The “eat rainbow” philosophy is rooted in eating plenty and diversity of plant-based foods.
These foods help us get a variety of nutrients our body needs throughout the week.
Mother Nature provides us with lots of nutritious and beautiful products, and eating rainbow is a simple visual reminder that allows you to appreciate all these powerful foods that are available for you to enjoy.
By imagining a rainbow while you eat all week, it will help you incorporate a variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants into your diet.
Discover some of the biggest benefits of each color to keep you on top of your interests, along with tips on how to start incorporating a rainbow eating mindset into your weekly meals.
Why is it important to eat a rainbow
We’ve heard it since we were kids, “Eat rainbow!” “The more color the better!” But why is that?
The colors we see in our fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods are actually powerful and important nutrients that are present. These are called phytonutrients!
Phytonutrients mainly help us prevent and cure diseases. The best way to determine the phytonutrients we are getting is to use the color of the fruit or vegetables we eat. Meaning, if we always eat red fruits or vegetables, we are only getting the phytonutrients associated with the red color.
So, the more your plate, bowl, or diet looks like a rainbow, the more nutrients we get overall! It’s a simple way to look at my shopping list, grocery cart, and weekly meals to see what I missed?
One of the reasons we encourage you to eat more plant foods is because it makes it easy to incorporate more of these phytonutrients into your meals!
The benefits of each food color
Benefits of red food: Anti-aging properties and improve heart health
Red foods in your diet are great sources of antioxidants. The phytonutrients present are flavonoids or carotenoids.
Each of these phytonutrients has been shown to help prevent sun damage when consumed frequently (x). Less sun damage means fewer signs of aging!
Plus, its antioxidant status means it’s anti-inflammatory, which can help prevent chronic disease and improve heart health as well (x).
Red foods: Red pepper, tomatoes, strawberries, berries, red apples, beets, red lentils, beans, red rice and pomegranate.
Recipes to try:
Food orange benefits: improve eyesight
When you got older, how many times were you asked to eat carrots to improve your eyesight?
This common reference is actually based on science! Orange fruits and vegetables are packed with carotenoids, which have been linked to promoting healthy vision.
Also because of their antioxidant content, they are also known to help prevent some types of cancer and eye diseases (x).
Orange foods: Carrots, orange peppers, zucchini, squash, orange, nectarine, peaches, melon, mango, papaya.
Recipes to try:
Yellow Food Benefits: Cancer prevention, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties
Turmeric has spent its time in the light for several years now, do you ever wonder why? We thank the Curcuminoids for this!
It is the phytonutrient responsible for the bright yellow color found in turmeric as well as all other yellow fruits and vegetables.
Due to their anti-cancer, microbial, and anti-inflammatory properties, these yellow nutrients have been shown to help cure people with Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and even diabetes (x).
Yellow foods: Banana, yellow pepper, summer squash, pumpkin delicata, yellow apple (like delicious golden), lemon, pineapple, corn, turmeric.
Recipes to try:
Benefits of green food: support digestion and prevent disease
Eating more vegetables increases your fiber intake, which supports your digestion on a daily basis. In addition, they can also help reduce the chances of developing many conditions.
Again, antioxidants are abundant here, helping to stave off illness or prevent disease in the first place.
Keep eating greens to help keep cholesterol levels and chances of disease low!
Green foods: Leafy greens, green peppers, broccoli, zucchini, green beans, brussels sprouts, green cabbage, asparagus, green apples, cucumbers.
Recipes to try:
Benefits of Blue and Purple Food: Improved Heart Health and Cancer Prevention
The blue and purple colors that you see in an abundance of plant foods are likely due to the presence of flavonoids.
It has been studied over the years in conjunction with preventing coronary heart disease as well as anti-cancer activity.
By adding more blue and purple nutrients to your diet, you can help improve your heart health and reduce your chances of developing certain types of cancer.
Blue and purple foods: Berries, grapes, black berries, red cabbage, purple carrots, eggplant, purple potatoes, figs, peaches, purple cauliflower, red lettuce, purple peppers, red cabbage, raisins, purple cabbage
Recipes to try:
Benefits of white and brown food: It strengthens the bones and reduces the symptoms of menopause
Lignans phytonutrients are found in many brown / white foodstuffs. Lignans have been shown to help reduce the chances of developing osteoporosis over time.
Not only that, but its antioxidant properties have been shown to help reduce menopausal symptoms as well! (x)
Brown and white foods: Ground flax, lentils, jicama, ginger, garlic, onion, chickpeas, legumes, nuts, seeds
Recipes to try:
5 tips for eating rainbow all week long
Most of us have common foods and meals that we rotate over for weeks and months, so adding variety can seem like a daunting task. However, it is actually much simpler than you might think.
Here are some simple strategies for incorporating more variety without getting overwhelmed.
1. Keep your favorites close at hand
As you go through the list of foods for each color, you will likely be able to pick out some of your favorites from each category. Maybe you already have the ones on hand every week, or maybe you realize that you don’t usually buy your favorite blue and purple foods regularly.
Identify some favorite colors from each color that you can get in the freezer, pantry, and refrigerator so that it is easier for you to think of “What color am I missing today, and what can I add to my palette?”
2. Add a variety to your weekly shopping list
Once you have a few of your favorites stocked, you can then put together a variety from week to week when you are grocery shopping. When you eat rainbows, you want to think that there is a variety between the different colors and also a variety of ingredients in each color as well!
For example, if you usually eat spinach as a base for your salad, you can choose a different green than the previous week, such as watercress, kale, or watercress (or a multi mix!).
Or if you usually add frozen broccoli or beans to dinner, maybe pick up some artichokes or green peppers to change it up.
You can do the same with whatever you buy.
Now, if this stuff isn’t totally fun for you, don’t force it. But if you are in the habit of buying the same staples and also enjoying other options, try this tip!
3. Take advantage of products that come in more than one color
Many fruits and vegetables come in a variety of colors – think red, green, and yellow peppers, orange carrots, purple carrots, red apples, and green apples!
One easy option with some of your preferences is to simply buy the other color option (or better yet buy a combination of options)!
This is a great example. If you like carrots and chickpeas as a snack, you can get a variety of nutrients by eating both purple and orange carrot options or eating orange carrots for a week and the next week eating purple.
What’s great about this advice is that in many cases, it doesn’t drastically alter the flavor profile of whatever you eat. There may be a slight difference, but in general, your favorite recipes or snacks will taste similar while providing variety.
4. Take advantage of the frozen foods section when necessary
Fresh fruits and vegetables are great, but don’t let their short shelf life stop you from reaping the benefits of consuming them!
If you find that you cannot purchase certain fresh fruits or vegetables, head over to the frozen foods section. The nutrition formula is equally good and lasts twice. Just make sure you check out the ingredient list at the back – you only want to see the item of food you’re buying, and nothing else.
5. Make eating rainbows fun for your kids, too!
Colors are a great way to engage young children and make eating well more fun. Our friend and colleague is a registered dietitian and founder Children eat colorJennifer Anderson, an expert at encouraging picky toddlers and young children to eat more fruits and vegetables by making eating rainbows fun and simple for both parents and kids! to her Instagram Full of easy-to-learn lessons!
Making the rainbow eating process and habits fun and enjoyable for the whole family will support your ability to follow this guideline too!