Why we tell you to “eat the rainbow”
Harness the gut-brain connection to give your brainpower a boost and reduce your risk of dementia.
Why we tell you to eat the rainbow
By JESSICA IRVING, Applied Research Scientist at Five Lives
If you read our introduction to the gut-brain connection, you'll already know that what you eat can have a huge impact on your cognitive function.
One of the secrets to good gut health is maximising the number of plant-based foods in your diet.
We're not just talking about a couple more plant-based foods here and there... In fact, scientists are now recommending we aim for 30 different plant-based foods each week!
30 different plant-based foods a week sounds like a lot to me…
We know. Thirty different types of plant-based food might sound pretty out there, but it’s actually not as hard as it sounds when you consider that the following all count as plant-based foods:
- Whole grains
At the end of this article, you'll find our Five Lives printable weekly checklist to put on your fridge, which should give you an idea of the vast variety of plant-based foods available to you.
Eat the rainbow to fend off dementia
Aiming to eat the rainbow by mixing and matching as many colours as possible on your plate and throughout your day is likely to help you reach your new target by incorporating a lot more variety into your diet.
Not only is this approach fun, it can also benefit your brain health and lower your risk of developing dementia.
This is because many of the natural compounds that give fruits and vegetables their vibrant colours - called polyphenols - have surprising antioxidant properties that can help tackle inflammation. Importantly, polyphenols also seem to inhibit the growth of bad bacteria in your gut.
Plants have evolved to contain polyphenols to help protect themselves from sun damage, disease and injury. Different plants have different needs, and so they can have vastly different polyphenol profiles (so far, up to 8,000 types of polyphenol have been discovered!).
Luckily for us humans, this means that when we eat a diverse variety of plants, we’re actually absorbing some of these anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-oxidising benefits.
We see these benefits play out over and over again in population studies, which find that maximising your polyphenol intake can also help:
- Regulate blood sugar levels
- Lower your risk of heart disease
- Protect your skin by defending it against oxidative stress from the sun and pollution
- Slow down signs of age
- Protect against cancer
The eagle-eyed among you will also notice that regulating your blood sugar and lowering your risk of heart disease is also likely to reduce your dementia risk in turn.
Eating the rainbow is also more likely to align with the brain-healthy Mediterranean style of eating, as opposed to the standard brown and beige Western plate.
Your task today
Ready to take on the challenge of incorporating 30 plant-based foods into your weekly diet?
We’ve created a handy checklist that you can print off and stick to your fridge or somewhere else where you’ll see it every day.
And don’t worry, if you don’t have access to a printer right now, we’ve got you covered with a PDF version that you can tick off on your computer.
Further tips to get you started eating 30 plant-based foods a week
1. Go veggie at least one evening a week
Instead of reaching for meat for dinner, try building it around beans, whole grains and vegetables. By doing so, you’ll naturally be incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet.
Meat-free Mondays have become increasingly popular in the UK, and you’ll be helping to save the planet in the process!
2. Try out fruit and veg box deliveries
Fruit and veg boxes have gained immense popularity in the UK, and for good reason. These boxes not only make healthy eating more accessible and convenient, but also offer a fun and easy way to try out new and exciting fruits and vegetables. By ordering fruit and veg boxes, you’re also supporting local farmers and helping to reduce food waste.
We recommend Oddbox or Wonky Veg Boxes to get you started.
Keep up with our app to get more action-based nutritional tips
The Five Lives app is your guide to all things nutrition and brain health related. Follow along with our daily digital coach to keep your brain on track to add more life to your years!