Ever heard of the phrase, "EAT THE RAINBOW?"
The MORE COLOR we eat, the MORE ANTIOXIDANTS we eat.
You may have read the title of this blog and asking yourself, "Why do I need to Ditch the Macros Emphasis and Focus on Antioxidants?"
When the focus is on the macronutrient content of foods (Carbohydrates, Protein, & Fat) the emphasis is on how many calories the food provides you. Macro counting may be beneficial for some however I've found that the focus on macros keeps you focus on your weight versus focusing on how food makes you feel.
Example: You're on a 1600 Calorie diet and can't lose weight. So your doctor says to cut down to 1200 calories. You fret over getting the right portions for your allotted macros. You start to gain weight. Many times the reason you gain weight with calorie reduction is because the foods you're eating are still PRO-INFLAMMATORY or could simply aren't enough anti-inflammatory/protective property foods. Also, restricting calories with a healthy condition can put your body into survival mode. (This actually was a story that was told to me recently except it was 1200 calories originally and was told to drop down to 800 calories a day... oye. I cringed when I heard that a health professional recommended 800 calories a day. That's scary.)
>>> If you're wanting to learn more about weight loss. I have a few episodes on my podcast for you. Check out the Nutrition's My Life Podcast about Weight Loss for the Health Warrior.
I love this part about food. What if we started focusing on how we FEEL?
When we start to focus on how we FEEL, we start to listen to how food impacts our body. A great way to impact our body positively is to eat more antioxidants!!
Antioxidants may prevent or delay some types of cell damage (1). Aka helps prevent diseases and can even repair damage to certain cells. Examples of antioxidants include vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin (1). Antioxidants are protective properties to the plants and when we eat the plants, we get their important and helpful benefits!
A great example of how powerful antioxidants are, is my story of almost killing the herb Oregano! I absolutely LOVE to garden but in my early days, I wasn't the best. I killed many plants but one plant that never seemed to die was oregano! It always held on, resisted pests, and always came back!
This happens because Oregano oil has a great antioxidant component about it and also some antimicrobial benefits (2). The herb literally has built in protective properties to help keep it alive! When we eat these amazing foods, those protective properties are transferred to us! This is why I still grow oregano and take it in supplement form on occasion!
Vegetables and fruits are rich sources of antioxidants. This makes eating your antioxidants easier because you can just focus on EATING THE RAINBOW!
Each color provides you with a different health benefit and I'm hyping up antioxidants like they're the only helpful part of the foods we eat however that's not the case. Antioxidants are a part of a class of nutrients called PHYTONUTRIENTS. Different phytonutrients have been helpful with cancer tumor growth inhibition to reducing inflammation. Let's check how cool colorful food really is!!!
Red: Foods that contain the red color have lycopene. Lycopene contains antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and chemotherapeutics effects in cardiovascular or neurodegenerative diseases and in some cancers (4).
Found in: strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cherries, apples, beets, watermelon, red grapes, red peppers, red onions
Orange/Yellow: Vitamin C is found orange and yellow fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is required for making collagen, L-carnitine, and certain neurotransmitters; vitamin C is also involved in protein metabolism. It is also a great antioxidant and can even help make other antioxidants in the body!!
Deficiency can cause fatigue, joint pain, iron deficiency etc...
Found In: Citrus fruits, tomatoes and tomato juice, and potatoes are major contributors of vitamin C to the American diet. Other good food sources include red and green peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, and cantaloupe (5).
Green: Chlorophyll is the phytochemical that acts like an antioxidant in green foods. Certain components of green foods, like isothiocyanates, assist the liver in removing potentially carcinogenic compounds (6). Green color foods also provide potassium which is helpful for blood pressure regulation, folic acid which is helpful in preventing neural tube defects during pregnancy, Vitamin C which is another great antioxidant and there is an inverse relationship between cruciferous vegetables and cancer (6). Aka more green cruciferous veggies less risk of developing cancer.
Found In: Broccoli, Bok Choy, spinach, kale, kiwi fruit, Brussel sprouts
*I drink Superfoods Shot to help me get my veggies & fruit when I need the extra help! It's so powerful that 1/2 days servings of fruits & vegetables is in just 2oz! Order yours here & use code NICOLE50 for your discount!
Blue: Blue and Purple (& red) foods get their beautiful colors from their anthocyanin content. Several studies have found an association between the consumption of anthocyanin-rich foods and cardiovascular disease protection (8). Anthocyanin has been shown to have some anti-carcinogenic properties to it (aka stopped cancer cells from replicating and even killed cancer cells). They have even been studied in brain health!! Yes please!
Fruits: Berries, currants, grapes, and some tropical fruits have high anthocyanins content (7).
Vegetables: Red to purplish blue-colored leafy vegetables, grains, roots, and tubers are the edible vegetables that contain a high level of anthocyanins (7).
White: Quercetin, a polyphenol derived from plants, has a wide range of biological actions including anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antiviral activities (9). I take Quercetin for allergies as it has an antihistamine affect (10).
Allicin has been shown to have antimicrobial properties to it (11).
Mushrooms like Lion's Mane contain high amounts of antioxidants. I use a scoop of lions mane with other mushrooms like turkey tail and chaga daily! (Get your Freshcapmushrooms.com here and use code NICOLE10 for 15% off)
Found In: Apples, onions, red grapes for quercetin and allicin in garlic.
Food is pretty cool huh?
COOKING TIPS & RECIPES
Food is so powerful and all these colors come together nicely to make healthy and powerful meals. The cool part about colors is that they taste better when they're paired with their opposite color.
Greens are more bitter and pair nicely with orange and yellows. Check out my Butternut Squash & White Bean Chili recipe for this example!
I love to cook but am horrible at writing down my own recipes, so I asked a few of my Dietitian colleagues and they came through again with these delicious recipes! I have carefully chosen these recipes to help you see that eating a variety of color gives you so many more options!!
I can't wait to get in the kitchen to try some of these recipes out!
Which ones will you try?
"Eat the Rainbow" Spinach Salad by Laura Yautz, RDN, LDN, NBC-HWC at Being Nutritious
Vegetarian Southwest Quinoa Casserole by Megan Byrd RD at The Oregon Dietitian
Garden Greens with Mango Dressing by Shena Jaramillo RD at Peace and Nutrition
Teriyaki Salmon Bowl by Allison Shaaf at Prep Dish
Vegan Za'atar 7 Layer Salad by Desi~licious RD Inc. Shahzadi Devje RD CDE MSc.
15 Minute Easy Salad by Desi~licious RD Inc. Shahzadi Devje RD CDE MSc.
Crunchy Roasted Eggplant Fries by Jenna Braddock from MakeHealthyEasy.com
Chinese Chicken Salad with Orange Sesame Dressing by Chef Julie Andrews @ The Gourmet RD
Sweet Potato Taco by Nicole Eichinger RD at Nutrition's My Life
Thai Quinoa Salad with Peanut Miso Dressing by Leanne Ray, MS, RDN
Gado-Gado, Indonesian Tempeh Salad by Sharon Palmer
Vegan Power Bowl with Maple-Dijon Dressing by Amy Gorin
Would love to know what your biggest takeaway from this blog is or your favorite recipe!
Thanks for taking the time to read this!
Specialty: Thyroid and Gut Health