You likely have heard the phrase, “eat the rainbow.” Or maybe you saw one of the glossy charts at your doctor’s office of all the colorful fruits and vegetables made to look like a rainbow. Eating a diet rich in nutrients should start with colorful fruits and vegetables, yet do you know why?
There are many benefits of eating colorful vegetables and fruits, or “eating the rainbow.” Each different colorful fruit and vegetable provides an array of certain benefits, which comes from the phytonutrients. These phytonutrients are the pigments that give each colorful fruit and vegetable its color.1
Eating fresh, filling, and colorful fruits and vegetables are important to your overall health. Colorful fruits and vegetables are red, orange/yellow, green, white, and blue/purple. I’ll tell you why the color of your fruit and vegetables matter later, along with an easy way to get more colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet. First, let’s discuss phytonutrients and the 10 different types of them.
What are Phytonutrients?
Plants, like humans, are equipped with protective mechanisms. In humans, this is known as your immune system, which attacks foreign invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, fugi, and toxins. Plants get their protection from phytonutrients, also known as phytochemicals.
Modern or conventional farming methods that involve the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides simply did not exist in our ancestors’ time. Over the last century, our farming practices have changed significantly for no other reason than to mass produce food for a growing population.
The truth is, plants are already protected without the use of GMOs, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals. Phytonutrients are organically produced by plants to protect them from germs, fungi, bugs, and other threats. These protective chemicals are what give many colorful fruits and vegetables their antioxidant properties that help reduce the oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals. I’ll talk more about the benefits of phytonutrients later.
Remember, phytonutrients are what give colorful vegetables and fruits their color. However, they are not only present in fruits and vegetables. Phytonutrients are found in any foods that come from plants, such as beans, grains, nuts, and teas.2 Many people have sensitivities to beans and nuts, so I recommend doing a 30-day elimination diet to determine if you have a sensitivity to those foods.
Grains contain gluten, a sticky-protein that holds bread together. The gluten protein has a similar chemical structure to some of your body’s tissues (specifically your thyroid), which can lead to molecular mimicry, where your body mistakes your tissues for gluten and attacks them. I recommend everyone remove gluten from their diet because it causes inflammation and autoimmune disease.
To get phytonutrients and their benefits in your diet, I recommend getting them from colorful fruits and vegetables. I’ll discuss the benefits a little later. However, did you know there are over 1,000 types of phytonutrients found in your colorful fruits and vegetables?
Types of Phytonutrients
The four most common phytonutrients are carotenoids, flavonoids, resveratrol, and glucosinolates. Let me tell you about each of these three powerful phytonutrients.
Carotenoids are beneficial for eye health and a healthy immune system response. Two of the more common carotenoids — lutein and zeaxanthin — are found in the retina. Beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin are other types of carotenoids and are converted into vitamin A, which facilitates a healthy immune system response and also supports eye health. Good sources of carotenoids include spinach, kale, and collards.
A large number of phytonutrients are flavonoids, which support your heart health. These phytochemicals contribute to healthy cell communication. Flavonoids are found in a variety of plants including green tea, berries, kale, and apples.
Resveratrol acts as a powerful free radical scavenger and is found in grapes, berries, and nuts. Have you ever heard that red wine is good for you? It’s because of the free-radical fighting properties that come from resveratrol found in the grapes used to make red wine.3 Resveratrol is found in the skins and seeds of grapes and berries, which is what’s included in the fermentation of red wine. Some studies have linked resveratrol to supporting a healthy blood-pressure and cholesterol levels.4
Glucosinolates are a phytochemical found in cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and bok choy. They are known to support a healthy balance of good or bad bacteria in your gut.5
Glucosinolates are broken down into metabolites, which support a healthy metabolism. What’s more, the glucosinolates support a healthy inflammatory response and regulate cortisol levels when you’re stressed.6
Benefits of Phytonutrients
I’ve talked briefly about the benefits of phytonutrients, so let’s get a little deeper into those benefits.
They are Free Radical Scavengers
You are exposed to toxins from the food you eat, cleaning products you use, the clothing you wear, the water you drink, and even your beauty products. These toxins produce free radicals, which are unstable molecules that are missing an electron. They travel throughout the body and cause oxidative damage to your cells in search of a spare electron.
Phytochemicals function as free radical scavengers. The free radical scavengers we get from our colorful fruits and vegetables supply these unstable molecules with an electron to stabilize it.
What’s more, your body produces its own powerful free radical scavenger – glutathione. However, your body’s supply of this free radical scavenger gets depleted by poor diet, stress, trauma, pollution, and infections. That’s why it’s important to make sure your body is getting optimal amounts of phytochemicals from colorful fruits and vegetables.
Supports a Healthy Immune System
Having a strong immune system is the first line of defense against foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and toxins. Phytonutrients facilitate a healthy immune system response. For example, some phytochemicals act as antimicrobial agents that kill microorganisms or stop their growth. This reduces the chances of bacteria or viruses dividing and growing in your body.7
Supports a Healthy Metabolism
You likely know that green tea is known for its free radical scavenger properties due to its high levels of catechins, powerful phytochemicals found in berries and tea. Studies show that a cup of green tea significantly increases free radical scavenger production in your body. The most important catechin found in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which doubles as a free radical scavenger and fat burner. EGCG is a powerful fat-burning accelerator that revs up your metabolism and boosts your energy levels.
