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The Rainbow Way: 5 A Day

Thursday, May 14th, 2009 The Rainbow Way: 5 A Day

The daily recommended dose of fruit and veg we all know are equal to five potions. What is not as well known is the fact that you should also be eating as many differently coloured varieties as possible?

It is understood that naturally phytochemicals that give fruit and vegetables their colours can also help keep us healthy and free from disease. Brightly coloured fruit and vegetables contain the most antioxidants, which protect your body from damage by free radicals (those unstable molecules in your body that can undermine your long-term health). They can also damage the collagen fibres that give your skin its elasticity. So while it’s important to ‘eat your greens’, it’s just as important to eat your reds, oranges, yellows, blues and purples, too.

It is also recommended that we make the most of the spring and summer fruits and vegetables coming into the shops by eating five a day the rainbow way. To start you off, I’ve included a recipe for a colourful beetroot and orange chicken salad. In other words know your rainbow.

The benefits from the differing pigments from the fruit and veg include:

Red: cherries, red peppers, strawberries and tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a potent age-defying antioxidant that has well-documented disease-fighting properties and can also help protect against sunburn. Cooking actually increases your body’s uptake of lycopene, so have no guilt about using tinned tomatoes and tomato paste when making pasta sauce.

Orange: apricots, carrots, mangoes, oranges and sweet potatoes contain alpha and beta carotenes, antioxidants that protect your skin from ultraviolet damage and build new cells.

Yellow: bananas, nectarines, squash, sweetcorn and yellow peppers are good sources of beta-cryptothanxin, a phytochemical that helps with vitamin and mineral exchange between cells. It may also help prevent heart disease.

Green: apples, broccoli, kale, pears, rocket and spinach are good sources of lutein, a carotenoid that is good for skin hydration, elasticity and healthy eyes. Avocados and leafy greens are also rich in vitamin E, which strengthens cells membranes and can help prevent wrinkles.

Beetroot and orange chicken salad (serves four):

This recipe comes from the Rannoch Smokery in Perthshire, which produces wonderful smoked venison and chicken. The smoked chicken and the toasted cumin seeds bring subtle earthiness to the dish, but substitute two cooked chicken breasts if you can’t source smoked chicken.

In a large serving bowl, combine 250g boiled, skinned and sliced (or vacuum-packed) beetroot, two peeled and chopped oranges with chunks of half a cold-smoked chicken and a handful of rocket. For the dressing, toast two teaspoons cumin seeds in a dry frying pan until fragrant, then pound in a pestle and mortar. In a small bowl, whisk together two teaspoons lemon juice, one teaspoon honey and three tablespoons olive oil, then mix in the pounded cumin and pour the spiced dressing over the salad. Top with three tablespoons toasted pine nuts.

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