As springtime starts to shift toward summer, we see more greenery, enjoy the lovely flowers that bloom, and begin to grow a wider array of produce. As more fresh food becomes available, it’s the perfect time of year to start thinking about the “eating the rainbow”!
Sometimes we go through phases of feeling less creative with our food, and we don’t always incorporate a variety of color into our diet. Colorful foods, especially richly pigmented plant-based foods, are packed with essential vitamins and minerals. They are rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, so it’s important to make sure you eat an abundance of them.
Let’s go through the different colors of the phytonutrient spectrum and why they are beneficial to eat.
The pigment that makes up red fruits and vegetables is rich in antioxidants that reduce the risk of heart disease and lower the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Red fruits and vegetables also offer cell protection, support liver and hormone health, and offer anti-inflammatory benefits.
Red Foods: Apples, beans, beets, bell peppers, cranberries, cherries, goji berries, grapes, onions, pomegranate, radishes, strawberries, tomato, watermelon
Orange and yellow fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamin A, which is essential for good eyesight, protecting against free radicals, and improving skin health. This group of foods also supports the health of both the nervous and immune system.
Orange Foods: Apricots, bell peppers, carrots, mango, nectarine, orange, papaya, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, turmeric, yams
Yellow Foods: Apple, banana, ginger, lemon, pineapple, starfruit, summer squash
The phytonutrients found in green produce support a number of organs and body systems, including our skin, hormones, brain, and liver. Greens are full of antioxidants, offer anti-inflammatory benefits, and play an important role in the health of our cells.
Green Foods: Apples, artichokes, arugula, asparagus, avocado, bean sprouts, bell peppers, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cucumbers, celery, green beans, peas, lettuce, kale, spinach, limes, okra, olives, pears, watercress, zucchini
Blue and purple fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and essential vitamins and minerals. They support cognitive health, heart health, and liver health. The darkly pigmented hues of these foods are also great for our eyesight.
Foods: Blueberries, blackberries, huckleberries, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, figs, grapes, kale, olives, plums, prunes, raisins
Foods with white or brown pigment have many benefits; however, it’s important to keep in mind that this does not include white or brown foods which have been processed. Beneficial foods with this pigmentation offer support for our GI tract and hormone function, as well as our heart and liver. These foods are often anti-microbial as well!
White/Brown Foods: Cauliflower, coconut, dates, garlic, legumes, mushrooms, nuts, onions, sauerkraut, seeds, shallots, tahini, whole grains
Options are endless, so be creative when you are choosing which foods to eat. If you want to pack more phytonutrients into your daily diet, pick a few of these colorful foods and incorporate them into every meal. Your body will thank you for it!
Rainbow Power Salad
When I make this salad, I typically eyeball the amount of each ingredient – so don’t be afraid to freestyle this one!
- ½ Mango; cut in small pieces
- 2 Tbsp red onion; thinly sliced
- ¼ Cup cucumber
- Handful of pecans
- Handful of basil leaves
- Handful of blueberries
- ¼ Cup olive oil
- Dash of balsamic vinaigrette
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of pepper
Dressing: Add ingredients in a blender or food processor. Blend until thoroughly combined.
Salad: Chop up all of your toppings (mango, red onion, cucumber) and set aside. Thoroughly wash your spinach and arugula and place in a large bowl. Add your chopped ingredients and dressing. Toss salad until dressing is mixed to your liking and sprinkle pecans over salad.
If you are using the optional ingredients, incorporate your avocado with the rest of the toppings and sprinkle feta over top before serving!
CHN, Papillon Medical