Five colours to have on your plate

They say to be healthy you have to eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables.

It might sound silly, but there’s science behind the concept of eating every colour on the spectrum. Plants derive their colours from the phytochemicals they contain. Phytochemicals, also referred to as phytonutrients, are nutrients produced by plants to help keep itself, and you, healthy.

It seems Australians are still not consuming a well-rounded diet. The latest survey of what we are eating shows that while one third of Australians eat the recommended number of fruit serves per day, less than one in 25 people eat the recommended amount of vegetables.

These statistics aren’t surprising considering the plethora of dietary information out there. A lot of us are still confused about what and how much we should be eating. However, no-one would argue that we need to eat more plant foods.

Nutritionists and health experts will tell you to eat a wide variety of colourful plant food, because it’s an easy way to get people to add more essential nutrients to their diet with little effort. If you think about a holistic diet in the form of a colour spectrum, it helps you to pay attention to the variation of food you should be eating. Eating colourful fruits and vegetables ensures you are getting a balance of all the wonderful phytonutrients found in plants. The colour of your plant foods can tell you a lot about their nutritional value.

1. RED

The strongest colour in the colour spectrum, red foods are loaded with the phytonutrient lycopene which gives them their vibrant, natural pigment. Lycopene has many benefits including reducing the risk of some chronic diseases.

Tomatoes, particularly when cooked, and watermelons contain the highest levels of lycopene. Red fruit and vegetables like cranberries and capsicum are a good source of tannins and with the help of Vitamin C and A  can help fight some bacteria.

Red berries like cherries are filled with vitamins C and A which are important antioxidants and assist with immune defences. Strawberries aren’t just a sweet and colourful addition to a tart or your breakfast cereal - they  contain similar levels of vitamin C to oranges.

What to add to your diet?

Strawberries, tomatoes, capsicum, pomegranate, cherries, raspberries, watermelon, radish.

Food ideas

Spice up your leafy spring salad by garnishing it with pomegranate seeds or fry tomatoes with salt and pepper as a side.



Anthocyanins are the key nutrients in all darker-toned foods. Not only do they create a rich colouring, they are a key part of why foods like blueberries contain antioxidants.

Many foods containing anthocyanins are known for improving immunity and their anti-inflammatory properties.

Blue and purple foods are also rich in lutein, vitamin C and zeaxanthin, all which help with eye health, assisting the immune system and supporting digestion. They’re not often found in everyday meals but they are essential to your overall wellbeing .

What to add to your diet?

Blueberries, blackberries, beetroot, plums, figs, purple asparagus, cabbage, eggplant, prunes, raisins.

Food ideas

Figs with ricotta and honey make a great afternoon snack, or grill some eggplant with balsamic vinegar.



Carotenoids are a type of phytonutrient which give this food group their warm, sunny hue. Fruit and vegetables containing carotenoids work as antioxidants by neutralising free radicals. This is important because it helps the body to protect cells, organs and tissue.

Yellow-toned foods contain vitamin A, which makes them perfect as a post-workout snack. This is because carotenoids help maintain muscle mass . Other helpful benefits of this bright-coloured food group are: helping stabilise blood pressure, promoting collagen formation, supporting the immune system and aiding in eye health.

Carotenoids can’t be synthesised by humans and so can only be obtained by eating bright and fresh fruit and vegetables.

What to add to your diet?

Carrots, lemons, oranges, sweet potato, pumpkin, corn, pineapple, ginger and mango.

Food ideas

Try steamed carrots, a side of pumpkin soup or even a corn salsa salad.



It seems everyone is “going green” these days and there’s a very good reason why. Most green foods are considered superfoods because of the amount of antioxidants they store. No wonder you’ll find vegetables like spinach and broccoli in all your favourite superfood salads.

Like yellow/orange foods, green foods contain a range of phytochemicals. They are packed with a variety of vitamins such as: A, C, E and K, in addition to important minerals like iron and zinc. These help support your immune system, assist your metabolism and protect your body against potential cellular damage.

If you’re a fan of the dark, leafy greens such as kale then you’re in luck. These vegetables contain a large amount of water which means they are significantly low in energy which helps to add bulk and substance to your meals.

What to add to your diet?

Kale, celery, spinach, green apple, peas, broccoli, zucchini and any type of lettuce.

Food ideas

Add bok choy and broccoli to your stir fry, a green apple to your breakfast smoothie or snack on snow peas with your favourite dip.



While not the most exciting colours in the spectrum, brown and white foods still come filled with many potentials. White fruit and vegetables like bananas and potatoes are a valuable source of potassium, which helps reduce blood pressure and is important for heart health.  Allicin is a phytochemical found in garlic which is known for its antibacterial properties.

Coconut is a popular superfood. The flesh is a source of fat, protein, Vitamins A and E, as well as a range of other minerals such as potassium

Not only do white and brown vegetables provide nutrition, so do grains, nuts and seeds. Quinoa, whole grains and oats are all contain fibre. High levels of fibre help maintain a healthy digestive tract and protect us from chronic disease. Whole grains  also contain iron, magnesium, zinc and copper.

What to add to your diet?

Cauliflower, potato, banana, quinoa, garlic, coconut, whole grains, ginger.

Food ideas

Add banana and coconut flakes to your breakfast oats, or mix in cauliflower with your roast veggies.

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