Rainbows are beautiful and bright, and they make everyone feel good. The same is true when you’re eating the colors of the rainbow. Colorful fruits and vegetables are loaded with nutrients that can help you live a healthier life and feel your best. Each brightly colored fruit or vegetable has different nutrients and properties that help your body in different ways. The nutrients that correspond with each color are called phytonutrients. These phytonutrients help the plant thrive in its natural environment, and they help you thrive, too.
How to Eat The Rainbow
For many plants, the richest colors are found in the skin. Think potatoes, eggplant, and apples. It’s important to eat the edible skins of plants to get the most fiber and the most phytonutrients. Because each color has unique properties and helps your body in different ways, there is no one “best” or “super” food. Every fruit and vegetable plays an important role. Each color brings something special to your plate.
Red fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, watermelon, cherries, and strawberries are rich in lycopene. Lycopene helps destroy cancer-causing free radicals in the body.
Orange and Yellow
When it comes to eating the colors of the rainbow or “rainbow nutrition,” orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, like carrots, mangoes, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, bananas, and winter squash, are rich in beta crytopthanxin, so don’t sleep on these important colors! This phytonutrient plays an important role in how cells work together and may help prevent heart disease.
Dark green, leafy vegetables, like spinach, kale, mustard greens, broccoli, and collards are one of the most loved –and hated– colors in rainbow nutrition. But what’s undeniable is that they are rich in isocyanate, indoles, and sulforaphane. These phytonutrients can help fight against carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds).
Blue and Purple
Remember your ‘Eat the Rainbow Chart’ from your elementary school years? They’re actually a great resource to help you remember all the colors of the rainbow, even dark blue and purple foods, like grapes, plums, blueberries, potatoes, cabbage, and eggplant which are rich in anthocyanin. Anthocyanin may help prevent blood clots and cellular aging.
White and brown
Brown and white foods, while not the most exciting to look at, are also rich in nutrients. Mushrooms, onions, cauliflower, and radishes are rich in the phytonutrient quercetin and kaempferol. These are a type of antioxidant, which can help prevent free radicals in the body.
While there aren’t that many categories of colors to eat the rainbow. Fruits and vegetables tend to be a routine-oriented food group. Most people tend to stick with the same fruits and vegetables, over and over. In fact, most Americans don’t get the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, especially dark green leafy vegetables and orange-red vegetable subgroups.
Eat The Rainbow Challenge
Most Americans need about 4 ½ to 5 cups of vegetables and fruit each day. So why not give yourself an Eat The Rainbow Challenge? Start by making a list of the fruits and vegetables you enjoy and eat often. Notice any color trends or colors missing? If you have color subgroups missing, try to find foods you enjoy in that subgroup and work them into your weekly routine. Fresh, frozen, canned or dried fruits and vegetables all count toward your goal of eating a rainbow. Nutrition doesn’t change between the forms of fruits and vegetables.
To keep an eye on the colors you're eating, you can even make an Eat The Rainbow Chart. This is a great way to get your family involved. How many different colors can you eat this week? Strive to get at least one color from each color subgroup each day.
Need a little inspiration? Try these “Eat the Rainbow” recipes.
- Smoothie bowl: Blend up berries, spinach, and yogurt for at least two color subgroups in a sippable smoothie
- Eggroll in a bowl: For a twist on take-out flavors try making this classic favorite at home with shredded cabbage, carrot, beans, mushrooms, spinach, and onion. You’ll have at least three color subgroups to keep you satisfied. Too busy to cook? Try our Chicken Lo Mein, with a rainbow of veggies in each serving.
- Colorful salad: Our Vegan Quinoa Bowl is a medley of veggies including beets, arugula, eggplans, and more–all mixed together in a tantalizing dish that’s healthy and packed with fiber and deliciousness.
- Fruit for dessert: Try snacking on peaches, frozen grapes, cherries, or other naturally sweet treats for a sugar-free indulgence.
Anytime you can add more fruits and vegetables, you’re giving your body more of the nutrients that it needs to maintain health over a lifetime. Fresh Meal Plan can help you get the fruits and vegetables you want (and need) without the prep work. Simply order, heat, and enjoy.