• By Joel Streed

Eat the rainbow for good health

July 21, 2022
a wooden bowl of freshly roasted vegetables

Instead of painting a rainbow, how about eating a rainbow of colors? Red, orange, yellow, green, white, blue and purple.

Each of these colors has health benefits, including:

  • Improved vision
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Reduced risk of chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease and diabetes
  • Strengthened immune system

These benefits are due to the phytochemicals that occur naturally within these foods. Phytochemicals also give foods their distinct aroma and taste.

While each color provides certain benefits, when paired with other colors, the effects on your health are astonishing. That's why it's important to eat a wide variety of colors.

See what eating a rainbow of colors can do for you:

  • Red fruits and vegetables
    These contain lycopene, which improves heart health, decreases prostate and breast cancer risk, contributes to stroke prevention and increases brain function. Good sources of lycopene include tomatoes, beets, radish, cherries, strawberries, red onions and red peppers.
  • Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables
    These contain carotenoids, which reduce the risk of heart disease and inflammation, strengthen the immune system, build healthy skin and improve vision. Good sources of carotenoids include carrots, winter squash, apricots, yellow peppers, sweet potatoes, bananas, pineapple, mangoes, pumpkins, peaches and oranges.
  • Green fruits and vegetables
    These contain indoles and isothiocyanates, which may help prevent cancer. Typically, these foods are high in vitamin K, potassium, fiber and antioxidants. They also contain folic acid, which helps prevent neural tube defects in babies. Good sources include spinach, arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, avocadoes, kiwis, green tea, asparagus, fresh green herbs, kale and artichokes.
  • White and brown fruits and vegetables
    These contain flavonoids and allicin, which have anti-tumor properties. They also can reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, improve bone strength and decrease risk of stomach cancer. Good sources include onions, mushrooms, cauliflower, garlic and leeks.
  • Blue and purple fruits and vegetables
    These contain anthocyanins and antioxidants, which are associated with improved brain health and memory. They also help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease. Good sources include blueberries, blackberries, eggplant, figs, purple cabbage, concord grapes and plums.

Eat your way through the rainbow

Trying to eat your way through the scrumptious colors of the rainbow?

Here a few ways to help you include the rainbow at your next snack or meal:

  • Change up your usual choices. Rather than purchasing a green pepper, grab a bag of mini multi-colored sweet peppers or try swapping your green pepper for a red, purple or yellow bell pepper.
  • Slice radishes into potato salad for color and extra crunch.
  • Add frozen blackberries to your morning cereal or Greek yogurt.
  • Swap french fries for roasted sweet potatoes fries. Simply cut a whole sweet potato into shoestring pieces, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast at 400 F until tender.
  • Add a half-cup of cauliflower to your smoothie to make it extra creamy
  • Grate purple rather than green cabbage for coleslaw.
  • Spoon chicken curry over cauliflower rice.

Not only will you find eating the rainbow healthy, but it's fun too.

Check out this video with tips for eating a rainbow of produce:

Caitlin Terpstra is a dietician in Nutrition in Owatonna, Minnesota.