“Today I ate a rainbow.” Perhaps you have heard this phrase used as more and more health experts tell us we should “eat the rainbow.” No, they don’t mean eat more candy. They are saying we should eat a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables to get all the nutrients we need for optimal health. What does color have to do with nutrients? Plants contain chemical compounds called phytonutrients that promote health and protect against disease. The phytonutrients in fruits and veggies give them their color and with each color comes with different vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. So if we the rainbow, we are assured to get all the different nutrients we need. Colorful food is also more attractive and since we eat first with our eyes, a colorful plate is more likely to stimulate our appetites. Kids are also more attracted to colorful food, so eating the rainbow makes children more likely to eat healthy food instead of colorful junk food.
Try cooking with and eating a different color each night this week and by the end of the week, you can say you ate a rainbow too.
Red foods contain large amounts of beta-carotene (vitamin A), fiber, and the antioxidants quercetin, vitamin C, and lycopene. These nutrients have been found to protect the body from free radicals, cancer, and heart disease as well as offer joint support and aid gastrointestinal health. Red foods are not only healthy, but they are also beautiful. Add red fruits like watermelon, cranberries, raspberries, red grapefruit, strawberries, cherries, pomegranates, and apples to your diet. And include vegetables including beets, red peppers, tomatoes, radishes, radicchio, red potatoes, red onions, and rhubarb.
Enjoy red foods with: Heirloom Tomato Pesto Stack, Caramelized Radishes, Classic Rhubarb Crisp, and Roasted Red Potatoes with Turmeric and Thyme. Make a Warm Fennel and Pomegranate Salad, Summer Watermelon Salad, and Spinach Quesadillas with Strawberry-Spring Onion Salsa. Learn 10 Ways to Cook with Beets and 10 Delicious Ways to Cook with Apples.
Orange foods are extremely healthy with lots of antioxidants including beta-cryptoxanthin and beta-carotene which converts to vitamin A in our bodies. They benefit our eye and skin health, maintain respiratory health, help arthritis, and lower the risk of certain cancers. These antioxidants also boost our immune systems to prevent infections. Orange fruits include oranges (obviously), tangerines, nectarines, apricots, cantaloupe, mangos, papayas, and peaches. Orange vegetables include butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes.
This week, try a Warming Carrot Ginger Soup, Savory Butternut Squash and Tomatoes, Pumpkin Enchiladas, and Sweet Potato Nachos. Cook with orange fruits and make these Whole Wheat Nectarine Pancakes, Kale Salad with Apricots and Almonds, Tremendous Papaya Salsa and Healthy Summery Juicy Mango Waffles.
Yellow foods look so happy! That’s probably because they are filled with so many good things for our bodies. Yellow foods contain antioxidants such as carotenoids and bioflavonoids. Carotenoids help protect us from diseases such as cancer, retinal disease, and heart disease while bioflavonoids strengthen the collagen of our skin, tendons, ligaments, and cartilages. Yellow foods also have lots of vitamin C which acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, as well as vitamin A, potassium, and lycopene. Yellow fruits include lemons, Buddha’s hand, pineapples, yellow pears, yellow squash, yellow tomatoes, yellow peppers, and yellow figs. Yellow veggies include corn (technically a grain) and yellow/golden beets.
Brighten up your meals with this Raw Mandarin Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream, Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, Summer Squash Tartlets With Caramelized Onions and Tofu Ricotta, Kale and Golden Beet Salad, and Raw Lemon Meringue Pie.
It’s no surprise that green foods are packed with nutrients. Go for green to get vitamins A, C and K, iron, antioxidants such as carotenoids and flavonoids, and other nutrients including chlorophyll, lutein, zeaxanthin, and folate. These nutrients have been found to help with lowering the risk of cancer, lowering blood pressure, and LDL cholesterol levels as well as maintaining retinal (eye) health and boosting immunity. Green fruits and veggies contain lots of fiber to help digestion, and green veggies are a major course of calcium which is important for our bones and teeth. Green fruits include kiwi, green tomatoes, zucchini squash, green peppers, avocado, pears, green grapes, green apples, honeydew and limes. There are a ton of options when it comes to green vegetables. Choose from spinach, broccoli, asparagus, celery, peas, green beans, artichokes, okra, and all the dark, leafy greens.
