“Eating the Rainbow” is a great fundamental tip for eating healthy (but that doesn’t include eating artificially-colored things like Skittles or M&Ms though… #sorrynotsorry!). So what does “Eating the Rainbow” mean? And why is it important to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet?
Beige-colored foods like cereal, pasta, rice, pastries, and bread often dominate our meals. These foods, especially when processed or bleached, don’t offer the variety of nutrients that we need to be healthy. I know it’s easy to fall into a routine which has a few foods that you and your family members like and just focus on eating those, but the truth is, our bodies benefit from variety! For optimal health, we need a rainbow of nutrients and colors that have enormous healing powers. Including colorful foods in each meal is necessary, as every cell in our body survives on the nutrients it is fed, and plant foods are the richest sources of vitamins, minerals, ﬁber, and those color-giving phytonutrients.
Why do Fruits and Vegetables Have So Many Different Colors?
Brightly-colored foods contain naturally occurring phytonutrients, which are responsible for giving food its rich color, taste, and smell. They play important roles in protecting our health and preventing chronic disease, such as inflammation, slowing down premature aging, supporting sight, protecting the brain, and assisting our immune system. Each color of fruits and vegetables adds different nutrients that are beneficial to our bodies. By eating an array of colorful foods, you can provide your body with the essential nutrition it needs.
How to De-Beige Your Diet and Eat the Rainbow
Try to fill your plate with many colors each day, and when shopping, try to pick fruits and vegetables that you haven’t tried before because the food we eat can make huge improvements to our health. Phytonutrients aren’t just limited to fruits and vegetables; you can get them from legumes, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, and teas.
And as always, try to buy non-GMO produce that is organically grown on a local farm so that your plants are as unmodified as possible, which means more nutrients and the best ﬂavor!
CHOOSE SOMETHING GREEN
Such as spinach, kale, chard, asparagus, leeks, avocados, cucumbers, lettuce, zucchini, broccoli, green peppers, green beans, green apples, kiwi fruit, green grapes, Brussel sprouts, cabbages, green peas, celery, limes, and green tea. Don’t forget herbs like mint, parsley, oregano, and basil.
Naturally green foods contain chlorophyll, the pigment found in dark green vegetables which give them their color. The health beneﬁts include improving energy, increasing blood ﬂow, improving digestion, heart, liver and skin health. They detoxify the body and also help reduce cancer risk.
CHOOSE SOMETHING RED /PINK
Such as tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries, red or pink apples, rhubarb, red potatoes, red grapes, watermelons, radishes, cranberries, beets, cherries, pomegranates, pink grapefruit, red onions, red bell peppers, kidney beans, red quinoa, and rooibos tea. Also, herbs like paprika.
Red or pink foods are rich in beta-vitamin C. A lot of them contain lycopene, a powerful health-boosting antioxidant that helps to protect against certain cancers, preventing blood clotting, diabetes, and strokes. They have anti-inflammatory, gastrointestinal, heart, hormonal and liver health benefits.
CHOOSE SOMETHING PURPLE/BLUE
Such as blueberries, blackberries, plums, prunes, red onions, red cabbage, eggplant, purple grapes, prunes, purple cauliﬂower, figs, and red wine. (Yes, red wine!)
These foods have resveratrol. By eating these foods we are reducing our risk of high blood pressure, lowering our cholesterol, and helping to reduce inflammation in the body. These colored foods also help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, boost memory, and slow the aging process.
CHOOSE SOMETHING ORANGE/ YELLOW
Such as pumpkins, apricots, all types of melons, peaches, sweet potatoes, carrots, yellow and orange peppers, pineapple, mangoes, turnips, nectarines, lemon, sweet corn, oranges, and butternut squash. Plus, spices like turmeric, ginger, and mustard.
Yellow and orange foods are a great source of vitamin C. Plus, they often contain beta-carotene, converted by the body into vitamin A, which can help improve digestive health and vision. These foods contain anti-cancer properties, are immune supportive, and good for our cells, eyes, joints, reproductive health, and skin health.
CHOOSE SOMETHING WHITE, TAN, BROWN OR BLACK
Such as bananas, leeks, onions, fennel, garlic, potatoes, mushrooms, coconut, cauliflower, white navy beans, black beans, olives, parsnips, pears, nuts, cocoa, coffee, tea, seeds, chickpeas, and dark chocolate. Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and oats, as well as nuts and nut butter.
Although not technically a color of the rainbow, these foods promote a range of health benefits including protecting against cancers, killing bacteria, protecting against heart disease, helping to lower cholesterol, reducing inflammation, keeping bones strong, and helping to balance hormones.
Tips to get the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow:
First of All: Avoid processed food with lots of meat, cheese, salt, and sugar. These foods overstimulate your taste buds, making fresh fruits and vegetables taste boring in comparison. Don’t like many vegetables? Try new vegetables and fruits over and over again in different ways. It can take up to 12-18 attempts to acquire a taste for a new food! Trying things again in a different recipe might help.
Eat the rainbow: As a general rule, the darker the color, the more antioxidants they contain. Make a habit of eating a rainbow of foods every day, and you’ll quickly be amazed by the benefits. Are you wondering how much to eat? For children, 4-6 portions, and adults 8-10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day is what I encourage. Try to have one or two portions of each color per day and aim to have more vegetables than fruits, maybe 3 servings of fruit and the rest vegetables for adults.
Try adding fruit, flax or chia seeds to your morning oatmeal, and vegetables to your eggs. Eat more salads, or add more vegetables to your sandwiches. Add extra veggies to spaghetti sauces, soups, stews, and chili. Include nuts in stir-fries and baked goods. Cook with more spices than salt for flavoring.
Drink the rainbow: Shake up your smoothie routine and opt for different colorful vegetables and fruit.
Plate the rainbow: Fill at least half of it with salad/vegetables at every meal. Keep fruits to just one portion per meal (roughly ½ cup per meal, or three pieces of fruit per day), because of their fructose content – that’s three different fruits every day!
Create the rainbow: Eating phytonutrients do require kitchen time, but cooking rainbow meals are fun as you are creating delicious and healthy experiences for your loved ones and yourself! It doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal, but if it’s made from whole natural foods, it’s one of the most powerful things you can do for you and your family’s health!
So, “eat the rainbow” makes sense now, right?
Let me know what steps you will be taking to add more color to your meals!