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June 28, 2017

Colors and Your Health: Why You Should Eat the Rainbow

When we visit classrooms educating students on the importance of healthy eating, I always refer to “Eating the Rainbow”! It’s one of my favorite food mantras and is a great reminder to make sure that I am always mixing up my diet and keeping it full of a variety of fruits and vegetables. “Eat the Rainbow” means trying every day (or even every meal!) to eat foods from all of the different color categories: red, yellow/orange, green, blue/purple, and white/brown.

 

Why Does The Color of Your Food Matter?

Getting a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is so important in order to consume all different vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients. The color of a food can be a strong indicator of which phytochemicals it contains and therefore which nutrients it provides. Mixing up the colors on your plate is a quick and easy way to make sure you are getting a wide range of nutritional benefits, without necessarily needing to know the specific nutrients behind them. You can think of this as nature’s way of giving you a healthy cheat-sheet! See below for a list of benefits from each color.

Natural Ingredients

Tip: Keep it Natural, Vibrant and Varied

Of course, when I talk about eating a variety of colors, it is important that these colors are as natural as possible! The best way to make sure that your colors are natural is to source them from fruits and vegetables and always read the ingredient labels on packaged products.

Often the more vibrant and deep the color, the greater the content of the color-specific nutrient. And it is so important to be getting a variety of fruits and vegetables. I think of it this way: if you only eat carrots, yeah, they’re healthy, but you’re missing out on all of the other nutrients that aren’t available in carrots. It is really important to have that variety and by mixing up and combining your colors you can ensure that you are getting a full range!

Clean Eating, Fruit, Yogurt, Nutrition, Breakfast, Natural, Healthy Food, Granola, Pistachios, Vitamins, Real Food, Whole Foods

Yogurt Bowl from @Kitcha15

Get Colorful at Every Meal

I try to eat the rainbow throughout the whole day by adding a diverse mix to each of my meals. Your plate should never look brown and boring! In the morning, I love to start with some sort of fruit. This means adding a blend of fresh berries to my Super Oats or on top of my Super Oats pancakes. I also love making smoothie bowls and filling them with frozen fruits and vegetables like beets, bananas, broccoli, cauliflower and kale.

I always strive to eat salad for lunch. I apply the rainbow concept to jazz up plain greens by adding roasted veggies like cauliflower and sweet potatoes, throwing in some nuts, sliced cucumber, carrots or beets. Not only does it add texture and make the salad more filling, but it also tastes delicious!

For dinner, Alex and I create dishes with a base of vegetables and then add some kind of protein on the side, whether that is chicken, fish or beans. We make stir-fries or curries with tons of colorful vegetables. In the winter, we love soups full of fruits and vegetables, which are great to freeze for whenever you need a quick and healthy meal!

Don’t Discount Frozen and Canned Produce

I am on the road a lot and know how hard it can be to always be stocked up on fresh produce. But one of the awesome things about eating the rainbow is that it encompasses all colorful produce, including frozen and canned! I always have frozen berries, frozen broccoli, frozen cauliflower, frozen leafy greens, and frozen bananas on hand so that I have healthy options regardless of how much time I have to go to the grocery store. They last forever this way and also add great texture and health benefits to any meal, especially smoothies!

Canned produce serves the same purpose, just be sure to check the ingredients and try to buy as pure a product as possible–I love MM Local. Combining all of the options from fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables makes it easy to be sure that you are incorporating as many vital nutrients and natural foods as possible into your diet no matter your schedule.

Mother Nature’s Cheat-Sheet

Incorporating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables is the cornerstone of how I eat and I love using Love Grown to make it more enjoyable. Here’s a list that I find really helpful when I need a reminder of all of the great and colorful options out there! I call this “Mother Nature’s Cheat Sheet”!

Helpful Links

Red

Vitamins + Nutrients:

Flavonoids, Lycopene and Anthocyanins

Possible Benefits:

Heart-Healthy, Memory, Blood Pressure, Skin Protection, Eye Support, Cancer Defense, Cell Renewal, Fighting Radicals

Orange/Yellow

Vitamins + Nutrients:

Vitamin C, Beta-Carotene (Vitamin A), Folate and Potassium

Possible Benefits:

Lowers Cholesterol, Healthy Eyes, Healthy Skin, Heart-Healthy, Immune Function, Healthy Joints and Tissues

Green

Vitamins + Nutrients:

Vitamin K, Vitamin B, Vitamin E, CarotenoidsFiber, Folate, Iron, Calcium, Folic Acid, Potassium

Possible Benefits:

Healthy Bones, Healthy Teeth, Healthy Eyes, Anti-Inflammatory, Immune System, Fights Cancer

Blue/Purple

Vitamins + Nutrients:

Vitamin C,  Lutein, Anthocyanin, Resveratrol, Ellagic Acid, Flavonoids

Possible Benefits?

Healthy Heart, Fights Inflammation, Improves Nutrient Absorption, Memory, Healthy Urinary System, Support Immune System

White/Brown:

Vitamins + Nutrients:

Allicin, Selenium, Potassium

Possible Benefits?

Immune System, Lower Blood Pressure, Lowers Cholesterol, Healthy Heart

 

For more great ideas on ways to incorporate a variety of color into your meals check out these additional resources: