Eat The Rainbow--of Veggies and Fruits That Is!Sep 19, 2021
From a young age we’ve been told “eat your veggies” and that’s even more important as we age. Why is that?
Many of us are used to paying attention to the macro-nutrients we eat--protein, fat and carbs (especially the starchy ones)--but did you know that the micro-nutrients we get from fruits and veggies are just as critical for healthy bodies? In fact there are hundreds of different phytonutrients that keep our bodies healthy and running efficiently.
How can we ever make sure we eat all the different ones? It’s easy! Eat the rainbow--as the colour of each food that you eat is a big clue about what nutrients it contains.
Eat the rainbow and you will get the variety of micro-nutrients you need!
Adding colour to your meals will help you live a longer, healthier life, since fruits and vegetables contain phytonutrients, such as carotenoids and flavonoids, compounds that give plants their rich colours as well as their distinctive tastes and aromas.
Phytonutrients also strengthen a plant’s immune system. They protect the plant from threats in their natural environment--and this means they can pass this protection on to you. And they help your body’s natural detoxification systems.
When we eat plant foods, their phytonutrients protect us from chronic diseases. Phytonutrients have potent anti-cancer and anti-heart disease effects. And epidemiological research suggests that food patterns that include fruits and vegetables are associated with a reduced risk of many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, and may be protective against certain types of cancers.
To get started, try to include as many plant-based colours in your meals and snacks as possible. Each colour provides various health benefits and no one colour is superior to another, which is why a balance of all colours is most important.
Getting the most phytonutrients also means eating the colourful skins, the richest sources of the phytonutrients, along with the paler flesh. Try to avoid peeling foods like apples, peaches and eggplant, lest you lose their most concentrated source of beneficial chemicals. But be sure to wash them first!
To optimize your health, it’s also important to eat fresh foods of various colours every day.
Aim for 1-2 servings of each different colour every day, the darker the better.
Support the Immune System and Survival. They help reduce cancer risk, and enhance brain and heart health. This is because they contain compounds like Vitamin C, anthocyanidins and lycopene, which is a potent scavenger of gene-damaging free radicals that seems to protect against prostate cancer as well as diabetes and heart disease.
Found in: strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cherries, apples, beets, watermelon, red grapes, red peppers, red onions
Help boost your immune system and optimize eye and skin health. This is because they contain compounds like beta-carotene and curcuminoids. They support healthy reproduction and fertility as they may help lower the risk of reproductive issues like endometriosis. Orange and yellow foods provide beta cryptothanxin, which supports intracellular communication and may help prevent heart disease.
Found in: carrots, sweet potatoes, oranges, tangerines, mango, pumpkin, apricots, peaches, orange bell peppers, cantaloupe, turmeric
Are anti-inflammatory and promote eye, skin, brain, heart and digestive health. This is because they contain compounds like lutein and zeaxanthin. Eating acidic, warming yellow foods, like lemons, ginger, and grapefruit, can help us burn brightly and rev our metabolisms. Orange and yellow foods provide beta cryptothanxin, which supports intracellular communication and may help prevent heart disease.
Found in: apples, pears, yellow bell peppers, bananas, pineapple, winter squash (butternut, acorn, delicata), corn, chickpeas, ginger, lemons, mustard, quinoa, yellow onions
Are anti-inflammatory, support your liver, and are vital for brain and heart health. This is because they contain compounds like chlorophyll and isoflavones. These foods are rich in cancer-blocking chemicals like sulforaphane, isocyanate, and indoles. Leafy greens are rich in nutrients such as folate, vitamin K, and naturally-occurring nitrates that make them healing and expansive for the heart and blood vessels. And they help detoxify the body, and restore energy and vitality.
Found in: spinach, avocados, asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, green bell peppers, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kiwi fruit, collard greens, green tea, green herbs (mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil), cucumbers, edamame, leafy greens, limes, and zucchini
Blue and Purple Foods
Have powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins believed to delay cellular aging and help the heart by blocking the formation of blood clots. They are anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and are good for the brain and help encourage a calming mood. This is because they contain compounds like resveratrol. Blue-green foods like algae, sea plants, and even spirulina contain minerals such as iodine and selenium, which nourish and support the function of the thyroid gland.
Found in: blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, Concord grapes, raisins, eggplant, plums, figs, prunes, lavender, purple cabbage, purple cauliflower
When it comes to phytonutrients, the rule of thumb is the darker the plant food = the more nutrient dense.
White and Tan Foods
Are the exception! These plants are anti-inflammatory, keep bones strong, plus they support a healthy liver, and optimize hormone health. This is because they contain compounds like allicin and tannins. There are also specific white-coloured foods, like garlic, coconut, sauerkraut, and cauliflower, that can help with cleansing through their antimicrobial or detoxifying effects.
Found in: apples, onions, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, leeks, parsnips, daikon radish, mushrooms, coconut, dates, flax seeds, hemps seeds, tahini, sesame seeds
Reach for the Rainbow
- Serving size: 1/2 cup of chopped raw vegetables or fruit makes one serving. For Leafy Greens, 1 cup counts as a serving.
- Start with two servings in the morning (have salad for breakfast!), two or three for lunch and dinner, plus 1 or 2 for snacks throughout the day. This will quickly add up to 7 - 10 servings per day!
- Note - if having snacks, make sure to add fat or protein to fruits or veggies to balance your blood sugar!
- Frozen produce is okay too! It is best to eat in season, but since seasonal produce may be limited, frozen fruits and vegetables count and are just as nutritious as fresh, and make for simple smoothie making.
- When you’re writing your grocery list, make it a point to add 1-2 new plant foods each week.
- Take the time to chop a few varieties of veggies in the beginning of the week, and store in the fridge for snacks and quick meal prep. This makes it easy to grab a handful or two when you're in a rush.
Recipe: Make Ahead Salads Jars
~ makes 4 servings
- 6 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3 tbsp Lemon Juice
- 2 tsp Dijon Mustard
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/3 tsp Sea Salt
- 2/3 cup Radishes (sliced)
- 2 medium Carrots (shredded)
- 1 cup Corn Kernels (lightly steamed)
- 1 cup Bell Pepper (chopped)
- 1 cup Purple Cabbage (sliced)
- 4 - 6 cups Spring Lettuce Mix
- 1 cup Sprouts
- Whisk together the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic powder and sea salt. -Divide into the bottom of 4 mason jars.
- Divide all of the vegetables, layering into the mason jars, greens and sprouts on top. Seal with a lid.
- When ready to eat, shake well and dump into a bowl.
- Serve & enjoy!
- Add the protein of your choice to make it a full meal.
- Swap out any veggie or grain for other choices to add variety or to suit your taste
- Refrigerate in the mason jar for up to three days.
For more info on this and other natural health topics:
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