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Eating healthy can sometimes be intimidating. However, it’s as simple as eating the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple and white. So what does that mean? Eating a variety of foods that are rich in color. This is an easy way for you to consume the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals your body and mind need to properly function and thrive.
Each color represents a different phytochemical and set of nutrients that may benefit your health. Phytochemicals are chemical compounds that naturally occur in plant based foods. They have antioxidant properties, which means they can neutralize harmful free radicals and offer health benefits. Let’s go through each color of the rainbow to learn the health benefits of different colored foods.
Red Fruits and Vegetables
Lycopene is the main phytonutrients whose biggest benefit is antioxidant properties. Through continued research lycopene has the ability to strengthen bones, protection and prevention against certain types of cancers, may reduce risk of strokes, and keep blood vessels healthy. Food sources include tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, papaya, mangos and red bell pepper.
Orange and Yellow Fruits and Vegetables
The main phytonutrient in orange and yellow fruits and vegetables is carotenoids. Carotenoids are antioxidants that can strengthen your immune system and protect you from certain diseases. This beneficial phytonutrient also protects your eye health, lower inflammation to protect against heart disease and arterial wall blockage, and lowering risk of some cancers. Foods in the carotene category include carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, papaya, pumpkin, tangerines, yellow peppers, bananas, pineapple, and corn.
Green Fruits and Vegetables
Greens are some of the healthiest foods we can eat. The main phytonutrients are indoles and isothiocyanates which are better known as cruciferous greens. Research suggests that cruciferous green may lower the risk of some cancers, lower cholesterol levels, support healthy gut bacteria, strengthen immune-boosting and wound healing properties, promote healthy skin and eyes, promote bone growth, and prevent neural tube defects in babies. Good sources include broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, kale, arugula, bok choy, turnips, and wasabi.
Blue and Purple Fruits and Vegetables
Anthocyanins is the main phytonutrient in blue and purple fruits and vegetables. Evidence suggests that anthocyanins may help reduce blood pressure, may reduce risk of heart disease, protect and improve your brain function, and may prevent or slow the growth of some types of cancer. Black elderberries and aronia berries have the highest levels of anthocyanin. Additional sources include blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, grapes, blood oranges, purple cabbage, red onions, radishes, and the skin of eggplant.
White and Brown Fruits and Vegetables
Though white and brown are not bright colors, they still make for great healthy choices. Anthoxanthin is the main phytonutrient. The fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber, potassium, and magnesium. Fiber is linked to lower your risk of cardiovascular and obesity. Potassium may protect against hypertension and improve bone health. Magnesium may contribute to disease prevention. The following food sources are rich in anthoxanthin: cauliflower, garlic, leeks, onions, mushroom, radish, parsnips, and white potatoes.
We know fruits and vegetables are healthy for us. Now we can better understand why we would be “eating the rainbow” – so we reap the benefits each color has to offer toward our health and well-being. Here are a few ways to help you eat your way through the rainbow: