By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
What exactly does ‘Eat the rainbow mean’?
Eating a diversity of colourful foods can be an easy way to get a complete range of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to thrive. ‘Eat the rainbow’ means quite simply, that the colour of your food can tell you a lot about its nutritional value, and eating a variety of colours is one sure method to get as many of those vitamins and minerals as possible (and eat a broad, diverse amount of food in the process). The way in which you enjoy these colourful plant-based foods could be a combination of fresh, frozen, dried or canned.
Eating a nutrient dense diet full of colour is thought to protect us against a variety of illnesses, and there is increasing evidence that it can also help in relation to fertility…so eat a rainbow to give your health and fertility a boost!
Blue and purple fruits and vegetables obtain their vibrant colour from beneficial plant compounds called Polyphenols. These are particularly high in Anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants and give the gorgeous blue and purple hues to these lovely blue and purple fruit and vegetables.
Some examples of healthy blue and purple fruit and vegetables you may wish to include in your diet:
Blueberries, blackberries, damsons, figs, purple sprouting broccoli, red cabbage, aubergine, red onions, beetroot, purple potatoes and carrots, grapes, bilberries…….to name a few!
How do Blue and Purple plant-based foods help our general health and fertility?
- The vitamins and minerals provided by blue and purple fruit and vegetables can have a big impact on our energy and overall health. They are packed full of antioxidants including anthocyanins, vitamin C, B, E and K, along with a variety of other nutrients including fibre, magnesium, potassium and more. Some blue and purple fruit and vegetables such as beetroot, contain a high level of folate which is essential when it comes to female fertility because it helps to reduce homocysteine levels ( we have mentioned homocysteine before in earlier articles and videos). Folate is also important in the prevention of neural tube defects. In men, research shows that poor levels of folate (vitamin B9) are linked to a low sperm count and decreased sperm mobility.
- Contain anti-inflammatory properties.
- Linked to lowering blood pressure- due to the production of nitric oxide (due to reactions involving the flavonoids contained in the blue and purple plant- based foods). This nitric oxide causes the muscle fibres in the blood vessels to relax. As the fibres relax the blood vessel dilates, causing a drop of pressure within it – helping to reduce blood pressure. Nitric Oxide is therefore an important vasodilator, which increases circulation throughout the body. Healthy circulation is essential to enable blood flow to the uterus and reproductive organs in men and women. Promoting circulation to the uterus is crucial for improving uterine health and for pregnancy preparation.
- Gut health – polyphenols are known to support ‘good’ bacteria in the gut, which is important for all aspects of general health and fertility.
- Improved cardiovascular health.
- Linked to helping in the prevention of Dementia in some studies.
- May protect against urinary tract infections- due to the antibacterial properties some blue and purple foods such as blackcurrants.
What do Anthocyanins do?
Anthocyanins are antioxidants which help protect the body from oxidative stress. This is important for many aspects of our health, including fertility. As we mentioned in the last few articles, oxidative stress happens due to an imbalance between free radical and antioxidants in the body. Too much free radical damage or an imbalance may lead to damage to the DNA in cells. This may lead to premature ageing of the cells, which can cause issues when it comes to fertility re the sperm and egg cell DNA.
Eating a wide range of colourful food helps us to obtain a good amount of antioxidants to help guard against the free radicals which may cause damage, bringing the body into balance and reducing oxidative stress.