Eat the rainbow. It’s a simple enough instruction to remember, but why should you?
It feels like we’re constantly barraged with contradicting advice and warring nutritional principles. Remember eggs? Not long ago, headlines screamed about the havoc eggs would wreak on your cholesterol levels, scaring everyone into trading their breakfast sandwiches for scrambled egg whites. Then, as the science continued, and more research was done into the nature of cholesterol and our bodies’ interactions with foods that contained it, we learned that eggs are actually a moderately healthy addition to most diets. They’re packed with protein, increase the absorption of certain vitamins, and some studies suggest they’re good for your heart health.
So, what’s that got to do with eating the rainbow? Well, unlike egg consumption, eating the rainbow is some sage, scientifically backed advice that has stood the test of time and been uncontroversial in the field of nutritional science. Rest assured that this advice is pretty foolproof and you’re unlikely to see any screaming headlines coming at you any time soon!
Now on to the rainbow!
Fruits and vegetables can be sorted into five colour categories: red, orange and yellow, green, purple and blue, and white and brown. Each category possesses unique disease-fighting phytochemicals, which are what make fruit and veg colourful, vibrant, and exceptionally good for your health.
Red. These fruits and vegetables get their vibrant and juicy colouring from a plant pigment called lycopene. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant, which can help reduce your risk of cancer and keeps your heart healthy. Easy to remember, right? Red = blood = heart. Examples of some lycopene-containing powerhouses are: tomatoes, pink grapefruit, sweet red peppers, and papaya.
Orange and yellow. These fragrant foods get their sunny dispositions from carotenoids! One of the better-known carotenoids is called betacarotene, which gets converted into vitamin A in your body. Once there, it helps maintain healthy mucous membranes (gross, but vital) and healthy eyes. Another carotenoid example is lutein, which is stored in your eyes and can help prevent both cataracts and macular degeneration due to aging! Apparently rabbits don’t need glasses for a reason! Foods that pack a carotenoid punch are: squash, carrots, oranges, and apricots.
Green. Greens get a bad rap because your average garden salad is a bit…well, boring. But don’t be fooled! Green-coloured vegetables have a huge range of phytochemicals (including carotenoids, indoles, and saponins) that have cancer-fighting properties. Not to mention that leafy greens contain folate, which is necessary for building your white and red blood cells and bone marrow. Folate is particularly important during periods of rapid growth, such as during pregnancy and early human developmental stages. Some green nutrient giants include: broccoli, spinach, green peppers, asparagus, and legumes.
Purple and blue. Anthocyanin is the pigment that makes these delicious treats into laundry nightmares. Anthocyanin is an antioxidant that protects your cells from damage and can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Examples of anthocyanin-rich foods are: blueberries, blackberries, cherries, eggplant, red cabbage, and a species of sweet potato.
Brown and white. Not technically on the ROY G BIV spectrum, brown and white fruits and vegetables deserve an honorary place up there with the more appealing colours. The phytochemicals in this category of edible foliage are known for antiviral and antibacterial properties. Some are also excellent sources of potassium! Examples include: bananas, garlic, onions, and potatoes.
Are you convinced yet? Cancer-fighting, eyesight-improving, growth-supporting nutrients should be all you need to convince you to do you best to add a little extra colour to each of your meals. Eating vegetables and fruit comes with countless benefits and no health-related drawbacks, but if you’re not convinced yet, consider this. When we think of “rabbit food”, we think of restriction and dieting and hunger, which inevitably leads to satisfying that hunger with a big slice of chocolate cake. Was that what you were thinking? If so, check out the infographic below. Check out the sheer variety and volume of options available to you. Does that still look like deprivation? Add in a little protein and a little fat, plus a couple servings from that chart to each meal and we think you’ll be feeling too full to even think the word “diet”. Give it a try, and let us know how it goes!