Eat the Rainbow: Here's Why
If your diet is feeling a little drab, it could probably use a splash of color. Did you know there’s a reason fruits and veggies come in a rainbow of vibrant hues? Nature has a color code that tells us which antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (natural chemicals) are contained within—which tells us just how we can benefit from eating them.
While it can be tempting to find foods that picky eaters (especially kids) are willing to eat and stick with them, our bodies benefit from variety. Adding more naturally colorful foods to your plate ensures a diversity of nutrients. So, let’s give it a go—eat the rainbow!
Roll out the red carpet for fruits and veggies boasting a vivid red skin. These foods are your number one source of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps fight certain types of cancer. Red fruits and veggies can also help regulate blood pressure, guard the body from diabetes and slow down the aging process.
Try these: Watermelon, cherries, strawberries, apples, tomatoes, cranberries, red cabbage, red onion
Orange you glad we included this happy color on our list? Add more orange to your diet for a boost in beta carotene, an important antioxidant linked to lung health, and vitamins A and C, which improve eyesight, immunity and skin health.
Try these: Sweet potatoes, oranges, carrots, pumpkin, cantaloupe, mangoes
Yellow fruits and vegetables are great sources of zeaxanthin (say what?!). It’s a phytochemical that helps reduce your risk for age-related eye problems. Yellow produce can also regulate an overactive metabolism.
Try these: Lemons, bananas, corn, yellow bell peppers
You’ve definitely got the green light to incorporate more of these foods into your diet. The green in produce comes mostly from chlorophyll, which is loaded with antioxidants. Bonus points: many green foods are also packed with folic acid and fiber.
Try these: Lettuce, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, spinach, green bell peppers, kale, avocado, kiwi, peas, asparagus
BLUE, INDIGO & VIOLET
You’ll want to eat these foods more than once in a blue moon. The darker color of these fruits and veggies indicates the presence of anthocyanins, a group of antioxidants that have positive effects on memory and learning. They may also protect against heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Try these: Grapes, purple cauliflower, eggplant, plums, prunes, blueberries, blackberries
Ooh, bonus color! While not part of the official ROYGBIV lineup, you’d be remiss to skip white as part of your food rainbow. White fruits and veggies contain beta-glucans and lignans, nutrients that help improve your immune system. Add some of these to your diet to help balance hormone levels and lower blood pressure.
Try these: Cauliflower, garlic, ginger, onions, mushrooms, turnips
Remember that when it comes to food, the less processed the better. We want our fruits and veggies as close to nature as they can get! Most fruits and many vegetables are absolutely delicious straight from the tree or vine, and all they need is a good wash.
If you find you have trouble getting your daily intake of natural colors, here are some easy ways to boost the amount of fruits and veggies to your diet:
- Start early. Get in a serving of veggies before you even leave the house by adding them to your breakfast. Try your oatmeal with apples or berries, make egg dishes with veggies mixed in, blend a green smoothie…there are so many options.
- Pack a snack. Raw veggies with hummus or a light ranch dipping sauce make an awesome mid-day munch and will help you pack your diet with fiber-filled veggies.
- Roast ‘em up. Fill a sheet pan with a colorful range of veggies and roast them in your oven - all you need is a little olive oil and a pinch of seasoning.
- Get adventurous. When planning your weekly meal prep, make sure the produce section of your shopping list reflects that rainbow.
- Make it a habit. Every time you eat, make sure to include at least one fruit or vegetable. Then work your way up to more!
- Try something new. This week, find a fruit or vegetable you’ve never cooked and research a new recipe. Is this the week you roast eggplant for your first batch of Baba Ganoush, or your first-time trying pretty purple cauliflower? Stop by your local farmer’s market to see what’s in season for maximum flavor.
- Make a rainbow meal. Try creating a meal that uses every color on our list! If you have kids, get them in on the challenge. They’ll love the pretty plate you create.