February 02, 2023 7 min read
Everyone knows the importance of adding fruit and vegetables to their diet. Even if you’re not 100% sure of the scientific benefits, you’ll at least know that doctors want you to eat at least “5 a day”. But have you ever really considered what you are eating? And by that, we mean the colour of the food of choice.
The naturally coloured foods, like fruit and veg that you include in your diet, are also important. That’s because these natural pigments contain chemicals that help make certain foods look utterly tempting, but also boast significant health benefits.
At Layer Origin Nutrition, we love everything to do with human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs). These natural components of mother’s milk pack a hefty health punch, but we also understand the importance of other prebiotic foods and their advantages for your gut microbiome. A key example is our Simple Reds blend, packed with polyphenols that your gut bacteria love to dine out on, but what’s so special about these red foods?
Let us take you through 5 health benefits of eating red fruit and vegetables.
Actually, the reason some foods are red is pretty cool. Have you ever looked at the variety of colours along the fresh produce aisle in your local supermarket? Like, really looked. If you have, you’ll have noticed all kinds of colours, bright greens, dark greens, vivid yellow, vibrant orange, tempting red and even hues of blue and purple. These colours are all-natural, there’s not an artificial colour in sight.
But why are they so colourful? Like other living organisms, plants must devise ways to grow, thrive, and, most importantly, survive. To do this, they must avoid death and attract other species to spread their seeds. And what better way to do this, than through the power of colour?
It sounds romantic, but it’s actually created through a process called hormesis. Hormesis doesn’t just occur in plants, but it’s defined as:
“a beneficial or stimulatory effect caused by exposure to low doses of an agent known to be toxic at higher doses.”
In response to the stressors in their environment, such as ravenous mammals, extreme temperatures and insects, antioxidants or natural chemicals were produced. These beneficial contaminants include polyphenols which plants use to protect themselves from harm. Polyphenols are beneficial for humans too.
Polyphenols are a type of phytonutrient – natural chemicals or compounds produced by plants. Polyphenols are natural compounds in plant-based foods like fruit, vegetables, herbs, chocolate, and spices. They are often involved in defending plants against pathogens or UV radiation, but in humans, they are also potent antioxidants.
During metabolism, electrons are released. In some cases, this leads to a single electron being released in your body, which is not good. Electrons need a partner to dance around the body with, if they don’t have one, they bumble around the body frantically looking for one. A single electron is known as a free radical, and as it desperately moves around, it causes damage to the cells it encounters, resulting in oxidative stress.
Antioxidants help to neutralise free radicals and have an anti-inflammatory effect because free radicals can cause cell damage. It is this damage which increases the risk of conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.
The polyphenols found in specific foods are associated with their colour and flavour. For example, lycopene gives tomatoes their vivid red colour, as well as making the flesh of a watermelon enticing. Whereas some red berries contain anthocyanins, giving them their red tint.
Here are some of the phytonutrients found in red foods:
Examples of foods
Some research shows that polyphenols such as flavonoids and anthocyanins can help to protect your body from acute cell damage and oxidative stress. In fact, they may even have a pro-oxidant role, such is the case for some polyphenols present in red wine, which can regulate the antioxidant potential of your red blood cells, protecting them from oxidative stress.
That’s why dietary polyphenols have gathered interest in recent years, because of their potent health benefits. Some other polyphenols found in red foods, like quercetin, have also been linked with reducing inflammation, bacterial infections and lowering the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
Remember to pop some tantalising red foods in your basket the next time you visit your local supermarket or fresh produce store. Still not convinced? Let’s look at some of the specific health benefits of red foods.
Anthocyanins are potent antioxidants found in red, purple and blue fruits and vegetables. Anthocyanins belong to a specific polyphenol family called flavonoids and are often associated with reducinginflammation and oxidative stress.
A study by Guo et al. (2016) found that an increased intake of berries which contain anthocyanins is linked with a reduced risk oftype 2 diabetes. Another study by Kent et al. (2017) found that drinking an anthocyanin-rich drink such as cherry juice may help to improve cognitive function in people with mild-to-moderate dementia.
