"Eat the rainbow" is a pretty standard healthy eating tip; a common mantra shared among those dedicated to prioritizing their nutrition as an avenue to overall wellness.
Have you ever wondered why?
Why is it important to get a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet? Why do fruits and veggies even come in so many different colors, anyway? What does it all meeeeeeean?
More than a catchy hashtag, #eattherainbow stems from the fact that the variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables all have enormous functional healing powers.
Eating a variety of colorful foods can be an easy (and fun) way to get the complete range of vitamins and minerals your body needs to thrive, and while “eat the rainbow” is commonly shared as a popular parenting technique, adults need diversity in their diets just as much as kids do. :)
The truth is that our bodies benefit from variety, in our workouts and in our food. To hit that optimal note of health and wellness, we need a composite of nutrients, which incidentally comes from ingesting a rainbow of colors.
Each color that fruits and vegetables come in is caused by specific phytonutrients, which are natural chemicals that help protect plants from threats like germs, bugs, and the sun’s harmful effects. Moreover, each color indicates an abundance of particular nutrients.
As I was researching this topic, I came across a 2009 phytonutrients report based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. One of the things I learned is that 8 out of 10 people in the US are falling short in virtually every color category of phytonutrients.
WHAT THE WHAT?!
That's a whole lot of people missing a whole lot of basic nutrition!
Fortunately, it's pretty simple to keep yourself out of those statistics and off that list. You just need a commitment to your health, a willingness to be proactive about it, and some information to go forth and be proactive WITH - when you know better, you do better.
A health coach can collaborate with you on commitment and motivation if need be, and I have some knowledge to share right here that might come in handy on your next trip to the grocery store...
Red Fruits and Vegetables help fight cancer...reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease...improve skin quality, and more.
Packed with a carotenoid called lycopene, red foods can protect our skin and our eyes, as well as reduce risks of certain kinds of cancer - always a welcome layer of wellness protection, amirite?
Deeper red colors typically mean that phytonutrients (like antioxidants, minerals and vitamins) are abundant, and this is a good thing because these nutrients have also been shown to fight chronic illnesses, strengthen the immune system, and bolster us against the unfortunate effects of secondhand tobacco smoke.
Did you know that, among other things, Orange and Yellow Fruits and Vegetables improve immune function...reduce the risk of heart disease...and promote eye health?
Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamin C and carotenoids, including beta-carotene. Some carotenoids, like beta-carotene, convert to vitamin A within the body, which helps support healthy vision and cell growth.
Citrus fruits also contain a unique phytonutrient called hesperidin, which helps to increase blood flow. I've heard it suggested that if you tend to get cold hands and feet, eating an orange a day may help keep your hands and feet warm. Have you heard that? I haven't tried it, but I DO suffer regularly from chilly fingers and toes, so maybe I'll give it a whirl. In any case, consuming citrus may also reduce your risk of stroke, so the reasons just keep piling up for this color group!
And let's not forget how Green Fruits and Vegetables boost the Immune System...help detoxify the body...restore energy and vitality...support clear skin, strong nails, and shiny hair, and so much more!
Simply put, Green Foods are one of healthiest foods we can eat. They contain loads of micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all of which assist with important bodily functions like digestion, helping to decrease joint pain that comes from inflammation, promoting clear, healthy skin, and providing an increase in both energy and mood stability.
Fortunately, "getting your Greens" translates to a lot more than just eating truckloads of lettuce. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
Fun fact: Blue and Purple Fruits and Vegetables fight cancer and unwanted inflammation ...enhance the immune system...and help perpetuate our youthful glow
Blue and purple fruits and vegetables have been studied extensively for their anti-cancer and (what the beauty industry likes to promote as) "anti-aging" properties.
(Juuuust a quick side train of thought while I have you here: there's actually no such thing as anti-aging, we all know this, yes? We're all aging. Aging is what happens when time passes, and quite frankly, its a gift. I'm not saying you need to stop caring for your skin; quite the contrary - caring for all your body's parts and pieces are acts of self-love, self-respect, and self-care. But to actively and endlessly obsess over the "age" of your skin is not. Just making sure we are all chewing on similar thought fodder.)
In any case, there are studies that show that berries work to repair damage from oxidative stress and inflammation with the bioactive phytochemicals in them, and that is good news for clear, smooth skin lovers. :)
Blues and Purples also lower cholesterol, support eye health, promote health digestion, improve the body's ability to absorb calcium and other nutrients, and even more.
I actually have two challenges to offer you, Option A and Option B, and I'm leaving it up to you to decide how to go about it.
You can choose:
It's entirely up to you.
Challenge Option A: Try a New-to-You Food from 2-4 Color Groups
Use the lists I posted above for reference, or do a little googling of your own (i.e. "red fruits and vegetables") to check out your options, then expand your #EatTheRainbow repertoire by trying one food from at least 2 of the color groups this week.
Learn about various methods to cook or consume your choices, and take multiple opportunities to try it in different ways on different days. They say it can take up to seven exposures to incorporate a new food into your palette of preference, so keep at it - you just never know what you'll discover about yourself, or when.
Challenge Option B: Make Your Meals as Colorful as Possible
Every time you build a meal this week, look for ways to include as many colors as possible on your plate - the more of a rainbow you have in front of you when you sit down to eat, the better your odds of conquering this challenge!
The goal is to eat something from every color group, every day.
Get creative! Try adding berries and seeds to your oatmeal in the morning, or spinach, purple cabbage, and tomatoes to your scrambled eggs. Strive for a kaleidoscope of color in your salads or on your pizza. Experiment with ingredients to create the most vibrant smoothies you can.
No matter which option you go for, the point is to add more color to your life and learn a little something about yourself along the way. I'm a big believer in the value of that, and I wish it sincerely for you!
So. Up for the challenge?
I'm interested in knowing if you're interested in sharing! xo