Eat Like an Artist
by: Danelle Winston
August 14, 2021
Each artist has a unique relationship with paint, depending on their point of view and stylistic choices, and yet a common thread remains. Color is the lifeblood of inspiration. Cobalt, scarlet, amber, intense pigments are striking on canvas. In the same way, when you eat boldly colored plant-based foods, rich in phytonutrients, they have a powerful impact on your mind and body. Bursting with an abundance of health and wellness benefits so complete, it's best not to peel away the skins of these foods, because nutrients are found in the outer layers and rinds as well.
Remember to also keep this philosophy in mind when selecting beauty products. Seek out plant-based formulations that nurture skin by tapping into synergistic ingredients, which become stronger when combined, rather than on their own.
Instead of an ordinary plate, paint your own delicious edible canvas. Check out the palette of colors and foods below:
Shades of scarlet, and varied tones of pink, often contain Lycopene, a phytonutrient in the carotenoid family. An antioxidant linked to heart health, with anti-cancer properties and sun protection, this is a great food color with which to become familiar. Functional Nutritionist, Shelly Gawith, says red peppers are often overlooked, but they are one of her favorites, and “an amazing source of vitamin C.”
You'll also find anthocyanins, flavonoids with strong antioxidant properties, in red/pink plants. Linked to the prevention of diabetes and cancer, they are also anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and studied for their connection to cardiac health and prevention of heart disease. When extracted from fruits and vegetables, anthocyanins are so potent they are categorized as pharmaceutical ingredients.
According to Gawith, if you are vegan or dairy free, it's a good idea to seek out veggies high in calcium. Gawith's favorite pink food is radish. “Radishes are rich in antioxidants and minerals,” adding that “two of the main minerals that I see clients deficient in, are calcium and potassium.” If that's not enough to get you stocking up, “Radishes are also a good source of natural nitrates that improve blood flow.”
Foods: beets, red tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, goji berries, radishes, blood oranges, pink grapefruits, rose hips, dragonfruit, and red carrots.
Yellow & Orange
While there are hundreds of carotenoids in yellow and orange foods, some convert, such as beta carotene, into vitamin A (retinol) in the body. Benefits are linked to cognitive function, eye health, anti-inflammatory and anti-aging, and immunity-boosting. A recent study even found that carotenoids may also prevent neurodegenerative diseases. In contrast to taking supplements, the beauty of consuming carotenoids in plants is that your body intuits exactly what it needs, and creates that specific amount. Keep in mind, carotenoids are best absorbed with fat. So, you may want to drizzle or saute veggies with healthy oil, or partner with almonds, walnuts, or nuts of your choice, and with fruits, seeds/nuts or yogurt.
Foods: carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, oranges, lemons, yellow tomatoes, apricots, yellow plums, pumpkins, yellow peppers and squash.
In addition to red and pink foods, anthocyanins are also found in richly colored deep blues, purples and black foods. To maximize healthiness, it's wise to opt for the darkest pigments, such as blackberries and blueberries, since more intense colorations have a greater abundance of antioxidant levels. Benefits include, free radical protection, cancer prevention, immune boosting, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory effects. Gawith says that something called oxidative stress-load is very common, and it leads to weakened immunity, making you more susceptible to certain diseases. One way to combat oxidative stress is to, “use these foods to help increase your blood’s antioxidant levels.” Gawith's everyday favorites are blueberries, “as they are also low in sugar,” adding “You could also eat blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, goji berries, purple cabbage and beetroot.”
Foods: Blue potatoes, purple kale, acai berries, currants, blueberries, blackberries, black beans, black raspberries, black rice, black beans, grapes and plums
Chlorophyll is the source of that gorgeous green hue in certain vegetables and fruits. Containing antioxidant properties, and better metabolized with fat, chlorophyll is also known as a natural breath freshener, and is being studied for its link to cancer prevention. If you're looking for higher concentrations of chlorophyll, seek out darker greens rather than lighter shades.
You'll also find a variety of vitamins and phytochemicals, such as sulforaphane, contained in cruciferous vegetables. An exciting phytonutrient, sulforaphane is an antioxidant, with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, being studied as a protectant of DNA. Gawith says some of her go-to green foods are, “Kale, watercress, broccoli sprouts, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, beet greens, and micro greens.”
Other green foods: asparagus, green peppers, zucchini, scallions, edamame, artichokes, celery, peas, dandelion greens, swiss chard and all leafy greens.
Synergistic Colored Plants
Nature works in amazing and mysterious ways, maximizing her gifts through the magic of synergy. Keep in mind that “you want veggies high in iron to be consumed with fruits and veggies high in vitamin C,” according to Gawith. The reason being, “iron needs vitamin C to be absorbed efficiently,” for instance, “high vitamin C fruits and veggies are all your citrus fruits, plus bell peppers. Dark leafy greens are your base plant source of iron,” and “eating a little "good fat" along with your vegetables, helps your body absorb their protective phytochemicals, like lycopene from tomatoes and lutein from dark-green vegetables,” says Gawith.
Not all fruits and veggies are easily digested. Be mindful that, “some people get inflamed by the deadly nightshade family,” says Gawith, so if you notice yourself becoming bloated after eating tomatoes or potatoes then avoid these foods completely, or else consume only small, limited amounts, as tolerated.
As you incorporate these antioxidant rich beauties into your daily diet, seize any chance to choose plant-based foods over unhealthy options; for instance, “lettuce wraps instead of bread, or zucchini noodles instead of gluten noodles,” says Gawith. And along with eating seasonally, she advises varying your choices by experimenting with unfamiliar fruits, vegetables, sprouts and herbs. Beautiful and healthy - not only is the edible rainbow artful on your plate, but cooking and preparing these foods in different ways also supplies you with an assortment of nutrients and health benefits.