This post is for everyone, because we all have to eat.  The problem we have today is what do we eat?  We’re so confused by all the conflicting opinions on what is good nutrition, many of us ‘give up’ and carry on eating what we like.  And why shouldn’t we?  If it tastes good, how do we know when it isn’t good?  There’s masses of information available but it’s frequently unclear to say the least.  And, to make matters worse, ‘expert’ opinions change on a regular basis.  We might be forgiven for thinking they’re as confused as we are.

Those of us who are looking after a chronically sick person have a responsibility to take special care of the food we provide.  But let’s go back in time for a moment.



I became aware of ration books when I was about three.  They controlled what and how much my mother could buy.  A leftover from the austerity days of the war, they remained in use until 1954.  After that it was down to us but our basic, fresh, mostly non-processed diet didn’t change overnight, it has morphed over time to become the commercial free-for-all that it is today.  But this, thankfully, is beginning to revert as we become more aware of what we’re putting in our bodies and the possible outcomes if what we’re eating is not ‘real’ food at all.



Currently, plant-based diets are in the news.  The dangers of climate change are hitting us, hopefully not too late.  We are now realising that the vast amount of carbon and methane that’s produced by livestock farming, as well as the huge quantities of water used and the horrendous clearing of the rain forests to grow food to feed animals to feed us, is completely unsustainable.  Also because the conditions food animals have to endure are frequently devoid of any compassion whatsoever, thereby producing animals who are often sick and obviously highly stressed.  Their body chemicals will reflect this.  Thirdly, and taking us on to the subject of this week’s post – plants provide us with a range of extra nutrients that animal products do not.  These are PHYTONUTRIENTS and NUTRITIONAL COLOUR VALUES.  At the end of this post, are links to helpful charts.

lots of phytos653


Phytonutrients are natural chemicals found in plants, nuts, whole grains, seeds and tea.  They help protect us from a variety of illnesses and bodily malfunctions as well as safeguarding the plants themselves.

When Leaf had his organic dry goods business, EN FAMILLE BIO, a few years ago, we became aware of phytonutrients and subsequently of their sister values – colours, aka rainbow foods.  The below tips will give an idea of how I incorporate them into our diet.  I should mention that we eat plant-based with occasional eggs from next-door’s special-breed, pet chickens.



Phytonutrients come with the territory of our diet.  As for colour, I try my best to make sure the food I serve up at main meals is as vibrant as possible.  This is much easier in summer than winter with the variety of salad veggies available.  I go for raw as much as possible too.  Cooking always removes some of the goodness – steaming is the best if we need to cook.  I would never use a microwave but there are those who think they’re absolutely safe.

My favourite winter veggies to eat raw include turnip, carrot, celeriac and, of course, most of the greens.  We source ours from our neighbours who grow organic (lucky us) and they never cut off the leaves of those plants whose leaves are edible.



Of the various colour groups – greens are easy to source as are oranges/yellows and whites.  Reds and purples/blues can be a little more difficult, but we combat that with freezing or preserving red and purple/blue fruits and tomatoes and peppers in the summer and autumn for use over the winter.  Walnuts are brilliant red foods which we gather where we can and we have a large persimmon/kaki tree in the garden.  As for peanuts, we make our own peanut butter and eat some most days.

Other tips:  we drink mainly green tea or infusions, particularly herbal or ginger, never the so-called fruit-flavoured ones which taste synthetic to me.  Coffee is a must, of course, and if we want a hot chocolate, we use cocoa powder and oat milk which provides sweetness without having to add sugar.   Ginger, turmeric and garlic feature a lot in my cooking but I baulk at chilli!  Leaf likes it but I can’t tolerate the burn.  I’ve often wondered if this means I have more or less taste buds – any ideas anyone??



