Eat the rainbow; it’s one of the first things I recommend when someone sees me in my clinic and one of the most common health tips you’ll probably ever read.
But before you ask, no, I’m not referring to skittles, M&M’s, or fruit loops (nice try, though).
What I’m talking about is eating an abundance of fruit and vegetables made of various colours.
The number one reason I’ll tell you to eat colourfully is that it’ll make your food pictures pop.
Just kidding (kind of).
My second reason is that it’s likely that you’re currently not consuming enough fruit and vegetables. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 96% of Australian’s don’t eat enough vegetables!1 While most of us know that vegetables are crucial for a healthy digestive system, they’re also associated with a reduced risk of developing diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. So, focusing on increasing the colours on your plate will inevitably help you eat more fruit and veg. You’re welcome.
The other reason to start eating more colours is that each colour offers a different health benefit. For example, blue fruits may help protect against heart disease, and orange vegetables are vital for eye health.
If you want the specifics (I know you do), read what each colour offers and where to get more of it below.
The deep blues, purples and reds of eggplant and blueberries are brought to you by anthocyanins – a supercharged antioxidant. Anthocyanins are excellent for protecting cells against damage, promoting a healthy heart and sharp memory, and reducing overall bodily inflammation.2
You can increase your blue and purple intake through:
BTW you seriously have to try this roasted fig, walnut and goat’s cheese salad.
Carotenoids give our orange and yellow fruit and vegetables their vibrant colour. A well-known carotenoid, called beta-carotene, promotes healthy eyes, supports immune function and is crucial for strong joints and bones. My favourite benefit of beta-carotene is that it protects the skin from sun damage and pollution.3 I know – what can’t it do? You can read more about my love for beta-carotene here.
To increase your orange and yellow foods, include the below in your diet.
- Sweet potato
Get the recipe for these sweet lemon thyme roasted carrots here.
While all colours offer different health benefits, green vegetables are (not so secretly) my favourite. Green vegetables contain a range of phytochemicals that protect the body from damage, restore vitality, aid tissue healing and provide digestive enzymes. Plus, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and broccoli offer an excellent folate source – a nutrient vital for pregnant women to prevent congenital disabilities.
I also love green broccoli and Brussels sprouts because they’re part of the cruciferous vegetable family, enhancing immune function and assisting liver detoxification.4
Get your greens here:
- Bok choy
- Brussel sprouts
- Collard greens
- Green beans
- Green cabbage
- Kiwi fruit
- Mustard greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Sugar snap peas
Swap out your noodles for zoodles (zucchini noodles) in my chocolate chilli beef zoodles here.
Red & Pink
Ever wondered what makes that red tomato of yours so red? It’s because of a natural plant pigment called lycopene. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant that’s great for the heart, improves the skin’s appearance and quality, and supports healthy eyes. Some research indicates that lycopene may even protect against certain cancers.5
Increase your red and pink fruit and vegetables through the following:
My strawberry and chia roll-ups are delicious for kids and adult-like kids.
I know what you’re thinking – Lee, what are you doing? White isn’t a colour!
I know that technically white is a shade and not a colour, but I wasn’t going to call this blog – how to eat more colours and shades of white, was I? So, do me a favour and play along for a second 😉
White fruit and veggies support bone health, lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation and help balance hormones. These guys also contain phytochemicals such as allicin, found in garlic, which has strong antiviral and antibacterial properties.6 They’re worth including in the rainbow conversation.
Increase your white foods through:
My go-to immune booster is this thick and creamy garlic bisque.
So, how can you start to eat more colour?
An excellent way to track your colours is by creating a daily rainbow calendar, where you can tick off when you’ve eaten a specific colour. While this idea is excellent for kids and parents, anyone could find it beneficial. If you prefer, keep it in the notes section of your phone.
Make a tropical rainbow fruit salad at the beginning of the day to serve up at snack time. You may like to include red apples, green kiwi fruits, yellow bananas, blue blueberries and orange mango.
Do you love stir fry? Well, next time you’re making one, diversify it by including carrots, broccoli and red onion.
Make a nourish bowl with deliciously nourishing colours, grains, nuts, and seeds, like my vegan roasted sweet potato with basil pesto and chopped salad.
This colourful lunch idea is so delicious! It's my brand new Antioxidant-rich salad.
Place the following in a large baking dish
- 2 carrots sliced into batons with 1 tbs maple syrup
- 1/2 butternut pumpkin chopped into cubes with 1/2 tsp cumin and coriander, a sprinkle of sesame seeds
- 1 zucchini roughly chopped with 1/2 tsp lemongrass and ginger and one tbs tamari
- Drizzle olive oil on top of all of the veg and season to taste
- Bake vegetables in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 25 mins
Whilst the carrot, pumpkin and zucchini is cooking make up the salad with handfuls of Cos lettuce, rocket, or any salad greens you have
- Add two radishes sliced
- Add 1/2 cucumber sliced
- Drizzle with your oil of choice, I used Sacha inchi oil mixed with my Golden Gut Blend
I’d love to know - how are you going to include more colour into your diet?
Let me know in the comments below.
1Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2018
2Khoo, H. E., Azlan, A., Tang, S. T., & Lim, S. M. (2017). Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: coloured pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Food & nutrition research, 61(1), 1361779. https://doi.org/10.1080/16546628.2017.1361779
3Schagen, S. K., Zampeli, V. A., Makrantonaki, E., & Zouboulis, C. C. (2012). Discovering the link between nutrition and skin aging. Dermato-endocrinology, 4(3), 298–307. https://doi.org/10.4161/derm.22876
4Guan, Y. S., & He, Q. (2015). Plants Consumption and Liver Health. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2015, 824185. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/824185
5Story, E. N., Kopec, R. E., Schwartz, S. J., & Harris, G. K. (2010). An update on the health effects of tomato lycopene. Annual review of food science and technology, 1, 189–210. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.food.102308.124120
6Bayan, L., Koulivand, P. H., & Gorji, A. (2014). Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, 4(1), 1–14.