Check out The Essential Guide to Greens, get these Tips for Cooking Greens and then start benefitting from delicious, healthy green foods. Learn 10 Flavorful Ways to Cook with Spinach, 5 Flavor Variations to Try with Asparagus, 10 Delicious Ways to Use All That Summer Zucchini and get 10 Tips for Cooking with Artichokes. Indulge in these Smoky Avocado Fries, Avocado Mango Salsa, Raw Kiwi Tart with Ginger, Mint and Coconut, and Healthy Key Lime Pie with Chocolate Crust.
Blue and purple get combined because technically, there are no pure blue foods. Food looks blue or purple because of phytochemicals known as anthocyanins and resveratrol. Anthocyanins are anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic. They help to lower the risk of diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Resveratrol has disease preventing and anti-ageing properties as well as helping to reduce inflammation, cholesterol, and risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Blue and purple foods also contain lutein, vitamin C, quercetin and benefit our immune system, overall health, and longevity. Blue and purple fruits include blueberries, blackberries, figs, currants, grapes, plums, olives, prunes, elderberries, acai berries, maqui berries, and raisins. Blue and purple veggies include eggplant, purple asparagus, purple cabbage, purple carrots, and purple-fleshed potatoes.
You definitely won’t be feeling blue when you eat this Fresh Blueberry Shortcake, Blackberry Ice Cream, Raw Fig Pie, and Berrylicious Rhubarb Granola Crumble. For more blue and purpole veggies, try Hearty Purple Potato Stew, Purple Cauliflower Thai Green Coconut Curry with Carrot Noodles, and Miso-Roasted Eggplant and Zucchini.
We can get so focused on eating all the colorful foods that we avoid eating white foods. That would be a big mistake because white fruits and veggies contain plenty of nutrients including anthoxanthins which help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, sulfur which detoxifies our liver and helps with protein structure and skin health, allicin which has anti-tumor properties, and quercetin which has anti-inflammatory properties. White foods also boost our immunity and help us avoid weight gain. The only white foods people should avoid are processed, refined ones. Healthy white foods include those which are tan or brown on the outside and white inside such as pears and jicama. Other white foods include cauliflower, cabbage, onions, garlic, mushrooms, ginger, Jerusalem artichokes, kohlrabi, parsnips, turnips, potatoes, fennel and white corn.
White is right when you make this Walnut Crusted Pear-Ginger Tart, Banana Toffee Pie, and Raw Spicy Jicama Fries. White veggies make delicious and healthy dishes like these Roasted Jerusalem Artichokes with Braised Garlicky Kale, Kohlrabi Spaghetti alla Foriana, and Turnip Ravioli. Learn 10 Ways to Cook with Fennel, 10 Delicious Ways to Cook with Mushrooms, and find out why Cauliflower is the New Kale with a bunch of amazing recipes.
Black is another color we don’t think about when it comes to eating the rainbow, but many black foods are considered superfoods. Black foods contain more antioxidants than light-colored foods because they have a high pigment content. They are a great source of anthocyanins, powerful phytonutrients that can help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Try adding some black foods to your meals such as black lentils, black rice, black garlic, shitake mushrooms, black beans, black tea, and black chia seeds (though white chia is nutritionally equal).
Eating black food doesn’t mean eating burnt food. Try some new exotic-looking recipes like this Best Ever Forbidden Rice Salad, Forbidden Black Rice with Ginger and Coconut, Black Bean Spaghetti, Mexican Black Bean Soup, and this Shitake, Tempeh and Kale Stir-Fry.
You can eat a different color-themed meal each night of the week or mix them all up and eat a plate of food that looks like an artist’s palette. When we eat the rainbow, our meals look beautiful, taste delicious, and offer us the best nutrients for our health.
Lead image source: Tremendous Papaya Salsa