Rainbow in my plate

Chef David Edward Raj suggests including fruits, vegetables and other key components of different colours to the platter so that they form the required nutrition base needed for a healthy body and mind

The lockdown phase has got many food enthusiasts to don the chef’s hat and innovate with various dishes and cuisines.   More focus has been given to healthy eating during the peak of the pandemic as staying immune to the virus was considered as important as breathing. However, there is a myth attached to healthy eating that it does not tastes upto the mark and its presentation is not so attractive. To change this mindset, chefs across the world have been innovating with food to introduce meals that are not just tasty and healthy, but also visually appealing.

Though there are ample nutritious food items available in the restaurants as well as on the shelves of supermarket, one of the fanciest yet basic idea is ‘eating the rainbow’. Yes, that’s right. The term ‘eating the rainbow’ means including foods of different colours to the platter. This comprises fruits, vegetables and other key components that together form the required nutrition base that is needed for a healthy body and mind.

It is a commonly known and acknowledged fact that more the inclusion of vegetables and fruits in our diet, the better it is for the body. However, there is a lack of motivation which entails most people not following this eating habit.    

The concept of this food being used for medicinal purpose has been around for more than a millennium and is still actively followed across various schools of medicine like Ayurveda and Unani. Such special foods were known and treasured due to their use in treating or preventing diseases. Hence, it is important for us to include more fruits and vegetables in our diet because they possess vitamins and minerals that not only help prevent but also delay the onset of various diseases.

Essential nutrients and their benefits

Vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin K, riboflavin, folic acid and compounds called carotenoids (some of which can be converted to vitamin A in the body) are found in many vegetables and fruits. Guava and gooseberry are some of the easily available sources of vitamin C. Vegetables like capsicum are rich in thiamine, a member of the B complex family of vitamins.

Some vegetables like potato, sweet potato, tapioca, yam and fruits like mango, banana and sapota make a fair contribution towards energy intake. Most vegetables and fruits are high in water and fibre contents and low in calorific value.

Many of the greens are packed with iron. Drumstick called as Moringa is loaded with essential nutrients.The leaves are the most nutrient dense part of the plant and one of the finest sources of calcium, iron, zinc, selenium and magnesium.  Fresh pods and seeds are the best for oleic acid — a healthy fatty acid that keeps the heart health in check. Moringa leaves are loaded with great amount of protein and are one of the best sources.

Flavonoids, a diverse group of phytonutrients (plant chemicals) found in probably all fruits and vegetables also play an important role. Along with carotenoids, they are responsible for the vivid colours in fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids are the largest group of phytonutrients. They are found in lemons, oranges, plums, peaches, apricots, apples, green leafy vegetables, yellow capsicum, onions and broccoli.

Grape fruit is known to reduce blood cholesterol and glucose concentrations. Yellow fruits like mangoes and green leafy vegetables and carrots are rich in beta carotene which is converted to vitamin A in the body and also helps to fight cancer.

Red fruits like tomatoes and watermelon contain lycopene, which is important for fighting prostate cancer and heart diseases.

Strawberries, blueberries, apples, grapes and onions are being studied for their anti-ageing effects.

The most natural way to overcome constipation is to increase intake of green leafy vegetables and other high fibre vegetables and fruits. Their high water and fibre content and low energy values promote satiety, decrease energy intake and could be important in weight management. Nutritionists recommend regular moderate exercise and many servings of soups and salads for those who need to shed a few pounds. Substituting fruits and vegetables for a calorie dense evening snack helps in weight loss.

(The chef is Director — Culinary development & Innovation, Elior India.)

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