The majority of people know that eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day is very important. We’d like to challenge you to eat a large variety of fruits and vegetables, of different colors, to get the best all-around health benefits. Each different color fruit and vegetable contains unique health components. Check it out!
Fruits and vegetables are very important to our health because they are whole foods, created by nature, that are rich in large amounts of nutrients. The processed foods that we so commonly eat can never compare to the health benefits provided by strawberries or broccoli. Let’s face it, whole foods are rich in fiber, vitamins and have beneficial enzymes built right in. Eating plenty of healthy vegetables and fruits helps lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, diverticulitis, can prevent cancers, and can guard against cataract and macular degeneration or vision loss.
The phrase “eating a rainbow” of fruits and vegetables is a simple way of remembering to get as much color variety in your diet as possible. This way, you can maximize your intake of a broad range of nutrients. The colors of fruits and vegetables are a small clue as to what vitamins and nutrients are included. By getting a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables, you are guaranteed a diverse amount of essential vitamins and minerals.
Red Fruits and Vegetables
Contain nutrients such as lycopene, ellagic acid, quercetin, and hesperidin, to name a few. These nutrients reduce the risk of prostate cancer, lower blood pressure, reduce tumor growth and LDL cholesterol levels, scavenge harmful free-radicals, and support joint tissue in arthritis cases (with the exception of tomatoes and red peppers).
Orange and Yellow Fruits and Vegetables
Contain beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, and vitamin C. These nutrients reduce age-related macular degeneration and the risk of prostate cancer, lower LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure, promote collagen formation and healthy joints, fight harmful free radicals, encourage alkaline balance, and work with magnesium and calcium to build healthy bones.
Green Vegetables and Fruit
Green vegetables contain chlorophyll, fiber, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium, folate, vitamin C, calcium, and beta-carotene. The nutrients found in these vegetables reduce cancer risks, lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, normalize digestion time, support retinal health and vision, fight harmful free-radicals, and boost immune system activity.
Blue and Purple Fruits and Vegetables
Contain nutrients which include lutein, zeaxanthin, resveratrol, vitamin C, fiber, flavonoids, ellagic acid, and quercetin. Similar to the previous nutrients, these nutrients support retinal health, lower LDL cholesterol, boost immune system activity, support healthy digestion, improve calcium and other mineral absorption, fight inflammation, reduce tumor growth, act as an anticarcinogen in the digestive tract, and limit the activity of cancer cells.
White Fruits and Vegetables
Contain nutrients such as beta-glucans and lignans that provide powerful immune boosting activity. These nutrients also activate natural killer B and T cells, reduce the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers, and balance hormone levels, reducing the risk of hormone-related cancers.
Color Chart: Vegetables and Fruit
Sugar snap peas
Red chili peppers
Yellow winter squash
Purple Belgian endive
Let’s take a closer look at the nutrients themselves, how they benefit us and where we can find them in our diet:
Quercetin, which is found in apples, onions and other citrus fruits, not only prevents LDL cholesterol oxidation but also helps the body cope with allergens and other lung and breathing problems.
Ellagic acid, which is mainly found in raspberries, strawberries, pomegranates, and walnuts, has been proven in many clinical studies to act as an antioxidant and anticarcinogens in the gastrointestinal tract. This nutrient also has been proven to have an anti-proliferative effect on cancer cells, because it decreases their ATP production.
The best-known of the carotenoids, beta-carotene, is converted into vitamin A upon entering the liver. Although being known for its positive effects on eyesight, it has also been proven to decrease cholesterol levels in the liver. You can find beta-carotene in sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, orange peppers and most yellow-orange foods. There are also significant levels in broccoli, spinach, and other greens.
Clinical studies have proven that lycopene, mainly found in tomatoes, may decrease the risk of prostate cancer, as well as protect against heart disease. Lutein, which is found in blueberries and members of the squash family, is important for healthy eyes. However, it does support your heart too, helping to prevent coronary artery disease.
Along with the above-stated nutrients, there are even more nutrients found in fruits and vegetables that provide a great deal of support to our body. Almost everyone has heard of vitamin C, which keeps our immune system strong; speeds wound healing, and promote strong muscles and joints. This nutrient is scattered throughout the spectrum of fruits but commonly associated with oranges and other citrus fruits.
Potassium, which is the nutrient most Americans are deficient in, does great things for our hearts and lowers blood pressure. We tend to relate potassium to bananas but it can also be found in high levels in sweet potatoes, watermelon, edamame and different squashes.
Flavonoids, which include anthocyanins, flavones, isoflavones, proanthocyanidins, quercetin and more, are found almost everywhere. They are responsible for the colors in the skins of fruits and vegetables and help to stop the growth of tumor cells and are potent antioxidants. They can reduce inflammation.
Beta-glucan, found in mushrooms, stabilizes and balances the body’s immune system by supporting white blood cells.
Bioflavonoids, which are found in citrus fruits, are considered a companion to vitamin C because they extend the value of it in the body. These nutrients have the capabilities to lower cholesterol levels and support joint collagen in arthritis cases.
As you can see, the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the more nutrition and disease-fighting you will be giving your body. Aim to eat a variety of colors when planning your intake of these fresh foods. You can set up a system to remind yourself of which foods to eat. We challenge you to eat two portions from each color DAILY.
Here are some fun ways to keep track of your fruit and vegetable intake:
1 – Color the rainbow. Find some coloring pencils or if you have children, get them to color code your shopping list. Create a daily color chart so you can tick off which colors you have eaten each day. Your goal is to eat a whole rainbow daily.
2 – Drink the rainbow. Someone who is not able to eat all of these servings of fruits and vegetables each day can also drink fruit and vegetable drinks in their place. Although this shouldn’t become a habit, fruit and vegetable drink mixes and smoothies can be an excellent substitute when you’re rushed or traveling. Smoothies are also a way to pack in multiple servings and colors in one meal.
3 – Plate the rainbow. Fill at least half of your plate with a beautiful array of vegetables at every meal. Keep fruits to just one ½ cup portion per meal and watch how quickly you can tick off your rainbow colors. Plus, the colorful display on your plate will make your meal more appealing. Which, in turn, helps with digestion.
4 – Freeze the rainbow. If you have too much fruit or vegetables on the go, freeze them in bags to use for smoothies or soups at a later stage. Kale, cabbage, carrots and spinach, chopped onions, garlic and ginger, fresh herbs, berries, mango slices, melon cubes, lemon and lime wedges…. Anything can be useful when you’re preparing healthy meals.
Food is so much more than nutrition. It is our earliest, deepest relationship. It is how we survive and achieve optimal nourishment. Eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables does require kitchen time. Perhaps the knowledge that you are creating health for yourself and your loved ones will make creating rainbow meals fun and joyful. It doesn’t have to be gourmet but if it’s made from scratch, it’s one of the most powerful things you can do for your health.
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