Vitamins and minerals are essential because our bodies need them to stay healthy and perform optimally. They are important for an uncountable number of processes. They are essential in helping fight infections, aiding wound healing, the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth and regulating hormones. Chronic insufficient levels of vitamins and minerals can actually lead to a variety of serious health problems. By eating a balanced diet you can naturally make sure you nourish your body with these vital nutrients. This will help keep your body strong and healthy.
The importance of eating the rainbow
The easiest way to do this is by “eating the rainbow”. Think about it this way: most processed food has little to no nutrients. These processed foods usually come in an unappetizing fifty shades of brown. (Unless an ungodly amount of artificial colouring is added to make them look more appetizing). Nature has provided us with an abundance of colourful fruits and vegetables. Colourful food is not only more attractive to eat, it also boosts our health by nourishing our cells.
The vibrant colours in fruits and veggies are caused by specific phytochemicals and phytonutrients. By incorporating a variety of different colours of fruits and vegetables into your diet you get a complete range of vitamins and minerals. Each colour has its own specific health benefits. The more striking the colour the richer the food is in vitamins, minerals, fibers and antioxidants. Variety is key, no multi vitamin can compete with a varied way of eating. By choosing from the different colour groups your meals will not only look more appetizing, they are also automatically more nourishing. Eating the whole fruits and vegetables like nature intended ensures you benefit from all the nutrients they contain, they usually work in alignment for maximum benefit. On top of that they also contain loads of fibres that are important for your digestive health and will help keep you feel full longer.
To help you on your colourful eating journey here’s a short list of the most important health benefits for each colour group:
Blue & Purple:
These dark coloured fruits and veggies are high in anthocyanin and resveratrol. These antioxidants are anti-aging, anti-inflammatory and can help prevent certain diseases. They also help boost the memory and protect cells from damage.
E.g. Blueberries, purple cabbage, plums, aubergine (eggplant), blackberries.
Chlorophyll and isothiocyanates make green foods a powerhouse when it comes to health. These antioxidants help tissue healing, detoxify the body and restore energy and vitality. They also boost the immune system and reduce the risk of many diseases.
E.g. Broccoli, kiwis, spinach, courgette (zucchini), kale
Yellow & Orange:
These bright coloured foods get their sunny colour from carotenoids (like beta carotene). They are extremely rich in vitamin A, which is important for skin health, a strong immune function, healthy vision and disease prevention.
E.g. Citrus fruit, mangos, sweet potatoes, carrots, papayas
Red foods contain lycopene and anthocyanins to create this fiery colour. They are important for heart health, skin health, healthy vision and disease prevention.
E.g. Raspberries, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, watermelon
White plants are coloured by anthoxanthins and also contain the beneficial phytonutrients allicin and quercetin. These help promote a wide range of health benefits. They are important for reducing inflammation and help balancing hormones. They are also important for heart health, strong bones and disease prevention.
E.g. Cauliflower, garlic, potatoes, onions, mushrooms
Vitamins & Minerals
We all know that vitamins are important for our health. Vitamins and minerals are sometimes added to food to market them as being “more healthy”. The most important source of vitamins and minerals should come from your diet, not supplements. Pills and supplements can contain other additives that may not always be good for you. Many supplements contain a synthetic form of a vitamin instead of the natural form, they also lack the supporting enzymes, minerals and other nutrients that help your body absorb the vitamin optimally. On top of that, you can also get too much of a good thing. It is very difficult to ‘overdose’ on a certain vitamin or mineral if you get them from your food, but getting them from pills causes risks of crossing the levels of what is considered healthy. Chronic vitamin or mineral deficits can cause serious health problems, but chronic overdosing can cause these as well. As always, balance is important. Eating varied whole foods is the easiest way to keep these levels in balance. An important side note is that some people might have more problems absorbing certain vitamins or minerals from food because of health issues or specific diets, in these cases it is always important to consult with your health expert to make sure you get enough of these nutrients.
To help you become the healthiest version of yourself I have created an extensive list of vitamins and minerals. These are two of the main types of nutrients that your body needs to survive and stay healthy. In this list you will find the most important health benefits for each and also some food sources you can find them in. This list is not exhaustive as each group contains many more food sources, but this will give you a good idea of where to start.
Masterlist of Vitamins
Vitamins are organic substances that our bodies need to develop and function normally. There are 13 essential vitamins. Each vitamin has a different job to help your body function optimally. Vitamins can be divided in two categories: fat soluble and water soluble.
- Fat soluble vitamins dissolve in fat and can be stored in your body (vitamin A,D,E and K).
- Water soluble vitamins need to dissolve in water before your body can absorb them, your body can not store these vitamins (vitamin B group and vitamin C).
Masterlist of Minerals
Like vitamins, minerals are also essential for a healthy functioning body. Minerals are inorganic elements. They can be divided in major minerals (macrominerals) and trace minerals (microminerals). They are both equally important for a healthy functioning body, but the trace minerals are needed in lower amounts.
- Major minerals: Calcium, chloride, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, sulfur.
- Trace minerals: Copper, chromium, fluoride, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, zinc.