The Colorful Vegetables and Fruits to Eat
While there are many benefits to eating colorful fruits and vegetables, it’s essential to eat a variety of colored plants. By eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, you’re giving your body the essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals it needs for optimal health. Before I talk about the different colors and the benefits to each color, let’s talk briefly about nightshades and citrus fruits.
Nightshade fruits vegetables such as eggplant, white potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers, along with citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits can cause a reaction in some people. If you do have a sensitivity to those foods, I recommend that you avoid them. If you believe you have a sensitivity to nightshades and citrus fruits, do a 30-day elimination diet and then reintroduce those foods and track your symptoms.
Let’s discuss the different colors, foods to eat, and the health benefits of each.
Red Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables: Beets, cherries, cranberries, pink grapefruit, pomegranates, radishes, raspberries, red apples, red grapes, red peppers*, red potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes*, and watermelon.
Benefits: Supports a healthy inflammatory response and heart health, and are free radical scavengers. Some studies suggest they also have anti-aging properties and can improve skin damage caused by the sun.8
Yellow & Orange Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables: Butternut squash, apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, nectarines*, oranges*, orange peppers*, papaya, peaches, pineapple, pumpkin, summer squash, sweet potatoes, tangerines*, yams, yellow apples, yellow peppers*, and yellow squash.
Benefits: Supports a healthy inflammatory response and eye health.
Green Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables: Artichokes, asparagus, avocados, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, celery, collard greens, cucumber, green cabbage, green grapes, green onions, green peppers*, kale, kiwi, limes, mustard greens, okra, pears, romaine lettuce, spinach, and zucchini
Benefits: Supports a healthy inflammatory response and heart health.
Blue & Purple Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables: Blackberries, blueberries, currants, dates, eggplant, purple grapes, purple grape juice, plums, prunes, purple figs, and raisins.
Benefits: Supports a healthy inflammatory response and brain function.9 Blueberries are powerful free radical fighters. Some studies suggest that foods of this color supports heart health and lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes.10
Fruits and vegetables: bananas, cauliflower, garlic, Jerusalem artichoke, mushrooms, onion, potatoes*, parsnips, and shallots.
Benefits: Supports a healthy inflammatory response and brain function. Some studies have shown these foods also support heart health and gut health.
Note: Foods marked with a * indicates those are foods you should only eat as long as you do not have a sensitivity to them.
How to Get More Colorful Vegetables in Your Diet
Unless you spend all of your time preparing food, it can be difficult to get all the colorful fruits and vegetables into every meal. That’s why I created the Organic Superfoods Kit. This kit contains both Organic Greens and Organic Reds powders. These two powders contain essential red and green fruits and vegetables. However, as you may have noticed, each colorful fruit and vegetable provides different nutritional benefits. So pairing Organic Greens and Organic Reds is a sure way to get all the health benefits from green and red fruits and vegetables.
Organic Greens powder includes vegetables such as broccoli, kale and spinach that are high in vitamins A and C as well as magnesium, calcium and iron. Adding more green leafy vegetables into your diet can support optimal brain health, fight belly bloat, relieve stress, support bone health, healthy aging, boost digestive enzymes, and tame the toxins, among many other health benefits.
Organic Reds powder contains red superfoods & phytonutrients often missing from our diets, including beets, berries, carrots, and tart cherries. Adding more red superfoods can facilitate healthy blood flow and vascular elasticity to support healthy blood pressure, reduce oxidative damage from free radicals, and support a healthy fat metabolism and healthy skin.
The health benefits of colorful fruits and vegetables are essential for optimal health. The Organic Superfoods Kit contains a combined 27 certified organic colorful fruits and vegetables to support optimal health and makes it easier to ensure you’re getting enough vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
- Phytonutrients: Paint your plate with the colors of the rainbow. Katherine D. McManus, MS, RD, LDN. Harvard Health. 2019.
- Phytonutrients – Nature’s Natural Defense. Dietitians of Canada. 2019.
- Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart?. Mayo Clinic. 2019.
- Resveratrol and Cardiovascular Diseases. Dominique Bonnefont-Rousselot. Nutrients, vol 8. 2016.
- Bioavailability of Glucosinolates and Their Breakdown Products: Impact of Processing. Francisco J. Barba. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2016.
- Health benefits of glucosinolate isolated from cruciferous and other vegetables. Muhammad Akram, et al. Preparation of Phytopharmaceuticals for the Management of Disorders. 2021.
- The Importance of Phytonutrients for Your Health. Laura Dolson. VeryWell . 2019.
- How Eating Fruits and Veggies Rejuvenates Your Skin. North Pacific Dermatology. 2021.
- Recent advances in berry supplementation and age-related cognitive decline. Lauren M. Willis. Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care, vol. 12. 2009.
- A Brief Review of Blue- and Bilberries' Potential to Curb Cardio-Metabolic Perturbations: Focus on Diabetes. M Cameren Crespo. Current pharmaceutical design vol. 23. 2017.