I would recommend those who are seriously into nutrition, print up a colour guide and try to follow it.  A point worth mentioning although rather obvious – fruit and veggies are the most colourful of foods, whereas animal products are the least.  Most meat is red or brown, eggs yellow, dairy white or yellow and none contain those vital phytonutrients.  A meal using them can be made healthier by adding colourful vegetables.  In restaurants, ‘cheat’ cooks frequently garnish a dish to make it more attractive – a sprig or two or parsley, a flower or a sprinkle of herbs; a good indicator that a red/brown/yellow/beige plateful without other colour is not brilliant and doesn’t look it either.



No food blog would be complete without mentioning three controversial areas – salt, sugar and gluten.

We believe the first two are important but keep to the unprocessed varieties; Himalayan salt, rapadura, muscovado or coconut sugar and, low-gluten flours (and breads) such as buckwheat, coconut, rice, maize and spelt.



Good luck and, as they say rather cornily these days, we should all ‘Eat a Rainbow’!

This is a brilliant site with downloadable charts which give us all the info we need.

Care2 produced this useful chart on phytonutrients which I posted on my EN FAMILLE BIO blog back in 2011.  Readers might like to spend an extra few minutes reading through the other short blogs in that nutrition section.








10 thoughts on “PHYTOS AND RAINBOWS

  1. Another interesting read. Tho I am not vegan r vegetarian I subscribe to much of what you say. I think peopke are eating less meat. We tend to only eat what chris has reared so we know that the animal, mainly poultry now, has had a good life, and we know exactly what they have eaten. so they are a bio product. No bovine air polluters. The visual attractiveness of food is very important and of course does make food more inviting to tuck into. The rainbow effect …brilliant for encouraging youngsters to take more of an interest in their food and be more adventurous, hopefully anyway! liz x


    1. A good lesson to those who want to eat animals – rear, slaughter and prepare them yourself! A far more honest way and, of course, not so far from the tribal way which included thanking and honouring the animal whose life they have taken. Your way is certainly bio, but perhaps you could call the chicken a bird rather than a product!!! You’re right about young people being more aware of what they’re eating when it actually looks attractive. Tastes better too – all those different flavours and textures as well as the colours, seem to go so well together. Lovely! xx

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Sue, Thank you for the foodie news. I shall try some green tea or an infusion and see how I get on. I’ve tried in the past but not successfully. Will let you know.


    1. Hello Beth, Green tea with lemon is a good intro. I’m quite picky about infusions, my favourite is vervain – so easy to grow – or the mints. Leaf likes ginger and lemon. What we particularly like about them is that they’re fresh and light and, of course, with infusions, no milk needed.


  3. We haven’t been eating fish for well over a year due to over fishing and all the netting etc that is left in the sea by fisherman. Fish netting inflicts terrible injuries on wildlife.
    Our meat consumption has been dropping over the years and after I read the book called “Wilding” by Isabella Tree I decided to become vegetarian. Since I made that decision our diet has become far more interesting and are meals are often vegan. I don’t miss meat and I feel good to have finally stopped the bad feelings I had about animals being killed for my benefit. I do think that many cows live stressful and sad lives and I know that I should eventually become vegan to feel that I am truly not exploiting any animal for my benefit.
    I am a very active person and I can honestly say that cutting meat and fish out of my diet has had no negative effects on my health and most probably many positive ones!


    1. Good on you, Adrienne. I’m sure you won’t regret this decision. Now is a good time to try out some new and interesting foods you may not have come across before. You’ll find lots in the Bio Coop. As you may know, lots of athletes have gone vegan and found they have a masses more energy. I’m very happy that so many people are moving over.


  4. Interesting article being on a diet and eating healthier food. The colour and the taste is excellent particularly satsumas and oranges and mangos are truly beautiful, a little high in calories though. However, Peanut Butter, is that healthy? Poor old Elvis feasted on it and look what happened to him. I love the stuff but its calorie content tells me keep away.


    1. Thanks for your comment, Richard. Glad to hear you’re eating good, healthy food. If eaten in great quantities, peanut butter is not good because of the calorie and fat content but it provides lots of nutrition as it’s a great source of protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
      As with anything, you can overdo it, but keeping off it altogether would be a shame. Maybe when you’ve lost that weight, you can indulge yourself again!


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