Lucy Wyndham-Read

Eating the Rainbow!

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Eating the Rainbow!

Eating the Rainbow a term often used in reference to Healthy Eating – but what does it actually mean and what are the benefits of “Eating the Rainbow”? After you’ve read this post, you will know!

Our bodies benefit from us eating an array of different foods: fruits, vegetables, protein and carbohydrates. To help encourage us all to eat more fruit and vegetables, we are advised to eat at least five portions of these each day. As we all know fruit and vegetable come in a variety of colours, with the colours coming from different pigments (or to use a more technical term phytonutrients), these pigments are linked to specific nutrients and it is these nutrients which can also have a variety of health benefits. Therefore, by making sure that our meals have some colour in them (“Eating the Rainbow”) we give our body a variety of vitamins, minerals and nutrients and therefore maximise any benefits that they can provide to our health.

The potential health benefits associated with eating fruits & vegetables are that they:
• have anti-inflammatory properties
• contain antioxidants.

Detailed below are the various colour groups and the benefits they may have. I have listed some of the fruits and vegetables that can be found in each group (the lists are not exhaustive!).

The Red Group

Fruits and Vegetables in the Red group include:

  • tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce
  • watermelon
  • red apples
  • pink guava
  • pink grapefruit
  • red peppers
  • strawberries
  • radishes

The main nutrient associated with food in most of this group is lycopene (all except strawberries). The main vitamins and minerals are folate, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin K1.

Some research suggests that foods in this group may also benefit heart health, reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, and may lower your risk of certain cancers.

The Orange/Yellow Group

Fruits and Vegetables in the Orange/Yellow group include:

  • carrots
  • sweet potatoes
  • yellow and orange peppers
  • bananas, mangos & pineapple
  • oranges, tangerines, lemons & apricots
  • pumpkin
  • winter squash
  • corn

The main nutrient associated with food in this group is carotenoids, (e.g., beta carotene, alpha carotene, beta cryptoxanthin, which each belong to the vitamin A family), whilst the main vitamins and minerals are folate, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C. These foods are a good source of fibre.

It is also thought that the foods in this group may benefit heart health, support eye health and may lower your risk of certain cancers, with those high in vitamin C aiding the absorption of iron, wound healing and the development and maintenance of connective tissue.

The Green Group

Fruits and Vegetables in the Green group include:

  • spinach & kale
  • broccoli & asparagus
  • lettuce, avocados & celery,
  • peas, bok choi &green peppers
  • green cabbage & brussels sprouts
  • kiwi
  • watercress & green herbs

The main nutrients associated with food in this group are:
– for Leafy greens: chlorophyll and carotenoids and
– for Cruciferous greens (e.g., broccoli, cabbage): indoles, isothiocyanates, glucosinolates.

The main vitamins and minerals are folate, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin K1. These foods are a good source of fibre.

It is also thought that the cruciferous vegetables, may lower your risk of certain cancers and heart disease.

The Purple Group

Fruits and Vegetables in the Blue & Purple group include:

  • blueberries
  • blackberries
  • black grapes
  • red/purple cabbage
  • aubergine (eggplant)
  • plums, dates & currants
  • elderberries

The main nutrient associated with food in this group is anthocyanins. The main vitamins and minerals are potassium, manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin K1. These foods are a good source of fibre.

It is thought that fruits and vegetables in this group may benefit your heart health, improve brain function, and lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and your risk of certain cancers.

The Dark Red Group

Fruits & Vegetables in the Dark Red group include:

  • beets
  • prickly pears

The main nutrient associated with food in this group is betalains, whilst the main vitamins and minerals are folate, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and vitamin B6. These foods are a good source of fibre.

It is also thought that fruits and vegetables in this group, may benefit your heart health, support athletic performance through increased oxygen uptake and lower your risk of high blood pressure and your risk of certain cancers.

The White/Brown Group

Fruits & Vegetables in the White & Brown group include:

  • cauliflower
  • garlic
  • leeks
  • onions
  • mushrooms
  • parsnips
  • white potatoes

The main nutrients associated with food in this group are anthoxanthins (flavanols, flavones) and allicin. The main vitamins and minerals are folate, potassium, magnesium, manganese, vitamin B6 and vitamin K1. These foods are a good source of fibre.

It is thought that fruits and vegetables in this group, may benefit your heart health, and lower your risk of colon and other cancers.

Top Tips to help you “Eat the Rainbow”

The great thing about eating the rainbow is it’s easy to implement and if your plate of food looks attractive you are more likely to enjoy it! Eating and enjoying a meal is as much about how attractive it looks as it is about the taste and texture.

You don’t have to eat every colour every day but try to include at least two or three different coloured fruits or vegetables in every meal and at least one in any snacks.

Here are some of my suggestions to help you

“Eat the Rainbow”

  • Shopping – when you are doing your shopping, include a variety of different coloured fruit and vegetables, maybe try something new each week by choosing at least one different item to go with your favourites.
  • Add fruit or vegetables to your favourite dishes for example:
  • peppers, olives or even pineapple to your favourite pizza
  • strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, apricots to your breakfast bowl of yogurt or porridge
  • add grated carrots, courgettes, cauliflower, peppers, and tinned tomatoes into a blender and make a pasta sauce
  • make a colourful salad (lettuce, cucumber, tomato, grated carrot, peppers, beetroot, raw mushrooms) to go with your chosen protein
  • spinach, peppers, mushrooms, onions to your usual omelette
  • add additional vegetables into your chilli, Bolognese, curry, or casserole/stew
  • add different colour peppers, onions, courgettes, mushrooms to a skewer and make a vegetable kebab to go with your chosen protein
  • add peanut butter to slice of apple for a snack
  • chose a favourite dip (humus) and have some mushrooms, carrots, peppers, or broccoli to dip
  • make a smoothie out of a selection of your favourite fruits and some natural yoghurt.
  • celery and apple with cheese for a snack

The options are endless and if you are unable to get a wide variety of fresh produce all year round, then look at using frozen fruits and vegetables in a few of your meals.

Remember, it’s important we include a variety of fruits and vegetables in our diet but don’t forget that it’s also very important to include protein and carbohydrates. Keep a watchful eye on your portion size to ensure you don’t overeat and of course stay hydrated!