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  • Writer's pictureKristi Ryan

Eat the Rainbow: How Eating a Diverse Range of Colorful, Whole Foods Impacts Your Health

Have you ever heard the term 'Eat the Rainbow'? I love this concept because it reminds you of how important it really is to eat a diverse and colorful range of fruits and vegetables in order to maintain optimal levels of health. You get the most nutritional benefits from foods that are whole, vibrant and alive. And, the nutritional benefits that you get by eating those foods allows you to benefit in the form of abundant energy, optimal health and longevity.

What gives fruits and vegetables their colors?

Phytonutrients are biologically active compounds that are responsible for the way a food looks, smells and tastes. They are connected with a food's nutritional value and have a major impact on all of the body's systems helping to promote health and prevent disease. They are the chemicals that are essential to the body's nourishment.

Think of phytonutrients as nature's pharmacy. Foods with phytonutrients have antioxidant properties that help fight free radical damage caused by toxins and stress that can damage cells and tissues. They can help decrease the risk of cancer, diabetes, dementia and heart disease.

The pigments found in fruits and vegetables have been categorized into 4 groups of phytonutrients: Anthocyanins, Betalains, Carotenoids, and Chlorophylls. Check out the amazing benefits of each of these groups and learn how you can get more of these amazing nutrients in your diet.

Anthocyanins--dark blue, purple and red hues:

  • Powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds

  • Fights the effects of

  • May help to prevent fatigue and trouble with

  • May help improve vision.

  • Helps with quicker recovery from exercise.

  • Beneficial for heart and brain health

Foods: berries, pomegranates, red and purple grapes, red delicious apples, cherries, black plum, oranges, black beans, eggplant, red onion and red cabbage

Betalains--red and yellow-orange hues:

  • Powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds

  • Has shown anti-cancer effects.

  • Helps protect from heart disease.

  • Can lower high blood sugar levels.

  • Helps lower blood pressure and boost circulation.

  • Protects the liver and kidneys from toxins.

Foods: beets, Swiss chard, prickly pear cactus

Carotenoids--bright red, yellow, pink and orange hues:

  • One of the main food sources of antioxidants

  • Can help lower inflammation.

  • Can improve eye health.

  • Protective to the skin and helps prevent premature skin damage.

  • Helps to fight cancer and boost immunity.

  • Anti-aging

  • Fat-soluble: combine with a healthy fat like avocado or olive oil to improve absorption

Foods: tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, grapefruit

Chlorphyll--vibrant green hues:

  • High in vital vitamins and minerals

  • Has anti-cancer effects.

  • Boost the body's natural antioxidants.

  • Helps improve liver detoxification.

  • Has revitalizing and refreshing effects when consumed.

Foods: spinach, kale, broccoli, asparagus, dandelion greens

Eat the Rainbow!

It is so important for the health of your body and diversity within your gut microbiome to eat a wide variety of foods in all different colors every day. Try to think of many different ways that you can eat all colors of the rainbow.

Here is an example of how you can include a variety of fresh, whole foods in all colors in one day:

  • Breakfast: Smoothie with banana, spinach and blueberries (carotenoids, chlorophyll, anthocyanin)

  • Lunch: Black bean burgers topped with arugula and tomato with a side of beets (anthocyanin, chlorophyll, carotenoids, betalain)

  • Afternoon Snack: Grapefruit with a cup of cottage cheese (carotenoids, healthy fat)

  • Dinner: Baked eggplant over quinoa and diced orange bell pepper (anthocyanins, carotenoids, complete protein)

Tips to increase your intake of phytonutrients:

  • Try a new fruit or vegetable every week. Go to your farmer's market or the organic produce section in your supermarket and pick something out that you have never tried before. Look up a recipe or the best way to eat it and experiment with your new find.

  • Spice up your food. Herbs and spices are a great source of phytonutrients.

  • Double your typical serving of vegetables.

  • Eat a salad a day with different, fresh ingredients as much as possible.

  • Add vegetables to your favorite entrees.

  • Start the day off right. Add fruit to your oatmeal and veggies to your eggs.

  • Phytonutrients are not stored in the body, so it is best to eat foods that are rich in them regularly.

Take some time to examine your eating patterns and plan your meals ahead when focusing on trying new foods and recipes. By choosing a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, you are making sure that you are getting a variety of these very important phytonutrients and providing yourself with optimal nutrition for a healthy, energized and vibrant future.

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