By Susan Epstein, MS, RD, CDN
To help educate people on the importance of including a variety of fruits and vegetables in their diets, Heath and Wellness professionals use the phrase “Eat The Rainbow”. Let’s examine why it is important to include a variety of colors in your diet.
- Red: Fruits and vegetables with the red color contain multiple nutrients and antioxidants. One of these antioxidants is Lycopene. Lycopene may help fight infections and protect against certain cancers. Examples of foods containing Lycopene include tomatoes, beets, red peppers, watermelon, raspberries, and red grapefruits.
- Yellow/Orange: Fruits and vegetables with the yellow/orange color contain Beta-Carotene. Beta-Carotene is an antioxidant, which has “anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties”. Beta-Carotene provides a major source of Vitamin A and helps protect the eyes and brain. Examples of foods containing Beta-Carotene include, carrots, butternut squash, yellow peppers, cantaloupe, mangos, and peaches.
- Green: Green foods are rich in Isothiocynates. This is an anticancer phytochemical which has been shown to be effective in fighting lung and esophageal cancers. Examples of foods containing Isothiocynates include, leafy greens, asparagus, zucchini, and green beans.
- Blue/Purple: Fruits and vegetables with the blue/purple color contain Anthocyanins. These phytochemicals contain heart healthy antioxidants that fight heart disease, promote healthy blood pressure, and may lower the risk of some cancers. Examples of foods containing Anthocyanins include, blueberries, blackberries, plums, and eggplant.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of diseases such as, heart disease, high blood pressure, and some cancers. They contain fiber which helps you feel full and will help keep your digestive system working properly. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Eating a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables is key to obtain the nutrients, fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants you need to stay healthy. So remember to “Eat the Rainbow”!