March 15, 2019
When people talk about healthy eating, you often hear things like “Don’t drink your calories,” or “Avoid junk food,” or “Drink water, especially before meals.” While those can all help you live a healthier life, there’s one thing that probably doesn’t get as much attention as it should: eating the rainbow.
No, we don’t mean literal rainbows; just the foods that are the same colors as those found in a rainbow. Basically, eating the rainbow means including colorful foods in your diet. Why? Because colorful foods are full of nutrients that your body has a hard time getting in other ways. By eating a colorful diet, you get more than just a bright dinner plate; you can give your body the nutrients and support it needs to maintain a properly functioning immune system and overall health.
Red and pink foods are high in lycopene, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Lycopene and beta-carotene are both antioxidants, but they provide different benefits. Lycopene is a power-house of an antioxidant, helping your body rid itself of free radicals (which have been linked to causing several conditions, including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and others). Studies have also found that lycopene can also improve heart health and lower blood pressure.
Beta-carotene, another antioxidant, provides the same benefits as other antioxidants; however, your body can convert beta-carotene into vitamin A for further benefits, such as improving eye, skin, and muscle health.
Vitamin C is another antioxidant that we mainly associated with orange foods. While vitamin C certainly is in orange foods, that’s not the only place you can find it. Vitamin C is great for stimulating proper tissue repair and growth. It can help heal wounds; reduce the formation of scar tissue; and maintain strong teeth, bones, and cartilage. Vitamin C is one of those nutrients that your body does not store on its own. This means that you need to replenish your vitamin C intake daily through your diet.
Red and pink foods to eat: tomatoes, strawberries, red peppers, red grapes, red beans, watermelon, cherries, pink grapes, red cabbage, red apples, beets, pomegranates, and raspberries.
If you move to the next color in the rainbow, you’ll hit orange, and orange foods can pack a powerful punch. While orange foods contain many of the same nutrients as red foods, they also have a few perks of their own. Orange foods contain a healthy amount of potassium, which is a macronutrient that your body needs on a daily basis. Potassium can help lower blood pressure, reduce your risk of getting a stroke, conserve bone density and muscle mass, and reduce your risk of developing kidney stones.
In addition to potassium, orange foods also contain vitamin B6. This particular B vitamin provides a host of benefits and is key to improving a range of functions within the body. Vitamin B6 is great for preventing signs of aging, and for relieving a variety of skin conditions. It also helps keep your liver clean of unwanted chemicals, supports proper cognitive functions, boosts your mood, and more.
Orange foods to eat: butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, oranges, pumpkins, peaches, mangoes, and apricots.
Next in line in the rainbow is yellow, and yellow foods are really quite similar to orange ones. However, yellow foods are high carotenoid zeaxanthin. Carotenoids are pigments that give foods their color, specifically the orange, red, and yellow hues. But in addition to adding color, carotenoids also provide a lot of health benefits.
Carotenoids are phytonutrients, which means they help plants absorb sunlight. They also have antioxidant functions that help protect our bodies against free radicals and the conditions that free radicals can cause. Carotenoid zeaxanthin is part of a specific class of carotenoids, and its main benefit is promoting healthy eyes.
Yellow foods to eat: yellow bell peppers, corn, papaya, lemons, yellow grapefruit, pineapple, summer and spaghetti squash, and bananas.
How many times do we hear that we should eat our greens? Well, it’s recommended for a reason. Green foods are definitely worth adding to your diet because they are packed full of nutrients, such as lutein and folate. Lutein is in the same family of carotenoids as zeaxanthin, so it is great for your eyesight. In fact, it’s believed that lutein can help reduce age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness. Lutein can also help improve your heart health by preventing plaque buildup.
Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is essential for your body to make red and white blood cells. Not only that, but folate converts carbs into energy, and helps the body produce both DNA and RNA. Because of these specific benefits, it is especially important to have adequate B9 levels during pregnancy, infancy, and adolescence. That’s probably why your mom always told you to eat your broccoli! Folate is also great for protecting against miscarriages, lowering your risk of depression, keeping a healthy heart, and protecting against cancer.
Green foods to eat: spinach, broccoli, asparagus, kale, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, artichoke, green beans, green bell peppers, and collard greens.
When it comes to rainbow eating, the last three colors are often grouped together. Blue, indigo, and violet-colored foods can not only add great color to your dinner plants but also necessary nutrients to your diet. Dark-colored foods are high in anthocyanins, which is what gives these foods their color. Buy anthocyanins don’t just give you a colorful food to look at. Anthocyanins act as antioxidants to help fight against free radicals while also helping to reduce inflammation, viruses, and cancer. They can also help reduce oxidative stress, which supports healthy aging.
Note: the amount of anthocyanins varies between fruits and vegetables, so be sure to eat a variety of them in your diet.
Blue, indigo, and violet foods to eat: eggplant, purple cabbage, purple carrots, purple potatoes, blueberries, plums and prunes, purple grapes and raisins, blackberries, and cranberries.
Did you have any idea that eating the rainbow would be so good for you? There are so many nutrients and vitamins that your body needs to function properly on a daily basis, but don’t let that overwhelm you. With a colorful diet and so many fruits and veggies to choose from, it’s easy to give your body what it needs to stay healthy all year round.
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