Have you ever been told to eat food from all colors of the rainbow? These wise words are so relevant today, more than ever. Not only will this make your plate a lot prettier, but you will be consuming an incredible amount of very beneficial properties called phytonutrients. “Phyto” is a Greek word that translates to “plant” and you know that nutrients are the elements in food that fuel and serve our bodies in so many ways. Phytonutrients are special chemicals, naturally present in plant foods that help protect the plant from environmental toxins, radiation, germs, fungi, insects, and other threats.
When we consume these plant foods, instead of these chemicals working against us, as they would against insects, for example, they work for us, supplying us with a great deal of protection in the form of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties that help to support and optimize our health as well! Consuming a diet rich in a wide variety of plant food boosts and strengthens our immune system, which is such a huge topic today. Consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, and roots in different colors and shades will give your body what it needs to protect you and keep you healthy and full of life.
Here is how to increase phytonutrient intake based on different colors:
Red – These foods are rich in the carotenoid called lycopene, which helps us by scavenging for DNA-damaging free radicals.
Benefits: anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, cell protection, gastrointestinal health, heart health, hormone health, and liver health.
Find these nutrients in foods like tomatoes, cherries, strawberries and raspberries, red peppers, rhubarb, grapefruit, watermelon, and more.
Orange – These foods are rich in beta cryptothanxin, which helps your cells communicate.
Benefits: anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, cell protection, immune health, reduced mortality, reproductive health, skin health, source of vitamin A.
Find these nutrients in foods like apricots, bell peppers, cantaloupe, carrots, mango, papaya, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, tangerines, turmeric root, and yams.
Yellow – These foods are a great source of carotenoids like lutein.
Benefits: anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, cell protection, cognition, eye health, heart health, skin health, and vascular health.
Find these nutrients in foods like apples, Asian pears, bananas, bell peppers, non-GMO corn, ginger root, lemon, millet, pineapple, summer squash, and more.
Green – These foods are high in potent cancer-blocking chemicals like sulforaphane, isocyanate, and indoles.
Benefits: Super anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, brain health, cell protection, skin health, hormone balance, heart health, liver health.
Find these nutrients in foods like apples, artichoke, asparagus, avocado, bean sprouts, broccoli and broccoli sprouts, bell peppers. Bok choy, brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, cucumbers, green beans, green tea, leafy greens (spinach, collard greens, swiss chard, etc.) limes, okra zucchini, and more.
Blue/Purple/Black – These foods are high in antioxidants called anthocyanins that are helpful in delaying cellular aging and preventing blood clots.
Benefits: Anti-cancer, anti-inflammation, cell protection, cognitive health, heart health, and liver health.
Find these nutrients in foods like berries (blue, black, boysen, huckle), cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, eggplant, figs, grapes, olives, potatoes, prunes, raisins and black or purple rice.
White/Tan/Brown – These foods are high in sulfur-containing compounds and help to lower cancer risk and improve heart health.
Benefits: Anti-cancer, anti-microbial, cell protection, gastrointestinal health, heart health, hormone health, and liver health.
Find these nutrients in foods like apples, beans, cauliflower, cocoa, coconut, coffee, garlic, ginger, jicama, legumes (chickpeas, beans, hummus, etc.), mushrooms, nuts, onions, sauerkraut, shallots, tahini, and whole grains (barley, brown rice, quinoa, rye, spelt and whole wheat).
It’s important to try your best to consumer 9 servings of fruits and vegetables (mostly vegetables) a day to ensure that you are getting a wide variety of these awesome disease blocking and health promoting properties. Eating the same types of plant-based foods is better than nothing, but as seen above each color group represents different health-promoting benefits so it’s really important to mix things up.
Have fun with this, it’s a great opportunity to get kids involved and ask them what colors they want to eat today.
Lastly, please keep in mind that the sources of these phytonutrients is very important. While you do not have to buy everything organic, certain foods can be quite harmful if they are not organic. If the food naturally has a protective “shell” or barrier like a banana, it does NOT need to be organic. If it doesn’t (think berries, which are literally sponges to water, pesticides, and more), they should be organic whenever possible. Frozen fruits and vegetables have all of the nutrients that fresh ones do, and they are more affordable! A great place to find fresh and organic food is at your local farmer’s market!
If you want to learn more about the disease-fighting and immune-boosting properties of food, or how to increase your consumption of them, let’s talk! Book your complimentary consultation with me today.