“Eat the rainbow.”
While you’ve likely heard this nutrition advice repeatedly over the years, what it really emphasizes is the importance of eating variety. We can thank phytochemicals for giving fruits and vegetables their unique hues. Phytochemicals are plant (“phyto”) compounds with powerful antioxidant capabilities. These health-promoting compounds not only make blueberries blue, but they also act like little sponges in our bodies that mop up free-radicals – or harmful molecules in our bodies – and help to tame inflammation.
There are many ways to eat the rainbow. You can enjoy a colourful variety of produce in salads and grain bowls or as snacks. They’re also perfect for smoothies!
Benefits by Colour
On top of adding a pop of colour to your meals, fruits and vegetables provide plenty of essential nutrients. Here are some of the benefits of incorporating every colour of the rainbow into your diet.
Red foods, like watermelon, beets, and berries, are repeatedly touted for the role they play in supporting a healthy heart and offering protection from heart disease.
Orange foods, including pumpkin and mango, are good sources of vitamin A, which is essential for immune function and eye health. Vitamin A also helps to maintain the structure of cell walls, which plays an essential role in the body’s first line of defence.
Yellow foods are known for their vitamin C content. This vitamin is essential for immune function and collagen production. It can even enhance the absorption of iron. Some examples of yellow foods are pineapple and citrus fruits.
Blue and purple foods (think: berries) protect our bodies and minds by reducing oxidation. In fact, all berries (the red ones, too!) are an integral component of the MIND Diet, which focuses on keeping your brain sharp as you age.
Green foods are chock-full of antioxidants and nutrients that work together to fend off several major chronic diseases. Popular greens include spinach, kale, and other leafy greens. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate also recognizes green vegetables as an important subcategory based on their colour. Popeye was really on to something.
Aside from looking pretty on your plate or in your smoothie, fruits and veggies from all colour categories contribute key nutrients and offer benefits. So, go ahead and nosh on foods from all colours of the rainbow!
By: McKenzie Jones