Food Spotlight: Eating A Rainbow

rainbow-vegetables-and-fruit (1)

Most of us have heard of the food pyramid and we all know where fruits and veggies fall in the pyramid. There have been several commercials aimed at educating the American public to not only eat according to the food pyramid, but also to eat a rainbow as well. If you ask your kids what rainbow the commercial is talking about you’ll probably get the same answer my kids gave me; the skittles rainbow….uhmmm, not so much! The rainbow we should be aiming to taste? Fresh fruits and veggies in a rainbow of colors.

With spring at our doorstep, fresh fruits and veggies are just about to get good, really good and I can hardly wait! So what’s the big deal being made about this proverbial rainbow and just what good is it going to do you and I? Let’s find out!

Red Fruits and Vegetables

So what’s in red fruits and veggies that makes them look red? Either lycopene or anthocyanins are what does the trick. Researchers say that lycopene (found in  tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit) may help reduce the risk of several types of cancer, especially prostate cancer. One thing that is good to note is that lycopene found in foods containing cooked tomatoes and a small amount of fat (like spaghetti sauce)  is absorbed better than lycopene from raw tomatoes.  Anthocyanins in strawberries, raspberries, red grapes and other fruits act as powerful antioxidants to protect our cells from damage and  keep our heart healthy  as well. Some examples of red fruits and veggies include:

  • Red Applesred-fruits-and-veggies
  • Red Cabbage
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Red/Pink Grapefruit
  • Red Grapes
  • Red Peppers
  • Pomegranates
  • Red Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon

Orange/Yellow Fruits and Vegetables

The fruits and veggies in this group get their color from carotenoids, which are natural plant pigments. It is interesting to note that the beta carotene found in carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin is converted to Vitamin A in our body, which aids in maintaining healthy eyes and mucous membranes. In a study done to note the effects that carotenoids have on our health, researchers found that not only does a diet high in carotenoid-rich foods help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and improve immune system function, but it also  makes  us 43% less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (and eye disorder common among the elderly which can eventually lead to blindness).

Another study shows that carotenoids may also be good for your heart. The researchers found that men with high cholesterol who ate their daily servings of vegetables (many of them ate more than the pyramid suggests) had a 36% lower chance of having a heart attack, than the men in the study who wouldn’t eat their veggies.

Though citrus fruits fall into this category, they are not  a good source of Vitamin A. They are however excellent sources of Vitamin C and folate (a B Vitamin that helps reduce the risk of birth defects). Some examples of orange/yellow fruits and veggies include:


  • Yellow Apples
  • Apricots
  • Butternut Squash
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Yellow Grapefruit
  • Lemons
  • Mangoes
  • Nectarines
  • Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Yellow Peppers
  • Pineapple
  • Yellow Squash
  • Corn
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Tangerines
  • Yellow Tomatoes
  • Yellow Watermelon

Green Fruits and Vegetables

The green group of fruits and veggies get their color from another one of   the natural plant pigments. This one is  called chlorophyll…Hmmm, sound familiar? You may remember that word being mentioned (a time or two…or twelve thousand) in 8th grade science somewhere along the way…dang it, your teacher WAS right, you did end up  using that  information again.

Some members of the green group,  meaning spinach and other dark leafy greens, green peppers, peas, cucumber and celery, contain lutein. Lutein works with another chemical, zeaxanthin (which is found in corn, red peppers, oranges, grapes and egg yolks) to help keep eyes healthy. Together, these chemicals may help reduce risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

The indoles found in broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage  and other cruciferous vegetables has also been shown to help protect against some types of cancer. Leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli are excellent sources of folate (which as stated in the above paragraph is a B vitamin that helps prevent birth defects). Some examples of green fruits and veggies include:

  • Green Applesgreen-fruits-and-veggies2
  • Artichokes
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Green Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Green Cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Green Grapes
  • Honeydew
  • Kale
  • Kiwi
  • Green Leaf Lettuce
  • Limes
  • Green Onions
  • Green Peas (Shelled, Snow and  Sugar Snap)
  • Green Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini

Blue/Purple Fruits and Vegetables

This group is also colored by a natural plant pigment (I know, you’re shocked huh?). You’ve heard of this one before too, in fact you’ve already read a little bit about it in the red fruits and vegetables paragraph. Anthocyanins are the culprit yet again. You already know that these particular plant pigments are powerful antioxidants, but you’re about to learn one more thing about them. They actually go to work in our body to help improve circulation, and that’s a good thing. Because they aid in improving circulation, it will make sense when I tell you that they also help reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease as well. In addition (yes, there’s even more!) they also help protect against cancer. 

There have been several studies done to discover the benefits of antioxidants. One such study shows that including a serving of blueberries in your daily nutrition was directly linked to having better memory function and more healthy aging. Not a bad gig overall! Some example found in this group are:

  • Beetsblue-purple-fruits-and-veggies
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Eggplant
  • Figs
  • Juneberries
  • Marion berries
  • Plums
  • Prunes
  • Purple Cabbage
  • Purple Grapes
  • Raisins

There is a lot to be said for the health benefits of eating a rainbow each day. I guess you could say that they are the proverbial pot of gold you’ll find at the end!

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