A big thank you to Danielle from Simple and Tasty Nutrition for her guest post today!
Although I have been a Registered Dietitian for over 10 years I feel as though my diet has room for improvement. There are many different and conflicting so-called healthy diets. One constant though is to eat your vegetables and sometimes to a lesser extent fruit. I have tried various methods over the years to increase my vegetable and fruit intake; planning meals around vegetables, making them accessible on the counter etc. However my latest experiment to eat the colors of the rainbow everyday appears to be my most successful, boosting my intake to the recommended 8 servings per day. (A serving is generally 1/2 cup and with raw greens 1 cup)
So what is the benefit of eating different colored vegetables and fruits? There is a multitude of naturally occurring organic compounds in plant foods known as phytochemicals. A subset of these phytochemicals are antioxidants that play an important role in protecting our body from oxidative stress, which can contribute to heart disease, cancer, degenerative eye disease and dementia. The individual chemical structures of antioxidants are what give these plant-based foods their colors. For instance lycopene, an antioxidant in tomatoes and watermelon reflects the color red and beta-carotene provides carrots with their orange color. Rather than remembering their complicated names and combinations, eat a variety of colors and you're covered.
Below is an incomplete list of the colors and foods associated with them.
Red: beets, red onions, red potatoes, tomatoes, radicchio, radishes, red bell peppers, pink or red grapefruit, blood oranges, rhubarb, strawberries, cherries, red plums, raspberries, watermelon, red apples, cranberries, red grapes, red pears, pomegranates, red chili pepper
Orange: carrots, sweet potatoes, orange bell peppers, orange squash (butternut, acorn), mango, navel and mandarin oranges, papayas, apricots, canteloupe (orange melons), nectarines, peaches, pumpkins
Yellow: yellow bell peppers, corn, yellow squash (spaghetti), yellow tomatoes, golden beets, rutabagas, grapefruit, lemons, pineapples, yellow apples, yellow pears
Green: artichokes, asparagus, green bell peppers, endive, green beans, lettuce, peas, spinach, watercress, arugula, cucumbers, okra, zucchini, bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe, brussel sprouts, green cabbage, endive, kale, leeks, swiss chard, celery, kiwi, limes, green pears, avocados, green grapes, honeydew melon, green chilies, parsley, cilantro, other green herbs
Blue: blueberries, blue plums, blue grapes
Purple: eggplant, purple-tipped Belgian endive, purple cabbage, purple carrots, prunes, black currants, figs, plums, figs, grapes, raisins, blackberries, dates
White/Tan: cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, jicama, parsnips, potatoes, shallots, turnips, white corn, kohlrabi, garlic, ginger, bananas
How about you? Have you ever tried eating 4-5 different colored vegetables or fruit in a day? Do you have a strategy that helps you eat your 8-10 servings of vegetables and fruit a day?