Benefits of Phytonutrients
Eating The Rainbow is not new. The idea behind it is that colorful vegetables and fruits contain specific phytonutrients that support your health and combat biological stress with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory molecules.
What are Phytonutrients? Phytonutrients are chemicals produced by plants. Essentially, phytonutrients are components of plants that are powerful defenders of health. Phytonutrients contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that stimulate enzymes that clear toxins, boost the immune system, and improve cardiovascular health.
How to get more Phytonutrients in your diet?
In steps the rainbow diet. Simply put, eating the rainbow involves eating fruits and vegetables of different colors/ every day.
Plants contain different pigments, or phytonutrients, which give them their color. Different-colored plants are linked to higher levels of specific nutrients and health benefits.
What is the link to gut health? A rainbow diet wouldn’t have half the health impact without our gut microbiome. Rainbow plant foods provide fibre (prebiotics) which feed our diverse microbiome by way of their polyphenols. Color is the trademark sign of polyphenols in whole foods (in steps the rainbow diet).
Our bodies can’t break down these fibers so they pass into our colon undigested. Fiber is then fermented to provide nutrients for our gut bacteria so it can multiply, grow and survive. They require both soluble and insoluble fiber. Both types of fibre are found in most vegetables and fruits and is the reason why you should always eat the skin of fruits and eat some of your veggies raw.
Nutrients & Health Benefits
Eating a rainbow of colorful foods allows our bodies to absorb nutrients from a variety of foods. Deanna Minich's Book, 'The Rainbow Diet', says that different-colored plants are linked to higher levels of specific nutrients and health benefits.
While eating more vegetables and fruit is always a good idea, focusing on eating a variety of colors will increase your intake of different nutrients to benefit various areas of your health. As we strive for balance in food colors and recognize when certain colors maybe imbalanced regarding food intake, we can boost our overall health and well-being
Dr. Minich lists the following properties associated with each color:
Red—Immune system: Red-colored foods tend to be high in vitamin C, which supports adrenal health and immunity. Red-colored foods, such as tomatoes, strawberries, and red beets, have also been shown to be anti-inflammatory.
Found in: strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cherries, apples, beets, watermelon, red grapes, red peppers, red onions
Orange—Reproductive health: Eating orange-colored foods abundant in carotenoids like beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin may help lower the risk of reproductive issues. Carotenoids are also found within the ovaries and the sperm to support fertility.
Found in: carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, oranges, tangerines, mango, pumpkin, apricots, winter squash (butternut, acorn), peaches, cantaloupe, corn
Yellow—Digestion: Eating too many of the processed yellow foods, like breads, baked goods, and processed cereals from, can extinguish our digestive fire and increase our risk for metabolic syndrome and even type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, eating acidic, warming, yellow foods, like lemons, ginger, and grapefruit, can help us burn brightly and rev our metabolism.
Found in: Asian pears, bananas, chickpeas, corn, ginger, lemon, millet, pineapple, papaya, onions.
Green—Cardiovascular health: Green foods like leafy greens are rich in nutrients such as folate, vitamin K, and naturally-occurring nitrates that make them healing and expansive for the heart and blood vessels.
Found in: spinach, avocados, asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kiwi fruit, collard greens, green tea, green herbs (mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil)
Blue-Green/ Blue-Purple—Thyroid health & Brain: Blue-green foods like algae, sea plants, and even spirulina contain minerals such as iodine and selenium, which nourish and support the function of the thyroid gland. Blue-purple foods like berries and grapes have been shown to help with better brain function like learning and memory, as well as improving mood and calmness.
Found in: blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, Concord grapes, raisins, eggplant, plums, figs, prunes, lavender, purple cabbage.
Reach For The Rainbow
I love incorporating children in this challenge. In this post, I will share some easy ways to incorporate the Rainbow Diet approach to you and your whole family.
First of all, try a pick a week where you are available to try new things. We are not talking complicated recipes here, but you will want to carve out the time to ensure follow through.
Additionally, I like to prepare in advance. What does that mean? Simply, mark out the foods you will try for the week in advance and since it is only 5 days - you can do all the shopping at one time.
Nourishing Tips: 1. Have some ideas of the fruits and veggies you intend to try for the 5-days. 2. You can easily incorporate many of these in salads, stir frys, soups and smoothies. 3. Grab the kid(s) and involve them in helping pick out the new items to try. You can make a game of it, if they are young - like a scavengers hunt. How can I find this (item and color) in the produce section? 4. Be a role model. Do not go into this challenge as if it is a chore. Rather, be excited and open to trying new items. No, you do not need to like every food you try. You can even make a list and rank in order your favorites to your least favorites. 5. Simple ways to (add in) is through snack-time. Make a veggie plate or a fruit platter. Add dipping sauces if needed. 6. Create food art with your kids. This is such a fun way to engage your children in the sensory aspect of food. (swipe for ideas) 7. Consider starting a small garden. 8. Always choose organic if at all possible.
Did you know? Study shows that the intake of fruit and vegetable juice for 3 weeks enriched the diversity of the host fecal microbiota. Conclusion of study: Dietary interventions, eating vegetables and fruits might help alleviate bowel symptoms and fatigue.
The Challenge: Download our Eat The Rainbow 5-day Challenge and incorporate (1) fruit & Veggie from each category Mon-Friday. This is great for the whole family.
Nourishing Tip: Take a look at Kids Food Art Ideas
Resources: PMC6170287, health/harvard/edu/blog/phytonutrients, deannaminich/rainbowdietbook