“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”- Hippocrates
As a Naturopath, I think about food a little differently to the average person.
Instead of looking at food and seeing calories, instead, I see nutrients and constituents that are going to fuel and nourish my body. One particular group of constituents I’ve always found fascinating are polyphenols. They are plant chemicals that are produced to protect the plant against ultraviolet radiation and pathogenic infection! They also contribute to giving plants their vibrant and beautiful colours.
Epidemiological studies have repeatedly shown and inverse relationship between chronic disease risk and the consumption of polyphenol-rich diets. The research is clear that the benefits of polyphenols are profound. Some of these known benefits include:
- Strong antioxidant properties
- Cardio-protective effects including reducing the risk of coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure and improving arterial flexibility.
- Beneficial effects on the intestinal microbiome by having a prebiotic action (meaning they feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut). Some research shows that they can also have anti-bacterial properties against certain pathogenic bacteria! How cool is that!?
- Protect your skin against ultraviolet radiation
- Promote brain health and protect against conditions such as dementia
- Cancer protective and inhibit angiogenesis
- Help blood sugar regulation
A certain type of polyphenol known as anthocyanins, give plants their red, purple or blue hues. This salad recipe is rich in this constituent as you can see by the beautiful purple colours! Here’s some more information on each ingredient’s health benefits:
In addition to being rich in anthocyanins, pomegranates are a great source of fibre, vitamins A, C and E as well as iron!
Fun fact: in herbal medicine, both the seed and the husk are used to make a herbal tincture that is a powerful anti-parasitic and anti-bacterial herb! And it also makes the herbal taste amazing as you can imagine!
Beetroot is one of my favourite veggies because it is delicious raw or roasted! You know by its colour that is has to be rich in anthocyanins. The health benefits of beetroot are impressive. Beetroot is rich in nitrates which helps to improve blood flow in the body, aiding with high blood pressure, headaches and athletic endurance.
Did you know that before the 17th century most carrots that were cultivated were actually deep purple? Now that they are making a comeback, I choose purple carrots when I can because not only do they have similar health benefits to orange carrots such as being rich in carotenoids, but they also have the added anthocyanin benefits too!
When choosing between white or purple cabbage, I will choose purple any day! Cabbages are part of the brassica/cruciferous family. Brassica veggies (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kale) are great for supporting liver detoxification and are rich in fibre, vitamin C, folate and minerals such as potassium, iron and selenium.
Rocket is actually also a member of the brassica family! It is a very bitter food, which is why some people don’t like it. The benefits of having bitter foods such as rocket, is that they stimulate bitter receptors which increase the body’s natural secretion of digestive enzymes and bile which aids better digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
According to the Doctrine of Signatures, foods or plants that resemble certain organs are capable of healing those organs. Now think about what organ a walnut resembles… It’s clearly a little brain, isn’t it? Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, polyphenols and protein, all of which are essential for brain health. How fascinating is that!
Mint is one of my favourite herbs to use! It is great for soothing digestive discomfort, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, improving bile production and reducing bloating.
- 1 cup rocket
- 1 small purple carrot cut in half
- ¼ pomegranate fruit
- ¼ sliced beetroot
- ¼ cup shredded purple cabbage
- Small handful of raw walnuts
- Spring of fresh mint
- Combine ingredients in a bowl
- Dress with fresh olive oil and balsamic dressing
Whilst I usually aim to eat a rainbow of colours in each meal, I made this salad to highlight the beautiful benefits of purple, red and blue plants but don’t forget that plants rich in natural yellows, oranges and greens have plenty of health benefits too and you should also aim to consume plenty of these plants as well! But when it comes to choosing between the white cabbage or brown onion for example, aim to choose the purple cabbage or red onion instead to boost your polyphenol intake and therefore boosting the health benefits associated with them!