Does Color Indicate Nutrition In Food For Our Flocks?

Colorful Vegetables
Color Is Key. Westend61/Getty Images

 I’ve been making Chop for years and have always found that the more colorful and vivid the Chop, the more my small flock of African Greys like it. They seem to be attracted to the intense oranges and yellows of peppers and golden beets and they like purple cabbage more than the plain green variety. 
I enjoy producing a dish of food that has a vivid array of vegetables just as I enjoy eating food from my plate that tends to be more colorful.

People are attracted to these vivid colors as food is not only a treat for the mouth, it is a pleasure to see beautiful food. It makes the meal more pleasurable and more appetizing. Is there a natural reason for this? As it turns out there is science behind vivid colors in food and why it is so beneficial to those who consume brightly colored foods. 

Color Is Key

Color in food is indeed a signal that the food you are preparing for your bird or your family is nutritious. Vivid color in a fruit or vegetable comes from pigments in the carotenoids contained in the produce. And each color has its own particular benefit. It is pretty interesting how Nature colors each particular vegetable a certain color depending on the nutritional makeup of the product. Green vegetables such as certain types of dark lettuces, broccoli, broccoli rabe and spinach contain compounds which rev up the liver and enable it to work on hazardous chemicals and get rid of them.

They assist the liver to naturally detoxify the body and move them quickly out of the system. These deep green vegetables contain potassium, dietary fiber, folate, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin C. 

I even select a more vivid color when deciding which grains and beans to use in my Chop. I like using red quinoa and brightly colored beans when I make Grain Bake for my Greys.

Orange and red vegetables have their own benefits for our birds. They contain carotenoids and polyphenols. These chemicals are what provides the color in the produce. They are antioxidants which help the body whisk away free radicals in the system. They gobble up the free radicals your bird's system and dispense with them. Red vegetables help in protecting the cardiovascular system and the orange and yellow vegetables ensure good health for the eyes due to the lutein it contains. Carotenoids contain beta-carotene which is absorbed by the body and then is converted to Vitamin A. 

Vivid Color Makes Cabbage More Nutritious

So how do you go about choosing what kinds of produce to use in your Chop, Grain Bake or other types of recipes to feed your birds?

Let’s take cabbage for example. You go to the farmer’s market and they have two types of cabbage available. There is the usual green cabbage as well as purple cabbage, sometimes called red cabbage. They are the same price. Which do you choose?

I happen to select the purple variety for any recipe I am using to serve my birds. The purple cabbage is a brighter color. This is the indication that it contains more nutrition. Both types of cabbage are a terrific source of vitamin C and a fairly good source of manganese, folate, B vitamins and potassium as well as those all-important antioxidants.

And it turns out that the purple cabbage does indeed contain more anti-oxidants. 

Color In Nature

If you think about it, there might be another fact in Nature why birds are attracted to bright colors. Most male birds are brighter in color than the females. Female birds seem to be attracted to these vivid colors. They probably know instinctively that a more intense color in the male's plumage indicates good health and a robustness not found in the quieter colored varieties. This is a physical clue about the male’s ability to care for and protect any babies they might have in a potential relationship as well as producing healthy and strong offspring. It would simply be a logical step to think that they would be naturally attracted to stronger colors in their food as well. 

Brighter Colors Reduce Risk

Two chemicals, lycopene and anthocyanin are thought to have the potential to lower the risk of prostate cancer, but there simply isn’t enough scientific evidence at this time to prove that those benefits really exist. Science is always a never-ending search for facts so don’t count out any ongoing research.  Lycopene which is in brightly colored red vegetables has indeed been found to inhibit cancer growth in animal studies. They haven’t been able to prove this has the same effect in humans yet. But they have found out from a study on human heart disease that men with elevated levels of lycopene found in their fatty tissue had a 50 percent reduced risk of heart disease. In some studies, lycopene has also been shown to have an effect guarding against stomach, colon, lung and skin cancer. Lycopene also lowers the risk of arteriosclerosis as well as reducing inflammation.  It also can reduce skin cancer. That is why you might find it in some anti-aging creams. 
So when you are choosing produce or any healthy food for your bird’s meals, keep your eye on color. They will benefit from those colors and be healthier due to it. 

So bear in mind that feeding a rainbow of colors is important to keeping your birds healthy. The brighter and more vivid the colors are, the healthier they are for them. Introduce different varieties of colorful foods into their diet. More and more varieties of vegetables and fruits can be found in the farmer's markets, grocery stores and specialty stores and there are plenty of new options available than ever before. Take advantage of this availability and make use of this ever-expanding rainbow of colorful foods!