One of the simplest and most effective ways to ensure you are getting all the essential vitamins and minerals your body needs to function daily, is to "eat the rainbow" with a wide variety and color of whole foods, predominantly found in fruit and vegetables.
No matter what nutrition plan you follow, when you look down at your plate — what you really want to be seeing on a daily basis is more brightly colored foods then not. This extends further than just eating more greens as we are often encouraged to do, but to also include reds, yellows, oranges, blues, purples plus the healthy brown and white foods.
Just think, more colors, more benefits. This is where the familiar phrase "eat the rainbow" comes from. But why is this so important, what are the benefits and where do we start?
Benefits of Eating All Colors of The Rainbow
We simply can't ignore the mounting research that links a diet rich in brightly colored fruit and vegetables to healthy levels of inflammation, better regulated blood sugar, stronger immunity and protection against more serious health issues. This is from the powerful phytonutrients that not only give plants their beautiful colors making them desirable to eat, both in nature and to us, but also the medicinal properties of these pigments.
They contain a variety of potent antioxidants widely known to squelch free radicals from the body cells, reducing any potential damage that may be caused by oxidation and supporting healthy aging. There are four main categories to incorporate with their own unique benefits:
Blue/purple:Blue and purple fruits and veggies get their color from a flavonoid compound called anthocyanin. Found in a range of plants like plums, wild blueberries or blackberries, currants, purple skin potatoes, dark grapes and even purple broccoli. They are linked to associated benefits with mood and brain from the high levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
Red:Dark red and pink fruits and vegetables contain a naturally occurring pigment called lycopene, extensively studied for its potential health benefits. Include a variety of bright red foods like tomatoes, red peppers, watermelon, beets, strawberries and raspberries. Red foods are rich in vitamin A for healthy skin, hair and eyes and the potent antioxidant vitamin C known for its immune boosting properties.
Green. The many different shades of green get their color from chlorophyll that helps to oxygenate tissues and support detoxification. Green foods are rich in vitamin k, b vitamins, magnesium and folate - key nutrients that support heart health. Include green apples, kiwi fruit, dark green leafy vegetables, cucumber, beans and all the sulfur rich cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
Yellow/orange. Yellow and orange produce get their color from beta-carotene, which converts to vitamin A in the body. Carrots, pumpkin, squash, apricots, nectarines, cantaloupe, bananas and pineapple all fall into this category. Vitamin A helps repair tissues, form bones and teeth, support a strong immune system and promote eye health. This also includes citrus fruits - rich in antioxidant, immune boosting vitamin C.
While white and brown fruit and vegetables might not be the brightest in color they shouldn't be forgotten. Garlic and onions from the Allium family, contain the powerful compound allicin, a sulfur based antioxidant that helps support detoxification and have natural anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties known to support robust immunity. Cauliflower, white potatoes and mushrooms also fall into this category.
How to Eat the Rainbow?
With a little imagination and experimentation, eating the rainbow isn't hard to do. Start by including two to three types you like to eat at each meal and it will quickly add up. Here are a few tips:
- Make a delicious breakfast smoothie with a cup of wild berries and greens (fresh or frozen), plus a scoop of an all-in-one protein powder to create a balanced meal packed with all the nutrients you need to start your day right
- Create a salad bowl with 2-3 cups of vegetables you enjoy (raw or cooked), a great way to use up leftover veggies from the day before or prep a whole batch at the start of the week and mix it up based on how you feel that day
- A green juice with celery, spinach, cucumber, ginger, fresh mint is packed with natural enzymes and rich in minerals and vitamins
- Snack on cut up veggies like celery, carrots and cucumber dipped in hummus
- Visit a farmers market and choose seasonal produce that you may not have tried before
- Try growing your own herbs or sprouts
- If you aren't used to eating this much variety or color, add a scoop of daily fruit and vegetable blend to some water to create a tasty hydrating drink and get the added benefits of 22 organic fruits and vegetables in each serving
Eating the rainbow is a simple yet highly effective daily strategy to support optimal health and well-being. By adding in more colorful whole foods you also support your bodies ability to counteract the effects from the unhealthier white and brown processed foods you like to enjoy occasionally too. By diversifying your plate, you'll be closer to getting the wide range of essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients you need to live a longer, stronger life.