“Eating the rainbow” is a great fundamental tip for eating healthy (but that doesn’t include eating artificially-coloured things like Skittles or M&Ms!).
So what does “eating the rainbow” mean, and why is it important to eat a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables in your diet?
Beige-coloured foods like cereal, pasta, rice, pastries, and bread often dominate our meals. These foods, especially when processed or bleached, don’t offer the variety of nutrients that we need to be healthy. I know it’s easy to fall into a routine that has a few foods you and your family members like and just focus on eating those, but the truth is our bodies benefit from variety!
Each colour of fruits and vegetables adds different nutrients that are beneficial to our bodies. They play important roles in protecting our health and preventing chronic disease, such as inflammation, slowing down premature aging, supporting sight, protecting the brain, and assisting our immune system. By eating an array of colourful foods, you can provide your body with the essential nutrition it needs.
How to de-beige your diet
Try to fill your plate with many colours each day, and when shopping, try to pick fruits and vegetables that you haven’t tried before because the food we eat can make huge improvements to our health. Phytonutrients aren’t just limited to fruits and vegetables; you can get them from legumes, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, and teas.
And as always, try to buy non-GMO produce that is organically grown on a local farm so your plants are as unmodified as possible, which means more nutrients and the best ﬂavour.
For example spinach, kale, chard, asparagus, leeks, avocados, cucumbers, lettuce, zucchini, broccoli, green peppers, green beans, green apples, kiwi fruit, green grapes, Brussel sprouts, cabbages, green peas, celery, limes, and green tea. Don’t forget herbs like mint, parsley, oregano, and basil.
The health beneﬁts include improving energy, increasing blood ﬂow, improving digestion, heart, liver and skin health. They detoxify the body and also help reduce cancer risk.
Such as tomatoes, raspberries, strawberries, red or pink apples, rhubarb, red potatoes, red grapes, watermelons, radishes, cranberries, beets, cherries, pomegranates, pink grapefruit, red onions, red bell peppers, kidney beans, red quinoa, and rooibos tea. Also, herbs like paprika.
Red or pink foods are rich in beta-vitamin C. A lot of them contain lycopene, a powerful health-boosting antioxidant that helps to protect against certain cancers, preventing blood clotting, diabetes, and strokes. They have anti-inflammatory, gastrointestinal, heart, hormonal and liver health benefits.
Such as blueberries, blackberries, plums, prunes, red onions, red cabbage, eggplant, purple grapes, prunes, purple cauliﬂower, figs, and red wine. (Yes, red wine!)
These food helps reduce our risk of high blood pressure, lower our cholesterol, and help reduce inflammation in the body. These coloured foods also help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, boost memory, and slow the aging process.
Such as pumpkins, apricots, all types of melons, peaches, sweet potatoes, carrots, yellow and orange peppers, pineapple, mangoes, turnips, nectarines, lemon, sweet corn, oranges, and butternut squash. Plus, spices like turmeric, ginger, and mustard.
Yellow and orange foods are a great source of vitamin C. Plus, they often contain beta-carotene, converted by the body into vitamin A, which can help improve digestive health and vision. These foods contain anti-cancer properties, are immune supportive, and good for our cells, eyes, joints, reproductive health, and skin health.
Something white, tan, brown, or black
Such as bananas, leeks, onions, fennel, garlic, potatoes, mushrooms, coconut, cauliflower, white navy beans, black beans, olives, parsnips, pears, nuts, cocoa, coffee, tea, seeds, chickpeas, and dark chocolate. Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and oats, as well as nuts and nut butter.
Although not technically a colour of the rainbow, these foods promote a range of health benefits including protecting against cancers, killing bacteria, protecting against heart disease, helping to lower cholesterol, reducing inflammation, keeping bones strong, and helping to balance hormones.
Tips to get the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow
Avoid processed food with lots of meat, cheese, salt, and sugar. These foods overstimulate your taste buds, making fresh fruits and vegetables taste boring in comparison. Don’t like many vegetables? Try new vegetables and fruits over and over again in different ways. It can take up to 12-18 attempts to acquire a taste for a new food! Trying things again in a different recipe might help.
Eat the rainbow: As a general rule, the darker the colour, the more antioxidants they contain. Make a habit of eating a rainbow of foods every day, and you’ll quickly be amazed by the benefits. Are you wondering how much to eat? For children, 4-6 portions, and adults 8-10 portions of fruit and vegetables per day is what I encourage. Try to have one or two portions of each colour per day and aim to have more vegetables than fruits, maybe three servings of fruit and the rest vegetables for adults.
Try adding fruit, flax or chia seeds to your morning oatmeal, and vegetables to your eggs. Eat more salads, or add more vegetables to your sandwiches. Add extra veggies to spaghetti sauces, soups, stews, and chili. Include nuts in stir-fries and baked goods. Cook with more spices instead of salt for flavoring.
Drink the rainbow: Shake up your smoothie routine and opt for different colourful vegetables and fruit.
Plate the rainbow: Fill at least half of your plate with salad/vegetables at every meal. Keep fruits to just one portion per meal (roughly ½ cup per meal, or three pieces of fruit per day), because of their fructose content – that’s three different fruits every day.
Create the rainbow: Cooking rainbow meals are fun as you are creating delicious and healthy experiences for your loved ones and yourself! It doesn’t have to be a gourmet meal, but if it’s made from whole natural foods, it’s one of the most powerful things you can do for you and your family’s health!
So, “eat the rainbow” makes sense now, right?
Written by Lorraine Crowe
Co-owner of Body Solace Studio
Holistic Nutrition Coach and Pilates Instructor