The idea of a rainbow diet is to include as many colors of fruits and vegetables as possible in your diet each day. The different colors of produce contain different beneficial plant chemicals, or phytochemicals, that may improve your health. Making your plate more colorful at each meal helps you maximize your nutrient intake, and eating more fruits and vegetables can help lower your risk for health problems such as type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Yay for Yellow and Orange
Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables usually get their color from carotenoids, including beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Citrus fruits are an exception, but these fruits provide vitamin C, which helps your skin stay healthy, and folate, which helps limit the risk of certain types of birth defects. Carotenoids may help lower your risk for heart disease, cancer and an eye condition called age-related macular degeneration. Add chopped apricots to oatmeal, or have an orange or a grapefruit as part of your breakfast. Include carrots, mangoes, yellow or orange bell peppers or yellow tomatoes in a salad at lunch, or serve sweet corn or yellow squash as a side at dinner to include more of these nutritious vegetables in your rainbow diet.
Rooting for Red
Eating more red fruits and vegetables may help lower your risk for heart disease and cancer and improve the health of your urinary tract and memory, according to Clemson University Extension. Lycopene, which gives tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon their color, may be responsible for some of these benefits. Red berries get their color from substances called anthocyanins, which act as antioxidants and help prevent cell damage. Snack on red grapes, watermelon or apples; use raspberries, strawberries, red grapes, beets, pomegranate seeds and radishes in salads; or top whole-wheat pasta with a nutrient-rich tomato sauce to add more red to your diet.
Benefits of Blue and Purple
Produce that is blue or purple will give you additional anthocyanins in your diet, and they may help improve your memory and lower your risk for heart disease, stroke and cancer, according to North Dakota State University Extension. Add blueberries, blackberries or chopped plums to yogurt, or include raisins, figs or prunes in your favorite trail mix for a dose of purple or blue in your daily diet. Baked or roasted eggplant is another way to get more anthocyanins in your diet. Just be sure to choose the purple type, and leave the skin on because that is where the anthocyanins are concentrated.
Go for Green
Green fruits and vegetables get their color from chlorophyll, which may help lower cancer and diabetes risk, according to a "Daily Express" article published in May 2012. Some of these fruits and vegetables also contain lutein and zeaxanthin to improve your eye health, and the digestion process breaks down substances in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and kale, to form beneficial compounds called indoles that may help lower your cancer risk. Include kiwi, honeydew melon, green grapes, green apples or avocado the next time you make a fruit salad; serve broccoli, green beans, artichokes or asparagus as a dinner side; or add spinach or kale the next time you make a smoothie.
- North Dakota State University Extension: What Color Is Your Food?
- Express: How to Follow a Rainbow Diet
- University of Kentucky Extension: The Edible Rainbow
- Clemson University Cooperative Extension: Antioxidants
- The New York Times: The Misunderstood Eggplant
- National Cancer Institute: Cruciferous Vegetables and Cancer Prevention
- Photo Credit 578foot/iStock/Getty Images
A List of Black-Colored Foods
Nutritionists and dietitians often advise people to include foods in the diet that are the color of a rainbow. This is due...