Thursday 18 July, 2019

Life saving colours

By Meisha-Gay Mattis 

Red, yellow and green, we all know what they mean even before we’re able to operate a motor vehicle. Red means ‘stop’ or ‘danger ahead’; yellow means ‘proceed with caution’ and green means ‘go’. These can be lifesaving and accident prevention measures and I’m not just talking about at the stoplight.

You may have heard the phrase “eat the rainbow” (no, not Skittles) or “eat colours to save your life”. Natural foods of these and other colours can save your life as well as improve the quality of it. 

The vibrant colours of fruits and vegetable are not to be taken lightly, neither are they just pretty to look at. These colours refer to what we call phytochemicals, which is really just a fancy name for nutrients only gotten from plants—fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, etc.

Some of the more common references to phytochemicals are antioxidants, phytonutrients, isoflavones, flavones, flavonoids and carotenoids. These chemicals contain disease-fighting compounds that protect the body, strengthens the immune system and improves quality of life. It is very possible for the body to survive without these chemicals, but over time, if your diet continues without them, your quality of life will be compromised and your body will start to deteriorate faster, increasing your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and more. Now that I’ve establish how potent they are, I’ll further explain what each colour represents, how deficient we are, how much the body needs and how to get them in your diet.

A wide variety of colourful fruits and vegetables should be the base of everyone’s nutritional pyramid. This is the best way to get a complete range of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to thrive. However, a whopping 91 per cent of Jamaicans are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, which helps to explain the high rates of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and strokes reported. Research has shown a direct correlation between the variety of fruits and vegetables eaten in the recommended serving of 4-5 cups daily and the nutritional benefits to be obtained.

Five colour categories are used for the classification of plant-based foods: purple, white, green, red and yellow, and each specific colour contains specific phytonutrients.


- Beets

- Blueberries

- Blackberries

- Cranberries

- Eggplant

- Prunes

- Red cabbage

- Star apple

This includes blue fruits and vegetables. Blue and purple fruits and vegetables are known to have cancer-fighting properties, ward off unwanted inflammation and help in keeping you looking young.

The photochemicals they contain includes resveratrol, hydroxycinnamic acids and anthocyanins.


You can get more in your diet by:

- Making beet chips

- Snacking on frozen grapes

- Adding blueberries to oatmeal for breakfast

- Roasting eggplants

- Adding blackberries to smoothies



- Banana

- Plantain

- Mango

- Cantaloupe

- Corn

- Pumpkin

- Sweet potato

- Citrus

- Papaya

- Carrot

- Pineapple

- Yellow bell pepper

- Ginger

- Turmeric

This includes orange fruits and vegetables and they aid in improving immune function, reducing the risk of heart disease, promote eye health and more.

Fruits and vegetables in this category are rich in alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, hesperidin and terpenoids.

You can get more in your diet by:

- Making carrot, pumpkin or squash purees

- Making turmeric and ginger tea

- Adding ginger and tumeric to purees, sauces and salad dressings

- Baking or grilling pumpkin and squash

- Adding mangoes to your smoothies or salads

- Juicing carrots

- Adding pineapples to your salads or smoothies



- Garlic

- Onion

- Mushroom

- Cauliflower

- Irish potato

- Pear

- Peach

- Coconut

- Nesberry


Brown fruits and vegetables also falls into this category. They are potent at protecting the body against certain cancers, keeping bones healthy and strong, and are considered heart-healthy.

The contain flavonols, allicin, sulfides and quercetin.

You can get more in your diet by:

- Snacking on coconuts

- Making cauliflower rice

- Adding garlic and onions to puree

- Adding mushrooms to stir fries

- Baking potatoes instead of making mash potatoes with too many added ingredients

- Drinking black tea 




- Avocado

- Spinach

- Broccoli

- Lettuce

- Asparagus

- Green tea

- Kale

- Kiwi

- Callaloo

- Pak choi

- Brussels sprout

- Legumes

- Green peas

- Green beans

- Zucchini


Fruits and vegetables of this colour represent energy, vitality and life. They boost the immune system, aid in detoxification of the body and more. Greens are often the most neglected of all produce but the most potent. Greens can be adequately explained under the four As - anticancer, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. 

Noted phytochemicals include lutein, isoflavones, flavonoids and isothiocyanate.


You can get more in your diet by:

  • Making green smoothies with kale, callaloo, spinach, pak choi, etc.
  • Adding leafy greens to your stir fries
  • Eating a mixture of green salads
  • Drinking green tea
  • Roasting zucchini, asparagus, broccoli and brussels sprouts
  • Sauteing callaloo as a side with eggs for breakfast
  • Making bean salad



- Apples

- Tomato

- Watermelon

- Cranberries

- Strawberries

- Raspberries

- Beet

- Cherries

- Pomegranate

These also include pink fruits and vegetables. They are potent at reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease, aid in fighting cancer and improve skin quality, among others.

Red fruits and vegetables are rich in ellagic acids, lycopene and caffeoylquinic acids.

You can get more in your diet by:

- Making tomato soup

- Making tomato juice

- Making beet chips for a snack

- Making beet purees

- Snacking on watermelon and pink grapefruit

- Adding strawberries and raspberries to your morning oatmeal 

- Keeping an apple in your bag in case you run into a hungry situation

The more fruits and vegetables you eat, the better. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories and most are also low on the glycemic index scale. Therefore, they won’t increase your blood glucose to alarming levels.

Additionally, diets with a foundation of fruits and vegetables are higher in fibre, magnesium and potassium, vitamins C and E, folate, carotenoids, flavonoids and other phytochemicals while being lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. So get going and eat the rainbow!

"Epidemiologic and clinical trial data demonstrate strongly that a diet rich in plants (including plenty of fruits and vegetables) can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases as well as other chronic diseases. For instance, by simply increasing vegetable and fruit intake, experts predict that we could prevent 20 per cent or more of all cancer cases and avoid approximately 200,000 cancer-related deaths annually." - Ryan Andrews, Author at Precision Nutrition.

Contributed by Meisha-Gay Mattis, founder of Bodhi, a Kingston-based holistic wellness company. She is a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Personal Fitness Trainer. Email for more information or visit any of the following 

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