Eating the Rainbow: A Breakdown on the Role of a Colorful Diet

By: Cadence Fox

Eating a well-balanced diet, as we know, should include a variety of foods from all food groups: protein, fats, dairy, grains, fruits, and vegetables. As a general statement for fruits and vegetables, their color comes from vitamins, and their taste comes from minerals. Keep in mind that there are many other reasons contributing to their looks and taste. This is just a helpful tip for general knowledge when shopping and cooking to make sure you consume all your micronutrients. According to a 2009 National Health and Nutrition

Examination Survey report:
 69% of Americans don’t consume enough green phytonutrients
 78% of Americans don’t consume enough red phytonutrients
 86% of Americans don’t eat enough white phytonutrients
 88% of Americans don’t eat enough purple or blue phytonutrients
 79% of Americans don’t eat enough yellow or orange phytonutrients.

Now you might wonder what “What are phytonutrients?” or what does this have to do with our overall health. Lets start with explaining what phytonutrients are and what the differences among the colors, and finally how we can do more to implement them in our diets and children’s diets. According to Nutrition.gov, phytonutrient is a broad term used for up to 4,000 compounds produced by plants that contribute to health, metabolic functions, and growth.

Red fruits and vegetables – Rich in vitamins B1, B9, and B2, they also contain phytonutrients like Lycopene and ellagic acid (among others). The phytonutrients have been linked to skin health, heart health, and fighting cancer by targeting gene-damaging free radicals in the cell.

Some examples of red phytonutrient sources:
Fruits Vegetables
Strawberries Red onion
Raspberries Beets
Watermelon Red peppers
Tomatoes Rhubarb
Cherries Radish
Red grapes Red cabbage
Pomegranate Red chile pepper

Orange and Yellow fruits and vegetables – Not only are these rich in Vitamin C and B2, but
phytonutrients like carotenoids that convert into Vitamin A in our bodies. Orange and Yellow phytonutrients are known to promote healthy vision, boost our immune system, help with blood flow, and promote healthy cell growth.

Some examples of orange and yellow phytonutrient sources:
Fruits Vegetables
Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, and lemon Carrots
Mangos Sweet potato and Yams
Papaya Winter squash like butternut, acorn, and pumpkin
Cantaloupe Spaghetti squash and summer squash
Pineapple Orange and yellow peppers
Peaches Corn
Starfruit Golden beets

Green Fruits and vegetables – Are rich in Vitamin K, D, B12, and folate B12. They have phytonutrients like lutein, isothiocyanates, and isoflavones. Green phytonutrients are known to contribute to bone health, and gut health.

Some examples of green phytonutrient sources:
Fruits Vegetables
Kiwi Broccoli
Avocado Kale and other leafy greens
Honeydew Asparagus and artichoke
Green Grapes Brussel sprouts
Green Apples Green beans
Lime Edamame
Feijoa Zucchini

Blue and Purple fruits and vegetables – Rich in vitamin U, B6, E, K, and phytonutrients like antioxidants, anthocyanins, and resveratrol. These phytonutrients have been linked to help reduce inflammation, help with urinary system health, improve memory, and slow the aging process.

Some examples of purple and blue phytonutrient sources include:
Fruits Vegetables
Blueberries Red cabbage
Blackberries Eggplant
Purple grapes Purple carrots
Plums Beets
Prunes Belgian endive
Figs Purple potatoes
Acai berries Wax beans
Elderberry Purple snap peas

White and brown fruits and vegetables – Full of Vitamins B9, B2, B6, B5, and D. They contain phytonutrients like cruciferous, allicin, and quercetin. These phytonutrients are linked to cancer fighting benefits, promote the immune system, and lower bad cholesterol (LDL).

Some examples of White and brown phytonutrient sources:
Fruits Vegetables
Coconut Cauliflower
Pears Onions and garlic
Bananas Mushrooms
Dragon fruit Potatoes
Nectarines Parsnips
Dates Jicama
Tree nuts Beans

Sources:
Haskins, Julia. “Healthy You: Eat the Rainbow! Bringing Color, Nutrition to Your Plate.” The Nation’s Health, American Public Health Association, 1 Jan. 2019, thenationshealth.aphapublications.org/content/48/10/32.

Honeycutt, Emily. “Eating The Rainbow: Why Eating a Variety of Fruits and Vegetables Is Important for Optimal Health.” Food Revolution Network, 8 Dec. 2017, foodrevolution.org/blog/eating-the-rainbow-health-benefits/.

“What Are Phytonutrients? Types and Food Sources.” WebMD, WebMD, 29 Oct. 2018, www.webmd.com/diet/guide/phytonutrients-faq#1.