Eating a variety of colors isn’t a new concept – but it has gained more recognition in recent years. Most of you have probably heard that eating a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables is the right thing to do, but most people do not really understand why. Is it something doctors tell you to eat more fruits and vegetables? Why do people say to have a colorful assortment of produce in your shopping cart? Could eating more colorful vegetables and fruits help you achieve weight loss, mental, and physical health goals?
The reality is that most people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables – actually, a staggering 87 percent of Americans do not eat enough vegetables, and 76 percent do not eat enough fruit each day. Unfortunately, this is obvious in the constantly rising medical debt, obesity epidemic, and overall poor nutritional health throughout the United States. Hence, the importance of incorporating more colorful foods into your diet.
Even more so, when you are not eating a balanced, complete diet, you are probably noticing that your body is unbalanced in spiritual, physical, and mental health. Food is just as important to a full mind, body, spirit balance as working out, aligning your chakras, and practicing your spirituality is. When you are lacking in one area, the rest of your health is suffering – which is why learning about your health and nutrition is so vital to a successful and fulfilling life.
Fresh vegetables and fruits are jammed packed with a variety of health benefits, and interestingly enough, this is exactly why nature has created colorful produce to begin with. The various bright, colorful produce throughout the world all have different antioxidants and phytochemicals that promote good health, and these different colors encourage animals and humans alike to gravitate towards these items. Basically, it’s mother natures way of showing you that colorful produce is essential to your diet. Scientifically speaking, however, these colors can all be attributed to phytochemicals.
What are Phytochemicals?
Phytochemicals are chemical compounds that fresh fruits and vegetables produce, and they are also found in nuts, legumes, and grains. Incorporating colorful produce ensures that you are eating a plethora of different phytochemicals that are vital to good health. Phytochemicals have been linked to lowering chronic illness and disease, protecting against cancers, flus, digestive issues, loss of bone density, and helping with weight loss.
There are many different types of phytochemicals in our foods with different health benefits, which is why it is important to incorporate a diverse and colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables into your diet. Regularly consuming different fruits and vegetables will ensure that you are eating a diverse and steady supply of essential phytochemicals. Some of the most common phytochemicals include carotenoids, resveratrol, polyphenols, flavonoids, anthocyanins, and lignans. All of these phytochemicals have different nutritional benefits that lead to an overall healthy life, while ensuring that you are receiving essential nutrients and minerals.
Exploring the Rainbow
As we have discussed thus far, having a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is a must – but why? It is easier to incorporate more colors into your diet when you group fruits and vegetables together based on their predominant phytochemical group. Basically, produce becomes color coded based on its, well, color – because these colors have similar phytochemical properties and health benefits. Understanding the breakdown of why each color is important can help lead to a longer, healthier life and a more balanced body, mind, and spirit!
Red foods contain the phytochemicals carotenoid lycopene and anthocyanins, which promote good heart circulatory health, boosts memory, decreases the risk for certain cancers, and help lower the risk of diabetes – they even improve skin appearance! Each type of red fruit or vegetable has similar properties to other red produce, but they often have unique benefits as well. For example, cherries are high in antioxidants which help with reducing inflammation in the body, lowers diabetes risk, and helps with arthritis. Alternatively, beets are high in fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, and help improve overall gut health. It is important to be incorporating as many red fruits and vegetables as possible – but one fun caveat to red fruits is that wine is included!
Examples: tomatoes, tomato products, watermelon, grapefruit, guava, cranberries, red peppers, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, red wine.
Orange and Yellow
Orange and yellow foods are particularly high in vitamin C and A, carotenoids, and bioflavonoids. The reason these foods are so high in vitamin’s C and A is due to the production of beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, both of which are good antioxidants. Orange and yellow produce are linked to improved skin (clear complexion), improved vision and immune function, lowered risk of heart disease, and they help with blood sugar regulation. Orange foods such as turmeric are also linked to anti-inflammatory processes that are essential to good gut health – especially in a day and age where many people consume high inflammatory, processed foods.
Examples: carrots, mangos, cantaloupe, winter squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, papayas, persimmons, tangerines, apricots, lemons, turmeric, corn, pineapple, peaches.
We’ve all been harassed by our parents over the years to eat more greens! Luckily, it is now trendy to eat a variety of fresh greens, not just green beans out of a can. There are so many cruciferous vegetables out there today that there is really no excuse to not find a green that you like! Greens are rich in isothiocyanates, which produce enzymes that help remove carcinogenic toxins in the body (anticancer properties). These plants also support healthy digestion, better absorption of nutrient and minerals, and faster tissue healing. Green vegetables and fruit are also excellent sources of vitamin K, folic acid, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Examples: broccoli, kiwi, leafy greens (kale, spinach, lettuce, arugula, etc), zucchini, artichokes, green cabbage, green apples, green grapes, honeydew, limes, pears, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, green peppers, green beans, peas, green onions.
Blue and Purple
Blue and purple foods get their vibrant colors from anthocyanins – otherwise known as antioxidants that are linked to anti-aging properties and increased longevity! Not only do these foods promote good gut health, positive urinary-tract health, and increased circulation, but they are also considered some of the best brain food around. Blueberries in particular are one of the best foods you can incorporate into your diet to improve memory loss and function. Anthocyanins are also heart-healthy compounds that work to flush out toxins in the body. Also, purple and black grape wines are another great way to incorporate a variety of colors!
Examples: figs, prunes, purple carrots, purple grapes, blueberries, eggplants, purple potatoes, blackberries, red onions, purple cabbage, plums.
Finally, we can’t forget about the white vegetables out there. Americans already eat a ton of white products – white sugars, breads, pastas, and so forth. Hopefully switching to fresh white produce won’t be too much of a struggle – and much better for you. White foods such as cauliflower contain flavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants that help promote healthy growth and repair to body cells and tissues. These white foods also help lower cholesterol, decrease blood pressure, and lower the risk of heart disease.
Examples: garlic, onions, cauliflower, mushrooms, white peaches, white corn, turnips, ginger, shallots, white potatoes, white nectarines.
If you are choosing to nourish your body through fresh fruits and vegetables, you will find yourself with a healthier, happier body and mind – which is the first step in finding balance with your spiritual side. You simply can’t have one without the other. With strong physical health comes strong mental and spiritual health, which can help you along your journey to become successful in all endeavors.