Have you ever heard the phrase “Eat the Rainbow”? If you haven’t, the idea is that you consume foods, typically plant-based, which are the colors of the rainbow. The different colors have different nutrients and aligning health properties. The more colors you eat the better variety of nutrients you have to support your body and fight off illness. These nutrients are scientifically called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. These chemicals are said to be “…components of plants that are powerful defenders of health.”(IFM, 2015) Phytonutrients can be found in fruits and vegetables but also in whole grains, legumes, herbs, nuts, seeds, and even tea.
Let’s talk about colors, the way to identify the phytonutrients. As an “On-The-Go” culture, we typically eat tons of foods that are brown/white and have been stripped of nutrients. Nutrients are what make our body function. They are the nails to our house (body). If we don’t have enough nails, the house may still stay up but maintenance will be high because of lack of stability. This is some of the reasons we can have health issues because we’re not getting enough of nutrients to support ideal bodily functions. If we eat a variety of foods in an abundance of colors we supply our bodies with a diversity of nutrients to fulfill all of our body’s wants and needs.
Foods come in so many different colors— purple, orange, green, red, white, etc. Different colors, different phytonutrients, have different health properties. “Red foods contain phytonutrients that may help reduce the risk for certain cancers, along with helping to protect the brain, heart, liver, and immune system.” (IFM, 2015) Two of the most notable phytonutrients in red foods that help attribute to these health benefits are lycopene and anthocyanins.
Other colors have different phytonutrients that attribute to different health properties like orange. “Orange foods help protect the immune system, eyes, and skin, and reduce the risk for cancer and heart disease.” (IFM, 2015) The most notable of phytonutrients being beta-carotene and bioflavonoids.
So how can you start reaping the benefits of the many different phytonutrients? Eat the Rainbow. Make a goal of eating 1-2 servings of each color every day. It may sound difficult but it can be quite simple. Having a hardy salad may give you 1 serving of each color if not more in just one serving. Make a game for yourself and see how many colors you can eat in a day.
5 tips to include more colors into what you already eat.
- 1. Drink a smoothie with different colors. It can be easy to eat a variety of colors when you blend them all together in a delicious drink.
- 2. Use dips and sauces that contain plant-based color blends. For example salsa (one of my personal favorites) and pesto.
- 3. Switch from white potatoes (boring!) to sweet potatoes or mashed cauliflower.
- 4. Add red onions, peppers (red, yellow, orange, green), broccoli, tomatoes, and garlic to your eggs.
- 5. Spice up your food! Using spices like turmeric, basil, cayenne, and more can add great flavor, phytonutrients, and other herbal health benefits.
By Cynthia Wilson