I’ve heard it, read it, studied it and recommend it. But I wanted to get the skinny on color in food. Does a brighter color really indicate a healthier food? I’ve recommended the dark orange and dark green vegetables for use in Chop but I wanted to get to the science behind it. We all have heard this over and over. Now, let’s get to the why.
When I was a kid, I was constantly asking, Why?
Why is the sky blue?
Why is my cat, Soxie giving me the side-eye?
Why are carrots good for my eyes?
I don’t like this food. Why can’t we just pack it up and send it to all those children you say are starving in China?
You probably did the same thing. So as my history indicates, I’m never one for taking things at face value just because someone “said so.” If that was the case, I’d still believe what my mom told me when I was 16 that pizza caused acne. I didn’t buy that cock-and-bull story for a second. Bread didn’t cause it, tomato sauce didn’t cause it and cheese didn’t cause it. Then why did combining them cause it?
I’m still a little miffed about it.
Here is the thing about colorful foods: they all have healthy chemicals in them that add the color to our foods. Yes, those elusive little chemical elves that paint our vegetables from a wide array of beautiful colors on Nature’s paint palette.
How does this happen and why do the more colorful fruits and vegetables contain the most carotenoids, lycopene, Lutein and Zeaxanthin? These are the responsible parties that give those vegetables their rich pigmentation and provide many nice healthful benefits.
It turns out that each color has its own special benefits. And it’s pretty impressive to see how Nature has colored these vegetables so vividly as a cue to us and animals that they contain life-giving nutrients.
Red and orange vegetables get their color from two main ingredients: the carotenoids and polyphenols. Both are antioxidants, which fight the renegade free radicals that occasionally run rampant in your body. They pull the Pac-Man routine gobbling up the free radicals and dispensing with them. They are very important in a healthy body.
Green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, lettuce, etc. contain sulforaphane, indoles and isothiocyanato. These are compounds which get the liver to generate compounds that enable the liver to break down hazardous chemicals. It is in a way, a natural detox. Some vegetables have that vivid green color due to chlorophyll.
So let’s say you’re at the organic market and you’re going to make some Chop for your flock. You see some cabbage and notice that the market has both the green or white cabbage and the purple variety. Which do you choose?
Well, I’m a sucker for the purple cabbage every time, mostly because I like the way it looks in my Chop and I also think it might attract my greys. The way I look at it, female animals in the wild are attracted to the more colorful or exotic looking males. They must instinctively know what healthy food is and this burst of purple might be a cue for them.
Turns out my hunch was right. Both colors of cabbage are an excellent source of vitamin C and decent source of manganese, folate, B vitamins and potassium as well as antioxidants. But if you get picky, picky, picky and you have a compelling need to compare the two, the purple cabbage has more antioxidants ( anthocyanins). This is where that beautiful purple comes from and the content of vitamin C is six to eight times greater than the paler, less robust color.
That said, it looks like you can actually customize your parrot’s diet to what they need most of using these guidelines.
Peppers come in a variety of sizes and colors. But in sticking with one variety, I’m going to make a comparison of the different colors of the bell pepper and the differences in their chemical makeup simply based on maturity.
Green bell peppers are just red or yellow peppers that have not yet matured. But they do have a difference in taste. The green is more bitter and crunchier and the red and yellow colored ones are sweeter. While the yellow and red peppers are excellent sources of vitamins A, B6 and C, and contain important antioxidants, such as lycopene, lutein (crucial for eye health), green bell pepper contains substantial amounts of folate and vitamin K. So I guess age does change things … even bell peppers.
Essentially, these principles apply to fruits as well. The mango gets its orange coloring to the amount of carotenoid it has and watermelon is red due to the lycopene it contains. The antioxidant flavonoids contained in oranges and mandarins are responsible for the orange color.
So when you’re shopping, keep your on the colors. Select bright, vivid vegetables that seem to pack a punch of color when shopping for your parrots. It will make a difference in their health.