Most people understand the importance of fruits and vegetables, but that doesn’t mean they eat the amount they should. When it comes down to an apple versus a bag of chips, most Americans pick the bag of chips. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 87% of Americans don’t eat enough vegetables per day, and 76% don’t eat enough fruit. This explains the high percentage of people with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, obesity, cancer, or heart disease.
Now, we aren’t saying that people avoid fruits and vegetables altogether, but they surely don’t eat the rainbow. To eat the rainbow is to include fruits and vegetables of all different colors in your diet. This isn’t another fad, people; it’s the best way to supply your body with high quality vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and more. Eating the rainbow helps you stay alive and in good health! You want that, don’t you?
What Makes Food Colorful?
No, food coloring is not the answer to this question. The reason that fruits and vegetables range from red to green to purple to yellow is because of antioxidants and phytonutrients. For instance, lycopene is responsible for the rich redness of tomatoes, while anthocyanins keep blueberries beautifully blue. These phytonutrients and antioxidants don’t just color fruits and vegetables; rather, they offer disease fighting, anti-inflammatory, brain boosting, and immune stimulating properties.
It’s acceptable, encouraged even, to eat fruits and vegetables that are outside of your comfort zone. To ensure that you are properly eating the rainbow, try to consume two servings from every color group per day. There are five primary color groups (yes, we know the rainbow has seven colors), but the five you should focus on are detailed below.
Lycopene and ellagic acid are the two primary phytochemicals in red fruits and vegetables. Red foods work to boost the immune system, enhance brain and heart health, and can even reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease. Some red foods have cancer-fighting properties. How cool is that?! Great red foods to consume include tomatoes, red bell peppers, radishes, watermelon, rasberries, rhubarb, red apples, pomegranates, beets, and cherries.
Orange And Yellow
Orange and yellow produce items contain a variety of antioxidants, including vitamin C and carotenoids. These foods work to boost immune function and eye health, primarily because of the beta-carotene and curcuminoids in them. Yellow foods are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, but they also help to promote skin, brain, and heart health. Great orange foods include pumpkin, winter squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, papayas, cantaloupe, and apricots. Great yellow foods include sweet corn, yellow squash, yellow peppers, pomelos, pineapple, star fruit, mangos, and lemons.
White And Brown
The rule of thumb for phytonutrients is: the darker the fruit/vegetable, the more nutrient dense it is. Well, white and brown foods are exempt from this rule because they contain allicin, tannins, and other anti-inflammatory compounds that optimize hormone and liver health. Additionally, many white foods grow under the earth, and are rich in selenium as a result. Great white and brown foods to consume include onions, garlic, leeks, parsnips, cauliflower, white beans, bananas (the peel doesn’t make them yellow!), lychees, mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes, and dates.
Green fruits and vegetables are some of the healthiest foods in existence. Moms are always right, especially when they tell you to eat your greens. You should listen to them! Green foods contain vitamin K, lutein, isoflavones, isothiocynates, and chlorophyll. Leafy green vegetables are also loaded with folate, which contributes to healthy brain and cell development. Include more green vegetables in your diet by consuming green beans, asparagus, cabbage, snow peas, snap peas, kiwis, avocados, green apples, green grapes, broccoli, and leafy greens (spinach, chard, collards, romaine, arugula, bok choy, and kale).
Blue And Purple
Blue and purple produce items are some of the best foods you can consume for brain health. You can thank the resveratrol and anthocyanidins for that! Blue and purple foods are also great for reducing inflammation and protecting cells from damaging free radicals. You may notice that the darker the fruit or vegetable is, the better it is at reducing stress and inflammation. Start consuming blueberries, blackberries, plums, purple carrots, purple cabbage, eggplants, purple grapes, purple cauliflower, and prunes to include more blue and purple foods in your diet.