National Vegetarian Week 2021

National Vegetarian Week 2021 runs this week (10-16 May) and, by happy co-incidence or design, its neatly timed to run hand-in-hand with Mental Health Awareness Week (see my post Mental Health Awareness Week).

This confluence could not be more appropriate and offers perfect timing to learn about and celebrate all the micro and phytonutrients and anti-oxidants in the colour healing colours in Mother Nature's pharmacy!

The health and nutritional benefits of the phytonutrients found abundantly in colourful organic fruit and vegetables powerfully support our health and healing. Their value in our diet just cannot be overstated.

Ditch the beige and eat a rainbow

Mother Nature is infinitely wise and our very best health advocate with a sure-fire way to guide us to foods that are going to keep us healthy through our senses. I strongly urge you to 'Ditch the beige and eat a rainbow'!

When we learn to listen to our body, our sense of taste, smell, touch and sight will guide us instinctively towards making better choices.  As visually dominant creatures, our sense of sight comes to the fore when attracting us to colourful, phytonutrient-rich foods.

Nutritional psychiatry

In 2015, a group of scientists writing in The Lancet concluded that diet and nutrition were crucial factors underpinning the prevalence and incidence of mental disorders.

…diet is as important to psychiatry as it is to cardiology, endocrinology, and gastroenterology.” —The Lancet Psychiatry

In 2017 the “SMILES trial” looked at the impact of dietary support compared with social support in 67 people with moderate to severe depression who ate unhealthy diets. After the 12-week trial, 32% of those receiving dietary support achieved remission compared with only 8% of those in the social support group.

In this recent article on phytonutrients and mental health, the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) point out:

"Micronutrient malnutrition, or deficiencies in one or more crucial vitamins or minerals, may negatively impact both physical and mental health and potentially lead to chronic illness. To compound the issue, chronic psychological and environmental stress may negatively impact micronutrient concentrations in the body, leading to micronutrient depletion.

In a time when stress-related statistics indicate significantly higher symptoms of anxiety and depression in the US due to the pandemic, a nutrient-dense diet made up of foods full of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients can be a powerful tool in promoting mental wellness and combating chronic disease."

The IFM go on to say:

The anti-inflammatory properties of dietary phytonutrients and antioxidants may provide direct benefit. A 2018 RCT evaluated the effects of carotenoids (13 mg or 27 mg/day) on 59 young, healthy participants and found that carotenoid intake reduced psychological stress and improved emotional and physical health compared to placebo.

Other antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E may also play a role in the development and alleviation of anxiety and depressive symptoms. An observational study of 80 patients found that those with generalized anxiety disorder had lower initial levels of those vitamins in their blood serum compared to healthy controls.

After a six-week treatment of vitamins A, C, and E, a significant increase in blood levels of antioxidants and a significant reduction in anxiety and depression were reported.

What are phytonutrients?

Phytonutrients are natural chemicals or compounds produced by plants to protect the plant and keep it healthy. They’re found in a wide variety of foods: fruits and vegetables; whole grains; tea; nuts; beans and spices.

As well as protecting the plant, phytonutrients pack a punch for our health. Their powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties can help support a range of body systems. Some phytonutrients you may have heard of are:

  • carotenoids (eye and immune health)
  • resveratrol (cardiovascular and brain health)
  • flavonoids (cancer and cardiovascular disease)
  • glucosinolates (cancer)
  • phytoestrogens (women’s health - but see note below).

Supplements vs whole foods

Although we can buy phytonutrient supplements, they’re best consumed as nutrient-rich whole foods.  Mother Nature is much wiser than any chemist (despite what they may think!) and has packaged nutrients for us to get the maximum nutritional benefit from whole foods, not deconstructed, isolated nutrients.

Phytoestrogens – a note of caution

Phytoestrogens have been associated with reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis and are found in soy, legumes, broccoli, carrots, coffee and oranges.

They mimic the action of oestrogen in the body, which may be beneficial for some women in relieving discomfort from uncomfortable menopausal symptoms. BUT…

Our lifestyles, particularly women, leave us open to oestrogen overload from exposure to a wide variety of endocrine disrupting chemicals in our everyday lives. Studies have shown that phytoestrogens (particularly soya) may disrupt hormone function.  So be very cautious of overdoing phytoestrogens; each of us is different, so get to know how they may impact your body.

How to Eat a Rainbow

From the chart below, choose as wide a variety as possible every day and make your choice organic wherever possible:

eat a rainbow


  1. Begin with ONE serving (a cup or fist-full) of each colour every day.
  2. Build up to TWO servings of each colour every day.

Just watch as your energy increases, your skin glows and hear your body thank you!

Further resources

More details on National Vegetarian Week can be found here.

And click on the buttons below to download recipes from my book The Real Food Solution (more below)

See you on the other side of healthy! 😊

The Real Food Solution

Reclaiming our food wisdom and culture is what inspired to me to write The Real Food Solution.

Your path to good health starts in the kitchen with home-cooked foods made from real, whole ingredients (plant or animal) that are grown or raised in clean, healthy, chemical-free soils. Food is much more than a filling fuel for our body; it’s data for the body. Real, whole ingredients carry life- and health-giving molecules of information that tell our cells how and when to work.

I care deeply that the traditional, time-honoured foods, the powerful medicine that kept generations before us fit and free of chronic disease, are incorrectly demonised and side-lined by poorly designed, biased and misinterpreted science and often, no science at all.

I care about our future generations and I care about you. The Real Food Solution is a call to take action, to empower yourself with real food wisdom and make real food choices for better health and a sustainable planet.

All the evidence I have found is pointing us in one direction: we have to change what we are eating and how we are producing our food. The time-honoured, traditional real foods of our grandparents (and theirs) are the ones we must put back onto our dining tables if we are to reclaim our health and support a sustainable planet.

My book will equip you to ask questions, to make demands and to get rewards and I hope it will inspire, support and motivate you to take action on a journey towards a healthier, more energetic and better quality of life.

The Real Food Solution is dedicated to supporting the British Association of Holistic Medicine and Healthcare’s Real Food Campaign UK, a health-led collaboration of doctors, health practitioners, educators, farmers, growers, food producers and suppliers who want to join the dots between our food quality, our health and the sustainability of our food systems and our planet.

Izabella Natrins

I'm here to inspire and support women at midlife and beyond to re-ignite purpose and meaning to take back control of their health and create the radical, resilient heath they want and deserve. As a whole-health expert with over 30 years experience in the field, a qualified Health and Wellness Coach and Ballymaloe-trained nutritional chef, my real food nutrition and lifestyle medicine programmes support women fighting fatigue, struggling with overwhelm, weight gain, sleep, energy and niggling or multiple diagnosed health issues. As an advocate for real food nutrition, regenerative agriculture and whole-health, my book 'The Real Food Solution' is an evidence-based treasury wisdom for energy, vitality and better health for people and planet and a call to action to change the way we grown, source and cook our food. As the CEO at The UK Health Coaches Association, I'm proud to continue the task of leading the first professional association for Health and Wellness Coaches in the world and the gold standard for the UK and Ireland.

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