I am Ruchika Mehra, working in the consumer healthcare industry for 18 years now, I have been working closely on nutrition research, nutritional profiling, and ideation globally with cross-functional teams. Being a professional in the consumer healthcare industry, my interest has largely relied on maternal and infant nutrition, child nutrition, energy, and physical activities.
I strongly believe in the power of colours in plant-based meals. Very often when we speak of health and wellness, the popular conversation revolves around calories. protein, carbohydrates, and fats intake. Sometimes for a break, we shift to a more evolved conversation circle on vitamins, minerals, and fiber. But how often do we consider colours as a very important part of a meal?
Have you ever thought of food being a source of nourishment in the language of colours? The easiest way to see if you are including the precious extra nutrients is by keeping an eye on how many colours from plant-based foods you consume in a day! These precious compounds that have a very protective effect in the body are called the bio-active compounds or phytochemicals, and these are often responsible for the trademark colour in fruits and vegetables.
Plants have “phytochemicals” or “phytonutrients” in them which are produced by plants to protect themselves. But in reality, it can have a beneficial effect on human health as well. Bioactive compounds are chemicals that are capable of modulating processes in the body and promoting better health.
Be it the red beetroot, orange carrot, red tomatoes, or white callower and the green in leafy vegetables, vegetarian foods come with a lot of colour options to infuse in a single meal. Carotenoids like Beta-carotene are the bioactive compound that gives carrots their orange colour. Lycopene is a bright red pigment found in tomatoes and other red fruits and vegetables such as red carrots, watermelons, grapefruits, and papayas. Beetroot has betalain pigments that give it the red-violet colour. Flavonoids provide the blue, red, and cream colours in blueberries. White coloured cauliflower and turnips contain rich amounts of compounds known as glucosinolates. Garlic and onions contain antioxidants called polyphenols. Yellow-green foods, like yellow zucchini, contain lutein and zeaxanthin.
Next time you buy your fruit and vegetable basket, have a look at the array of colours you choose. It is equally important to know how to cook these fruits and vegetables to preserve their natural colour. Overcooking in high flame or cooking something for a long time can destroy some of these delicate nutrients. Washing them multiple times, peeling unnecessarily, or adding too much water in cooking (unless making a soup) can cause these nutrients to be leached in the water. The gold standard will always be to eat these beautiful colorful fruits and vegetables fresh, and with minimum processing.