You might have heard the expression “eat a rainbow diet” or “colorful food will help you fight disease and aging”. But what exactly does it mean and why should we care about the color of our food?
First of all, I would like to make it clear that “colorful food” refers to fruits, berries, vegetables, legumes, and herbs and not to artificially colored drinks and cereals. I am sure that all of my readers understand this, but I thought I would clarify it just in case :).
So what is it all about? Well, it’s all about phytochemicals – naturally occurring compounds in plants.
In nature, these chemicals function as natural defenses against biological hazards and keep plants safe and disease free. They also give plants their color and flavor.
Phytochemicals are not only good for plants; they are also very beneficial to our health. Some phytochemicals have powerful anti-inflammatory activity; others have immune-enhancing, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-yeast properties. Many phytochemicals are associated with reduced risk of developing heart disease, certain types of cancer, age-related macular degeneration, infectious diseases, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes and other disorders.
The amount and type of phytochemicals present in plants vary depending on the plant. That is why it is recommended to eat phytochemical-rich foods from each of these color groups: red, dark green, yellow & light green, orange, and purple.
Here is a list of fruits and veggies by color (this is not a comprehensive list but should give an idea about combining colors on your plate for maximum benefit):
Red: apples, red bell peppers, beets, cherries, cranberries, plums, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelons, red cabbage, beans, grapes, radishes, raspberries.
Dark green: artichokes, asparagus, green bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, cucumbers, green beans, kale, leeks, peas, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, kale or any other leafy green vegetable.
Yellow & light green: avocados, bananas, yellow bell peppers, bok choy, cabbage, celery, fennel, kiwi, pears, pineapple, zucchini, lemons, limes, lettuce, onions.
Orange: apricots, butternut squash, yellow bell peppers, yams, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, papaya, oranges, mangoes, carrots, cantaloupe.
Purple: blueberries, blackberries, red cabbage, cherries, currants, onions, grapes, pears, plums, eggplant.
Phytochemicals are also present in nuts and seeds (for example, flax seeds), as well as in other plant-based products such as teas, wine (especially red wine), coffee, and dark chocolate.
I hope you found this information helpful and are going to add some color to your plate!