Lycopene is a natural pigment found in tomatoes, pink grapefruit, and watermelon. For years tomatoes were believed to have anti-cancer properties, but the mechanism behind this assumption wasn’t fully understood. A growing amount of scientific research has found associations between lycopene and a lower risk of cancer.
Lycopene cleans up the free radicals circulating in the body and prevents them from causing oxidative damage. In turn, this stops normal cells from transforming into cancer cells.
Lycopene can also induce apoptosis, where cells, in effect, kill themselves, to prevent metastasis. Lycopene has been shown to have anticancer activity in many types of cancer, including hepatocellular carcinoma, prostate cancer, and gastric cancer.
High blood pressure affects over 1 billion people globally and is a leading risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The exact cause of high blood pressure isn’t always known but is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Research suggests that dietary polyphenols can benefit some of the markers associated with cardiovascular disease, including lowering blood pressure. Polyphenols are believed to do this through their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a debilitating chronic, autoimmune inflammatory disease affecting your joints. It’s caused by your body’s own immune system mistakenly attacking your joints resulting in pain, swelling, and stiffness.
However, recent research suggests that polyphenols found in certain plant-based foods could be a potent alternative to arthritic medications in treating the symptoms of the disease. These drugs can cause side effects such as skin rashes and diarrhoea, so a better solution is needed.
Research shows that polyphenols such as resveratrol, found in red grapes, and ellagic acid, present in pomegranate seeds, can decrease the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the blood that may contribute to rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. While quercetin, found in tomatoes and red onions, amongst other foods, reduced early morning stiffness and pain in women with the disease.
Of course, red fruit and veggies are packed full of fibre, which can help aid digestion, but did you know that polyphenols are also prebiotics? That’s because your gut bacteria love them too. Nearly all of the polyphenols you consume travel through your body undigested until they reach your large intestine, where gut microbes break them down into smaller metabolites.
So, your gut bacteria transform polyphenols into manageable metabolites that your body can use, and the abundance of beneficial gut bacteria increases. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Just like HMOs, polyphenols help to sustain the Bifidobacteriain your gut. By boosting these good gut microbes, polyphenols help reduce the abundance of pathogens like Clostridium.
Boosting your red food intake isn’t too difficult. You should aim to eat various (natural) coloured foods at each meal to help promote variety. Some of the red foods you could include in your diet are:
Try adding some red berries to porridge for breakfast or adding tomatoes to your evening meal to help boost your red polyphenol intake. You can also supplement your intake with Layer Origin’s Simple Reds.
Top Tip: Watch this space for some exciting Simple Reds recipes coming soon.
Simple Reds from Layer Origin Nutrition is a powerful prebiotic powder packed with antioxidants and polyphenols naturally found in red fruit and vegetables. Each 8g scoop contains:
The polyphenols in Simple Reds work alongside Layer Origin Nutrition’s HMO prebiotics and apple peel powder to help support and boost the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut, namely Bifidobacteria and Akkermansia.
So, if you’re looking for an easy way to boost your red polyphenol and fibre intake, then look no further than Simple Reds. Plus, you can be assured that not only will you be reaping the benefits of these potent antioxidants, but you’ll also be supporting the health of your gut microbiome.
Taking care of your gut really couldn’t be simpler. Visit ourshop to explore our range of prebiotic human milk oligosaccharides, apple peel powder and much more.
So, it is clear that having a colourful balanced fruit and vegetable daily intake is very important, and the benefits seem endless in many areas.
The science behind how these plants develop and maintain life is pretty amazing, even more, so that the products that they use for survival are actually proving to be more and more beneficial for our health, pretty cool, right?
Some who have a very busy lifestyle, in both work and play, may struggle to maintain this intake. Well, why not have a tub of Simple Reds on the shelf and top up daily?
For those who can observe this daily routine, why not pack in that extra daily punch of Simple Reds?
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