There are many diets out there and many approaches to healthy eating. One thing for sure, it is important to eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables without added processed. “Eat a Rainbow” is a way to remind you to eat a colorful variety of food in order to have adequate vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and order plant phytonutrients in your diet. The color of your food has a lot to say about its nutritional value. Eating a rainbow, does not include artificially colored foods such as Skittles or M&Ms and lots more.
Fruits and vegetables are categorised into seven different colors red, purple, blue, green, orange, white and brown. Eating a variety of these colors in the form of fruits and vegetables is a great way to ensure you get enough vitamins and minerals. They contain a variety of phytonutrients. A study in 2009 collected a phytonutrients report from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys and revealed that 8 out of 10 people in the United States are falling short in nearly every color category of phytonutrients. The research data further explained that 69% of Americans are deficient in green phytonutrients, 78% of Americans are deficient in red phytonutrients, 86% of Americans are deficient in white and brown phytonutrients, 88% of Americans are deficient in purple and blue phytonutrients, 79% of Americans are deficient in yellow and orange phytonutrients.
Benefits of eating a rainbow
The Red fruits and vegetables contain a natural plant pigment known as lycopene. Lycopene is an antioxidant that ensures healthy cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of cancer such as prostate cancer. Examples of fruits and vegetables in this category are tomato, red capsicum, radishes, strawberries, rhubarb, cherries, red grapes, raspberries, watermelon, and red apples.
The purple and blue colored fruits and vegetables share very close similarities. They get their distinctive color from the plant pigment called anthocyanin. Anthocyanin contains an antioxidant that reduces the risk of stroke and cancer, improves cardiovascular health, and protects cells from damage. Examples of fruits and vegetables in this category are beets, purple cabbage, eggplants, purple asparagus, blackberries, blueberries, purple grapes, plums, and black rice.
The majority of fruits and vegetables are found in the green group. These green fruits and vegetables have a range of phytochemicals which includes indoles, carotenoids, and saponins. These phytochemicals contain strong anti-cancer properties. Examples of fruits and vegetables in this category are spinach, asparagus, avocados, broccoli, peas, green apples, green grapes, limes, kiwi, green beans, lettuce, cabbage, celery, cucumber, kale, collard greens, celery, and parsley.
Carotenoids is abundant in the yellow and orange fruits and vegetables. It provides the body with with Vitamin A. It helps the body to maintain healthy mucous membranes and healthy eyes. It is an excellent anti-aging phytonutrient and also prevents cataracts. Examples of fruits and vegetables in this category are carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potato, pumpkin, pineapples, mangoes, corn, oranges, squash, peaches, nectarines, apricots, and grapefruit.
In the white and brown category, we find food that are high in potassium, fiber, beta-glucans, lignans, and epigallocatechin (EGCG). Food like garlic and onion contain allicin which has antiviral and antibacterial properties. Examples of fruits and vegetables in this category are cauliflower, brown pears, mushrooms, white peaches, garlic, bananas, potatoes, dates, onions, ginger, parsnips, turnip.
Think back of the past three days, what did you eat? Did you eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables from the different color groups? If not, I encourage you to keep each color in mind the next time you go grocery shopping and the next time you prepare your food. Eating healthy is part of the many lifestyle changes we all need to make or maintain in order to prevent or reverse the progression of chronic diseases.