In this article we will discuss the importance of eating a colorful diet. The term “eat the Rainbow” is a simple and easy way to remember to fill your plate with a variety of colors! Fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Often why these foods are called “super foods” which is really just a fancy way of saying these foods are good for you. Incorporating more fruits and vegetables not only can increase your nutrient intake, but it can also help with the regulation of blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, GI functions and body weight. Not to mention that they are very low in calories and have no fat. Who doesn’t love that?
Vitamins and Minerals.
Some of the vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables aid in the function of blood, vision, nervous system, nail growth and even healing that scrape on your knee. Do you remember your mom telling you as a kid to eat your carrots because they help you see at night? Well she wasn’t wrong, vitamin A or carotene is found in yellow-orange pigmented fruits and vegetables. A deficiency in this vitamin can cause nighttime blindness.
Vitamin E and K can affect your bodies ability to clot your blood. If you are on a blood thinner make sure to talk to your doctor before you pretend to be Popeye the Sailor Man. These vitamins can be found in kale, spinach, broccoli and healthy oils like olive and sunflower.
As for vitamin C, the history dates all the way back to the 1490s when Portuguese sailors presented with bleeding gums and poor wound healing from a lack of vitamin C! Once they determined this was from a vitamin C deficiency, sailors would travel loads of lemons and limes on board.
Calcium and Iron aid in many processes in the body, including muscular functions and even can help prevent anemia. Believe it or not dark leafy greens are extremely rich in both iron and calcium. So remember to load up on those dark greens the next time you are eating dinner.
What are Antioxidants and Phytochemicals?
Antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables help prevent cellular damage from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause cellular damage leading to aging and chronic disease.
- Sources: Cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, cantaloupes, citrus, leafy greens, berries, black and green tea.
Phytochemicals are chemical compounds produced in plants. “Phyto” coming from the Greek word for plant. These compounds help to blocking carcinogens or cancer causing substances and or inflammatory responses. According to BreastCancer.org, it is believed that you can reduce your risk of cancer up to 40% by consuming Phytochemicals. (2013.)
- Lycopene: Tomatoes, Watermelon, Papaya, and Grapefruit.
- Carotenoids/Beta carotene: Carrot, Yam, Cantaloupe, and Apricot, Peach
- Isothiocyanates: Cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, kale, broccoli)
- Polyphenols: Tea, strawberries, blueberries, purple potatoes.
- Resveratrol: Red wine, grape juice, grapes, cranberries
Tips and Ideas.
- Did you know that Rainbow Carrots taste the same as orange? This is true for most fruits and vegetables that come in a variety of colors.
- Purple potatoes
- Orange Cauliflower
- Rainbow Swiss-chard
- The darker the color pigment, the more rich in vitamins and minerals.
- Tired of eating salad? Try adding vegetables into a fruit smoothie.
- Looking for a cool and healthy treat? Try homemade fruit popsicles.
(AHA) American Heart Association. “Eating the Rainbow-Challenge Yourself to Try Fruits and Vegetables of Different Colors.” Empower your cart. Retrieved on March 24th, 2021 from, https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/heart-public/@wcm/@fc/documents/downloadable/ucm_466712.pdf
BreastCA.org “Foods Containing Phytochemicals” (February 5th, 2015). Retrieved on March 24th 2021 from, https://www.breastcancer.org/tips/nutrition/reduce_risk/foods/phytochem
Collins, K.., Collins, K., & *, N. (July, 24th 2020.) “Difference between antioxidants and phytochemicals” (AIFCR) American Institute for Cancer Research. Retrieved on March 24th 2021 from, http://www.aicr.org/resources/blog/healthtalk-whats-the-difference-between-an-antioxidant-and-a-phytochemical/
Jean Inman’s Review of Dietetics. RD Exam Study Guide. (2017). Vitamins and Minerals. Retrieved on March 23, 2021.
Louis ED. The History of Scurvy and Vitamin C. Yale J Biol Med. 1987;60(1):59-60.
Oregon State University. Linus Pauling Institute, Micronutrient Information Center. “Resveratrol” Retrieved on March 24th 2021 from, https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/resveratrol#sources
Pérez-Jiménez J, Neveu V, Vos F, Scalbert A. Identification of the 100 richest dietary sources of polyphenols: an application of the Phenol-Explorer database. Pub medicine. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010 Nov;64 Suppl 3:S112-20. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2010.221. PMID: 21045839. Retrieved on March 23, 2021 from, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21045839/