You may be tempted to find a few foods that you or your family members like and focus on eating those. And it can be easy to fall into routines – especially with picky eaters. But the truth is that our bodies benefit from variety. For optimal health, we need a rainbow of nutrients and colors.
In fact, the variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables have enormous healing powers. And many of them bring their own distinctive colors. Eating colorful foods (and I’m not talking candies here) can be an easy way to get a complete range of the vitamins and minerals your body needs to thrive.
Each color in fruits and vegetables is caused by specific phytonutrients, which are natural chemicals that help protect plants from germs, bugs, the sun’s harmful rays, and other threats. Each color indicates an abundance of specific nutrients.
Red Fruits and Vegetables
Red fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals, including lycopene. These powerful nutrients have been studied for their cancer-fighting effects and other health benefits.
Healthy Red Foods to Eat:
- Red peppers
- Red onions
Orange and Yellow Fruits and Vegetables
Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin C and carotenoids, including beta-carotene. Some carotenoids, most notably beta-carotene, convert to vitamin A within the body, which helps promote healthy vision and cell growth. Citrus fruits contain a unique phytonutrient which helps to increase blood flow. This has important health ramifications. If you tend to get cold hands and feet, eating an orange a day may help keep your hands and feet warm.
Healthy Orange and Yellow Foods to Eat:
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash (butternut, kabocha, delicata, acorn)
- Yellow summer squash
- Orange and yellow peppers
- Golden beets
Green Fruits and Vegetables
Greens are one of healthiest foods we can eat. Green fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that are essential for blood and bone health. Additionally, green vegetables are rich in folate. Broccoli has been shown to boost immunity, while dark leafy greens like kale might improve mood. Kiwi has been shown to be especially effective in alleviating the common cold.
Healthy Green Foods to Eat:
- Romaine lettuce
- Collard greens
- Brussels sprouts
- Green grapes
- Green apples
- Swiss chard
- Green beans
- Kiwi fruit
Blue and Purple Fruits and Vegetables
Blue and purple fruits and vegetables are rich in phytonutrients and have been studied extensively for their anti-cancer and anti-aging properties. Studies have shown that the bioactive phytochemicals in berries work to repair damage from oxidative stress and inflammation.
Healthy Blue and Purple Foods to Eat :
- Red (purple) grapes
- Red (purple) cabbage
White and Brown Fruits and Vegetables
White and brown produce may not be as brightly-colored as other foods, but they still are a healthy choice and have phytonutrients. Like broccoli, cauliflower is also rich in an anti-cancer compounds. Garlic and onions, too, contain powerful cancer-fighting compounds. And the phytonutrients in white button mushrooms have been found to inhibit cancer proliferation.
Healthy White and Brown Foods to Eat:
- Daikon radish
Tips to Help You Eat the Rainbow Every Day
- Eat a beautiful breakfast. Instead of eggs, or yogurt, start your day with a green smoothie, oatmeal topped with red berries, or a scramble filled with red peppers, mushrooms, carrots, or other colorful veggies.
- Enjoy exciting salads. Large, colorful salads are the perfect way to incorporate lots of colorful veggies (and fruits) into your diet. Eat them for lunch or dinner. And try to have at least one per day.
- Liven up your lunch. Veggie sandwiches and wraps (including lettuce wraps) and soups, stews, and chili can help your get a balanced selection of colorful foods for lunch.
- Make vegetables the main dish. Try new recipes for dishes, such as tempeh vegetable stir-fries, vegetable curries, and veggie-rice bowls.
- Make a rainbow meal. Try creating a meal that uses every color – red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and white. (If you have kids, they may love this idea.)