Many people have heard that it’s important to “Eat the Rainbow”. It’s a phrase that is used so often, but you may be wondering the meaning behind it.
“Eat the Rainbow” is a phrase that is commonly used to encourage people to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies are good for the body because they are full of vitamins and minerals and those beautiful, rich colors that they display are indicators of compounds called phytonutrients. It’s thought that the phytonutrients in plants help the plant to fight off environmental stressors and in turn, when we eat them, we are receiving a similar protective effect. Each color has a different protective effect on the body, so eating a variety of colors is going to offer the best protection against harmful diseases, like heart diseases and cancer.
The Mayo Clinic outlines all the benefits of eating a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables:
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, avocados, 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.