth.
Some bright yellow and orange foods such as turmeric, ginger, and cayenne pepper contain curcumin. Curcumin is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can help prevent cancer, maintain joint mobility, and improve circulation. Curcumin also supports the health of the kidneys and liver, and helps the body detoxify from heavy metals and radiation (source).
Oh we love our greens! From breakfast juices to salads at dinner, a little green at every meal is the way to go. Green foods are usually the easiest for raw foodies to come by, and really should be a staple for any living foods enthusiast. They provide an array of nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and E, folate, and potassium.
The darker the green of your leafy friend, the more chlorophyll it contains. Chlorophyll both cleanses the blood stream and increases red blood cell count. It also improves liver function, increases cell regeneration, and supports the entire detoxification system of the body.
Get your greens from concentrated sources like spirulina and chlorella (which also offer the health benefits of the blue foods) and more filling sources like kale, Swiss chard, broccoli, arugula, bok choy, parsley, cilantro, celery, romaine lettuce, turnip greens, kiwi fruit, green grapes, and avocados.
Blue, Indigo, Violet, and Black
These bright colors come from a group of flavanoids called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins protect cells from begin damaged by environmental or dietary toxins. They seem to work synergistically with the other parts of the food to help control diabetes, prevent cardiovascular disease, and improve brain and eye function. (source) They may also play a role in preventing obesity and Alzheimer’s.
Blueberries, black mission figs, pomegranates, black currants, acai berries, black sesame seeds, blackberries, black plums, and purple grapes (with seeds) are all excellent sources of these powerful anti-oxidants.
While not exactly a color of the rainbow, white foods have their place in a balanced diet. We don’t mean the processed white of refined grains or sugar, but rather the natural white of bananas, cauliflower, and parsnips. White foods are often high in potassium, and the antioxidant anthoxanthins, which protect the body from free radical damage.
The bitter white foods such as garlic, onions, and leeks, contain allicins. Allicins are anti-viral, anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial, and can help prevent the development of cancer.
Diversity is present in all healthy eco-systems. From the organic farms that grow our food to the rainforest to our own plates, variety is necessary for thrival (like survival, but better). With a little creativity and curiosity, you can fill your plate with an array of colors, gathering the health benefits of each different little chemical and mineral. If it is true that “you are what you eat,” why not be a radiant rainbow?