Eat the Rainbow for Good Health (and no we’re not talking Skittles)

assorted sliced fruits in white ceramic bowl
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Taste the rainbow is a well-known slogan for the popular candy Skittles, but it’s some good health advice as well. Now, I’m not suggesting that you eat a bunch of Skittles every day. The rainbow I’m talking about is found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. Healthy eating is just as important as exercise for your health.

When you fill your plates and bowls up with a variety of colors, you are more likely to satisfy your micronutrient needs. Micronutrients, more commonly referred to as vitamins and minerals, are the smaller components that make up a healthy diet. 

Tracking the number of micronutrients that you consume can be tough and time-consuming, but there’s a simple solution. Just try to get all the colors of the rainbow in your diet. 

What makes the color of the foods we eat?

Phytochemicals are responsible for the look, taste, and smell of all plant foods. They are also responsible for most of the nutritional benefits we get when we consume these healthy options. 

Red 

red tomatoes on board
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Red fruits and vegetables contain lycopene, which is important for heart health, preventing and fighting cancer, and is beneficial for your urinary tract. There are even studies that show an increase in memory when you increase your lycopene consumption.

Try adding these to your diet:

  1. Tomatoes
  2. Watermelon
  3. Strawberries
  4. Cranberries
  5. Red peppers
  6. Beets
  7. Red Onions

Orange & Yellow

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Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables contain compounds called carotenoids and vitamin C, which are essential for our vision, immune system, skin, and decreasing inflammation in the body. 

Try adding these to your diet:

  1. Oranges
  2. Lemons
  3. Mangoes
  4. Sweet potatoes
  5. Carrots
  6. Corn
  7. Yellow squash
  8. Pineapple

Green 

vegetable lot
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Green fruits and vegetables contain lutein. Lutein is important for our vision as it helps to prevent cataracts and slows down the natural degeneration of our eyesight as we get older. It also aids in keeping our nails, teeth, and bones strong and healthy. Green produce also contains folic acid which is very important during pregnancy to have a healthy baby. 

Try adding these to your diet:

  1. Kiwi
  2. Dark leafy greens like kale
  3. Brussel sprouts
  4. Green grapes
  5. Green beans
  6. Peas 
  7. Zucchini
  8. Avocado

Blue & Purple 

blueberry fruit on gray container
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Blue and purple fruits and vegetables contain anthocyanins which help us to age gracefully by improving our memory and keeping our skin looking young. Anthocyanins also reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. As a bonus, they help to fight GI tract cancer, like mouth, throat, and colon cancer.

Try adding these to your diet:

  1. Blueberries
  2. Blackberries
  3. Eggplant
  4. Red (purple) cabbage 
  5. Plums 
  6. Figs
  7. Prunes 

Tan & White 

photography of garlic on wooden table
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Tan and white produce contain compounds called allicin and sulforaphane. They lower cholesterol and blood pressure, keep bones strong, and even help to fight cancer, specifically that of the stomach. 

Try adding these to your diet:

  1. Cauliflower 
  2. Potatoes
  3. Mushrooms
  4. Jicama 
  5. Onions
  6. Garlic
  7. Daikon radish

Enhance your diet with a rainbow of foods

Salads

Making a colorful salad is one of the first ideas that come to mind if you’re trying to eat the rainbow. Salads can be many things, however, they do not have to be boring. Add some red bell peppers, carrots, shredded red (purple) cabbage, fresh peas, and maybe some cauliflower or boiled potatoes to your nice bowl of leafy romaine lettuce. I suggest blanching the cauliflower lightly and chilling it before adding it to your salad for better texture, but raw works too.

This would leave you with a rainbow on your plate, and a pretty tasty rainbow at that. Add some protein with chicken or beans, and you’ve got yourself a pretty balanced and satisfying meal. 

Side Dishes

Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite foods, just add in some new ones. Experiment with different side dishes that have a variety of colors within them. Maybe add some extra veggies when you make that pasta salad, or roast a whole head of red cabbage with some seasonings to serve alongside the rest of your meal. Not only will you benefit from eating more colorful foods, but your plates will also look more appealing. 

Soups & Sauces 

This is where I get creative. I love blending some cauliflower in with my potato soup, and alfredo sauce. Steamed broccoli blends wonderfully into tomato sauce, and broth based soups can be a refrigerator cleanout- adding in any veggies you have left in the crisper drawer. Homemade pesto sauce is a wonderful catalyst for leafy greens. Anything from spinach to kale can be mixed up with some fresh basil, oil, and parmesan cheese to make a delicious and super nutritious sauce for pasta, chicken, or even pizza. 

Snacks

Snacks are a great way to add some color into your diet. Try some fruit and yogurt as is, or freeze in a thin layer for a healthy frozen yogurt snack. Cut up veggies with dip are a great snack also, you can hit almost every color in one snack if you’ve got the variety in your fridge. You can add a bunch of different fruits and vegetables to a smoothie, make some spring rolls out of leftover salad, or have some fruit or veggies on their own. 

Strict rules surrounding your diet can be hard to maintain and oftentimes backfire and can end up causing problems. Therefore, the main takeaway I want you to have after reading this, is to do your best to add a little more color variation to your meals. It’s one small step that can have a lasting impact on your overall health and well-being.   

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