Taste The Rainbow
I’m sure by now that we’re all familiar with this Skittles slogan. But did you know that it’s a great idea to take the candy’s marketing advice?
One of the important keys to healing your body, including your gut, is to get enough macro- and micro-nutrients. Your body cannot heal if it does not have the tools to do so. We must provide our bodies with these tools through a healthy, anti-inflammatory, nutrient dense diet. In order to meet this vast array of nutritional needs, variety is key. Each vegetable and fruit has its own chemical and nutritional composition, and it’s important to eat as many different kinds as possible.
The AIP recommendations for daily vegetable and fruit intake is 8-14 servings. That works out to around four servings at each meal! Of course this number should be heavy on the vegetables and light on the fruit. It may sound like a lot, but your body needs it. One cup of raw or cooked vegetables or fruit or two cups of raw leafy greens constitutes a single serving. Smoothies can be helpful for reaching your daily produce intake but should be consummed in conjunction with a meal, as chewing is an important signal for the functioning of the entire digestive system and smoothies by themselves can destabalize blood sugar levels. When it comes to fruit, those following the AIP should keep their fructose intake to less than 20g per day. While this might seem restrictive, it usually works out to between two and five servings of fruit per day. Berries are an excellent choice of fruit as they are lower in sugar (better for blood sugar regulation) and are very high in a variety of micro-nutrients and antioxidants, which are beneficial for reducing inflammation. Citrus is also a good choice for its lower sugar and high vitamin content.
In amongst all those vegetable and fruit servings you should be eating daily, it is important to incorporate something from every colour each day. There are many different ways to categorize fruits and vegetables, but the colour of a vegetable does tell us a lot about the nutritional value of that food since produce gets its colour from the phytochemicals found inside. Each phytochemical has its own set of nutrients and provides the body with different tools.
Red produce is known for its high levels of licopene, vitamins A and C, and manganese. Since so many of the common red vegetables are eliminated on the AIP, like tomatoes and peppers, it can be a challenge to get your reds in. AIP-compliant red produce includes beets, strawberries, rhubarb, radishes, raspberries, pomegranate, apples, cherries, cranberries, some chard (red stalks). My recipe for Golden Glazed Beets can easily be used with red beets for a more rustic, savoury dish with all the benefits that accompany this vivacious colour.
Yellow and orange foods are also high in vitamins A (as betacarotene) and C. The yellows tend to be higher in vitamin C, while the oranges tend to be higher in B vitamins. Yellow and orange foods include carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, peaches, nectarines, apricots, oranges, bananas, papaya, persimmons, ginger, tumeric, and some beets. My very favourite Carrot Ginger Soup from Phoenix Helix will get you orange carrots and yellow ginger along with a healthy helping of nutrient-dense seafood!
White and tan/brown foods are strong anti-bacterials, anti-virals, and anti-fungals, as well as being high in vitamin K and folate. Some common white or tan foods are mushrooms, cauliflower, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, white sweet potatoes, onions, and garlic. My Tongue Fried Rice is a great way to get both offal and some white cauliflower in one tasty dish!
Blue and purple foods are nutritional powerhouses full of antioxidants, flavanoids (including quercitin and resveratrol) and inflammation fighters. These include blueberries, blackberries, saskatoons, currants, chokecherries, figs, purple broccoli and cauliflower, purple kolrahbi, grapes, plums, and purple carrots. My Blueberry Banana Kefir Smoothie will get you some yellow and blue all at once, along with some probiotics!
Finally, there are the green foods (aka: everything else), which get their signature colour from chlorophyll and should be eaten at every meal. Greens are packed with a very wide variety minerals, vitamins, and almost every known nutritional metal! There’s a good reason your mom was always on you to eat your greens! This list could go on for a while, but some of my favourites are kale, lettuce, avocados, broccoli, broccolini/broccolette, spinach, arugala, chard, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, cucumber, leeks, and fresh herbs like basil, mint, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and cilantro. Maybe try some of my Proscuitto-Wrapped Broccolini to get some tasty greens in!
In order to incorporate each colour into my daily diet, the rule of thumb I use is to aim to eat between two and three different colours at each meal. Since greens should be eaten at every meal, I try to add one or two additional colours to the greens to make sure I get them all in during the day. If I have a salad, I’ll often have four or more colours in one meal (carrots, mushrooms, blueberries and/or strawberries, for example)! As long as I have adequate variety in my fridge, this strategy usually works pretty well!
Who would have thought that Wrigley (the maker of Skittles) was on to something!
Have a favourite colour of vegetable? Your own tips and tricks for ensuring you get the variety you need? Please share below!