Cooking in colours - when looks matter

Cooking in colours - when looks matter

Colours are a symbol of health even at the table, and indeed fruits and vegetables are live foods, important to our wellbeing. But in addition to providing us with important nutrients, they are also very tasty and, if prepared in unconventional ways, they can also be a source of surprise and awe.

Although, in the course of history, vegetables have often been a staple in poor people’s diet, today they are making a comeback, and without class borders.

In addition to new health fads and trends, it is the World Health Organization itself, together with the most prestigious scientific organizations, that recommends consuming 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day in order to promote health and avoid numerous diseases.

Removing from vegetables the label of side dish or entremets - as the French say - to take on the role of protagonist, however, is not easy despite the fact that many top chefs have already embraced a new cooking philosophy, honouring tradition while revisiting ingredients.

Cromotherapy: taste and pleasure rolled in one on your journey to discover what you eat and what you are. Colours thus become a “wellbeing ingredient”, a key element in suggesting lively dishes for both young and old, in restaurants but above all at home.

A real rainbow, made of energy and ingredients that you can select according to your needs.

Do you want to protect your immune system?

Pick the white of pears, cauliflower, and wax gourds.

Do you want to boost your cardio-circulatory system?

Pick red, and feast on red beets, Goji berries, chili pepper...

But what’s the reason behind mixing and matching the various colours?

The aesthetics of a dish is certainly important in order to make our recipe more attractive. But it’s not just a question of the importance of looks: science says that an appealing dish stimulates gastric juices and prepares the digestive system to break down the food which we are about to eat - that’s what’s behind the feeling of your mouth watering.

In addition to this, numerous studies have highlighted how the beneficial properties of fruit and vegetables are due to the presence of phytochemical compounds (colourful and protective substances called flavonoids and polyphenols).

Your health is therefore linked to colours, and by choosing them all you can take advantage of their protective action, fulfilling the needs of our body in a completely natural way.

To give you a quick idea of what we eat in terms of nutrients from one colour to another, let’s look at each of them, keeping in mind that the more variety we have on our plate, the greater the amount of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes we will enjoy the benefit of.

Let's start with white, a colour that we don’t frequently think of but one that is rich in very important elements. Indeed, white foods help to:
  • Regulate functions in the nervous system
  • Regulate muscle functions
  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure
  • Maintain good gut health
  • Balance cholesterol levels
  • Regulate thyroid function
  • Maintain healthy hair and nails

All this is thanks to the presence of allicin, quercetin, selenium, potassium, fibre

A few examples of white fruits and vegetables?

Garlic, bananas, cardoon, cauliflowers, cabbages, fresh and dried onions, fennel, mushrooms, endive, almonds, apples, hazelnuts, walnuts, potatoes, pears, leeks, celery.

Let’s move on to yellow and orange, now, which we commonly associate with summer fruits, filled with water and sugars.

Yellow and orange fruits and vegetables help with:

  • regular absorption of iron
  • maintenance of skin and mucous membranes
  • eyesight

Moreover, they boost the immune system thanks to the presence of lycopene, beta-carotene, carotenoids, vitamin C, folic acid, and vitamin A.

A few examples of yellow and orange fruits and vegetables? Apricots, pineapple, oranges, persimmons, carrots, clementines, lemons, loquats, white and yellow peaches, nectarines, yellow peppers, grapefruits, pumpkin, mangoes, papayas, sweet potatoes, melon.

Green is the first colour that comes to mind when you think about vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables of this colour contain magnesium, folic acid, chlorophyll, lutein, zeaxanthin, and iron which:

  • Reduce tiredness and fatigue
  • Maintain a healthy nervous system
  • Maintain a healthy muscle system
  • Maintain a healthy metabolism
  • Maintain a healthy immune system

And with green, the choice is endless: Asparagus, basil, chard, broccoli, artichokes, cabbage, cucumber, chicory, turnip greens, aromatic herbs, string beans, salad, kiwi, lettuce, Monks Bears, green peppers, parsley, green radicchio, rocket, spinach, white grapes, leafy greens, courgettes.

Let’s continue our journey with the colour red, symbol of summer, of ripening, of heat.

Red fruits and vegetables contain lycopene and anthocyanin, great as antioxidants but also elements that:

  • Maintain a healthy immune system
  • Help both during and after intense physical activity
  • Protect cells from oxidative systems
  • Help regular collagen production
  • Reduce tiredness and fatigue
  • Improve iron absorption

A few examples of red fruits and vegetables? Watermelon, blood oranges, red beetroot, cherries, fresh onions, strawberries, pomegranate, red peppers, tomatoes, red turnips, radish, raspberry, rhubarb.

Last but definitely not least are blue and purple food, the domain of antioxidants and anthocyanin.

These help:

  • Maintain a healthy immune system
  • improve physical performance if consumed before and after a workout
  • protect cells from oxidative stress
  • boost collagen production
  • Regulate muscle functions

If you want to fight the signs of aging, make sure to include these foods on your table: Purple cabbage, cabbage, purple figs, berries, aubergines, plums, purple radicchio, black grapes, purple carrots, purple potatoes.

With this simple guide, you will be able to create harmonious and healthy dishes, keeping in mind that varying the colours - and consequently the food group - improves your health. But remember that you don’t need to take fruits and vegetables only whole - you can also eat them dried, dehydrated and in flour, in juices or in extracts.

Want another tip? To increase your fiber consumption and lower the glycemic index of the most sugary fruit, add a little nuts. This will improve your mood and energy, and at the same time the glycemic index will lower as you gain fibre. Choose almonds (white) if you want to contain your calorie intake, walnuts if you are preparing an exam or it’s a stressful moment at work, and fill up on berries, which are a real wellbeing and energy boost.


Paola Di Giambattista for

Naturopath, Nutritional Cooking Consultant

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