You are eating the rainbow this week! Beans (aka snap beans, string beans, French beans) are so delicious, colorful and nutritious! They are an excellent source of antioxidants, dietary fibre, protein and B vitamins. The tender, sweet and refreshing beans we enjoy this time of year are the immature pods of the common bean plant, Phaseolus vulgaris . There are hundreds of varieties of the common bean – including navy beans, kidney beans, black beans, runner beans etc – all sizes and colours.

Speaking of, given the beautiful colours harvested this week, I thought I would delve into the perks of eating different hues a little bit. Colours in plants are from phytochemical pigments – most of which have incredible health benefits.

Starting with the colour " haricots verts’ are named for, Green is ubiquitous with all plants – and it comes from a universal plant compound called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is the stuff of life for plants as it allows them to convert sunlight into fuel for their growth.  Think of it as ‘vegetable blood’ – and chlorophyll is the integral part of the red blood cell. Here comes the really cool part – chlorophyll, is almost chemically identical to human hemoglobin (the compound that we use to bind oxygen with for energy production), the only difference is that chlorophyll is bound to magnesium and hemoglobin is bound by an iron molecule. If you don’t speak geek like I do – that means chlorophyll is an amazing source of cellular energy and regeneration. It is essential that we consume a lot of it.  The amazing pigment that gives so many plants/veggies/fruits their green colour – is capable of so much; it stimulates healing and new cell growth, prevents infections & cancerous growth, neutralizes toxins and detoxifies the liver, as well as builds red blood cells. Wowsa!

Purple is another colour worth looking for (an eating)  in plant-based foods; all fruits and vegetables of this shade contain anthocyanin.  This pigment is a powerful antioxidant, researchers actually think it might be THE most potent of all. In any case, eating purple (whether it be in berries or your beans), is giving your cells and tissues protection against free radicals and toxins from the environment. Not to mention it sure does look pretty!

If I have not convinced you yet to eat your colourful beans in plenty (among with lots of other bright veg & fruit), a few last nutritional tidbits for you. Beans are an excellent source of Vitamin C, B6 and folic acid, and they contain nearly the same amount of beta-carotene & lutein that carrots and tomatoes do.  The fibre & antioxidants in beans also help to keep blood sugar levels in check; they make an excellent food/carbohydrate choice for diabetics.

Enjoy them raw, or very lightly steamed to help keep nutrients and phytochemicals intact. Bon appetite – and always enjoy your food in colour!

Bronwyn Hill, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor & food lover. She is currently in practice in Toronto's Forest Hill Neighbourhood, at Mahaya Forest Hill Integrative Health. She specializes in using food as medicine, acupuncture & traditional chinese medicine & botanicals; and has particular experience treating digestive concerns, women's health concerns including menopause, stress management, insomnia, healthy detoxification, and chronic respiratory conditions including asthma. She can be reached at bhillnd@gmail.com . Follow her on Twitter @drbronwynnd.