You may already be familiar with five a day, which encourages people to aim for five portions of veg and fruit per day.

However, this really is a minimum intake, and it is best to be aiming for at least 7 portions. This is because of research conducted by University College London in 2014, which indicated that those who consumed 7 portions or more had a 25% lower risk of death due to cancer, and a 31% lower risk of death due to heart disease.

7 may sound daunting, but please be encouraged. It is really easy to achieve this this, and not without your tastebuds having some serious fun along the way! Some suggestions for increasing your intake would be to make green smoothies,  homemade soups, homemade pasta sauces and big, vibrant salads.

BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) have developed this very helpful infographic below, encouraging the consumption of a rainbow of different coloured vegetables and fruit. The infographic shows clearly how important this is for our overall health, and also individual body systems.

Let’s look at the some exciting and vibrant rainbow vegetables and fruits and explore some examples from each colour group:

Red

Some exciting “red” foods include tomatoes and strawberries.

Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K, and also a good source of several B vitamins and fibre. It is also an  excellent source of a plant compound called “lycopene”, which may be beneficial for preventing several different types of cancer, as well as heart disease, cataracts and macular degeneration.

Strawberries may look little and demure, but under that sweet exterior there is a fruit with an array of exuberant nutritional benefits. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and K, and also a good source of several B vitamins, including folic acid and vitamin B6, as well as the minerals manganese and iodine. Strawberries may help to protect against inflammation, cancer and heart disease.

Green

Most people, from a young age, will have been coaxed and encouraged by adults around them to eat their “greens”. It goes with out saying really that greens are fantastically good for you. However, if you still need some convincing, here are some examples of some out of this world green foods: broccoli and kiwi fruit.

Broccoli contains a compound called “sulphorphane”, which may help to protect against cancer, particularly breast cancer, because of its involvement in increasing the excretion of the type of oestrogen linked to the disease. According to Murray and Pizzorno’s Encyclopaedia of Healing Foods, it is one of the most nutrient dense foods around. It is an excellent source of vitamins C, K, A and folic acid. It is also a good source of several important minerals, including magnesium and potassium.

Kiwi fruit makes for an unusual and exotic choice of green fruit, and tastes wonderful in a homemade fruit and nut salad.  Kiwi fruits are an excellent source of vitamin C, and also a good source of vitamins A and E, which act as antioxidants. Kiwi may be beneficial for promoting positive respiratory health, and reducing likelihood of the development of  wheezing, shortness of breath and night coughing.

Blue/Purple

Two notable “blue and purple” foods include blueberries and beetroot.

Blueberries are an excellent source of antioxidants, and may help to prevent the development of degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and macular degeneration. Blueberries may also help to reduce the development of glaucoma and cataracts, as well as help to prevent the incidence of urinary tract infections, because of its inhibiting effect on E Coli, the most common cause of UTI infection.

Beetroot is an excellent source of folic acid, and and a good source of fibre, manganese and potassium.  It may help to stimulate and support the liver’s detoxification processes. Beetroot may also help to prevent cancer, as it contains a powerful anti cancer agent called, “betacyanin”. The combination of beetroot’s betacyanin and fibre content may help to protect particularly against colon cancer.

White

White foods may not have the bright colours of their counterparts in the food rainbow, but they still pack a nutritional punch and there is a wide array to choose from. Particular highlights include garlic and coconuts.

Garlic is an excellent source of vitamin B6, and also a good source of Vitamin C and selenium, calcium and iron. Garlic has many health benefits, and deserves a post in itself, so we will only discuss a few here. Garlic may help to prevent against atherosclerosis and heart disease, as well as lower blood pressure. It also may help to fight infection and be effective against colds and stomach bugs. There is also some evidence that garlic may help to lower the risk of some cancers.

Coconuts are an excellent source of health promoting fats.  Approximately 50% of the fat comes from lauric acid, which is converted to a compound called monolaurin, which has antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial effects.  Coconut oil may help to protect against heart disease and also promote weight loss (this is because it may help to increase metabolism).

Yellow / Orange

When it comes to “yellow and orange” foods, probably one of the first vegetables to come to mind would be carrots. Carrots are an excellent source of vitamins A and K, and also good levels of vitamins C and B6. Carrots also contain high levels of antioxidants that may help to protect against heart disease and cancer. Carrots may also help to promote healthy vision, while helping to prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.

Another exciting food in this category is pineapple. Pineapple is an excellent source of vitamin C, and a good source of B1 and B6 and also magnesium. Fresh pineapple is also rich in a substance called bromelain, which may help to aid digestion and and reduce inflammation. Its anti-inflammatory effects may have beneficial applications for conditions such as arthritis, injury recovery, gout and sinusitis, to name a few.

To conclude, aiming for 7 or more portions of a rainbow of different veg and fruit per day may help to prevent disease and improve health.