You’ve likely heard the phrase, “Eat the rainbow.”
You may remember a chart at your doctor’s office–a colorful rainbow of foods, including many red and green vegetables.
Yet, do you know the real reason why you should eat a colorful diet?
To achieve a balanced, nutrient-rich diet, consuming a colorful plate filled with fruits and vegetables is vital. We call this eating the rainbow is important.
As a physician, I recommend eating a rainbow diet due to phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are the pigments that give each fruit and vegetable its color. Types of phytonutrients turn vegetables red, orange/yellow, green, white, or blue/purple.1 They also provide unique health benefits.
I have Graves’ disease, which gives me no choice but to maintain a clean and colorful diet. The same goes for many of my patients. That’s why I formulated the two products that make up my Organic Superfoods Kit.
In this article, I’ll explain why eating the rainbow, especially organic red and green vegetables, is vital to your health. Later in the article, I’ll discuss an easy way to incorporate eating the rainbow into your diet without adding time.
First, let’s dive into all there is to know about phytonutrients.
What are Phytonutrients?
Plants, like humans, are equipped with protective mechanisms. These mechanisms are similar to your human immune system, which attacks foreign invaders, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and toxins. Plants get their protection from phytonutrients, also known as phytochemicals.
Modern and conventional farming methods involve genetically modified organisms and synthetic fertilizers. Pesticides and herbicides didn’t exist in our ancestors’ time. This happened for no other reason than to mass produce food for a growing population.
This is why I recommend choosing organic whenever possible to ensure you aren’t overloading your toxic burden. However, it’s no secret that organic produce can be more expensive. That said, there are more accessible ways to obtain the nutritional benefits of organic produce than ever before.
My Organic Reds and Organic Greens powders are convenient and 100% USDA-certified organic. They’re also rich in superfoods and phytonutrients often missing from modern diets, which we’ll discuss later.
The truth is plants protect themselves without using GMOs, pesticides, and other toxic chemicals. Phytonutrients protect against germs, fungi, bugs, and other threats. Their antioxidant effects help reduce oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals. I’ll talk about the benefits of phytonutrients later.
What Naturally Contains Phytonutrients?
Remember, phytonutrients give colorful vegetables and fruits color. However, they are not only in fruits and vegetables. Phytonutrients are found in many foods, such as beans, grains, nuts, and teas.2 Many people have sensitivities to beans and nuts. Therefore, I recommend 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). This can lead to molecular mimicry, where your body mistakes your tissues for gluten and attacks them. I recommend removing gluten because it causes inflammation and can lead to autoimmune diseases.
That said, I recommend choosing plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables to garner all benefits of phytonutrients. With over 1,000 types of phytonutrients naturally found in your fruits and vegetables, there are many benefits to discuss. Let’s dive into some of the most valuable types of phytonutrients commonly found.
Types of Phytonutrients
Phytonutrients are responsible for the rainbow colors of fruits and vegetables and their amazing health benefits. It’s important to eat the rainbow because different phytonutrients are associated with different colored vegetables.
These varied plant compounds have powerful effects on your body, such as supporting your immune system, fighting inflammation, detoxifying your cells, and protecting against chronic diseases.
In this section, I’ll cover the most beneficial phytonutrients that you can find in your food.
Antioxidants play a crucial role in safeguarding your body against damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. These free radicals can cause damage to cells and contribute to various health issues.
Numerous phytonutrients, such as carotenoids, flavonoids, and resveratrol, possess antioxidant properties that help neutralize free radicals. Lycopene is a carotenoid found in vibrant red superfoods like tomatoes and watermelons. Studies associate lycopene with promoting heart health and protecting against certain types of cancers.
Flavonoids found in green tea and red berries exhibit antioxidant properties that help shield against inflammation and stress.
By incorporating a diverse range of colorful fruits and vegetables into your diet, you can ensure that you receive a broad spectrum of antioxidants. This supports detoxification and your overall well-being.
Carotenoids are beneficial for eye health and a healthy immune system response. They also act as antioxidants to tackle free radicals. The main types of carotenoids we’ll cover here are lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, and lycopene.
Two of the more common carotenoids — lutein and zeaxanthin — are found in the retina. These plant-produced pigments typically give food a yellow or red color. Lutein and zeaxanthin work as essential antioxidants in this area by protecting your eyes from harmful free radicals. Studies show that an insufficient presence of these carotenoids can hurt eye health.3
Other beneficial types of carotenoids found in red vegetables and green vegetables are Beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin. You convert these into vitamin A, facilitating a healthy immune system response and supporting eye health. Good sources of these carotenoids include red bell peppers, spinach, kale, and collards.
Lycopene is another carotenoid that gives many red vegetables and fruits their color. Some red superfoods rich in lycopene include tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruit, and red bell peppers. Studies link Lycopene to many health benefits, including heart health and protection against specific cancer types.4
A large number of phytonutrients are flavonoids, which support your heart health. These phytochemicals contribute to healthy cell communication. Flavonoids are found in various plants, including green tea, red berries, kale, and apples.
Anthocyanins are an example of a flavonoid common in red vegetables and fruits, such as mulberries and Aronia berries (chokeberries). Anthocyanins give them their deep red color. Anthocyanins have antioxidant properties that help protect against inflammation and stress.5
Resveratrol is found in the skins and seeds of red superfoods like grapes, red berries, and cranberries. Many of these seeds and skins are included in the fermentation of red wine. Some studies have linked resveratrol to supporting healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.6
You can find Betalains, including betacyanins and betaxanthins, in many red vegetables and fruits. Betalains are the pigments that give beetroots their dark red color and exhibit antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown Betalains eliminate oxidative and nitrative stress by scavenging DPPH, preventing DNA damage, and reducing LDL.7
Ellagic acid is a naturally occurring substance found in many berries, red vegetables, and other plant foods. It’s especially rich in strawberries, raspberries, and pomegranates.
Studies suggest the Ellagic Acid found in these red vegetables and fruits may slow the growth of cancer cells. This can help your liver neutralize cancer-causing chemicals in your system.8
Ellagic acid acts as an antioxidant. That means it can neutralize harmful compounds known as free radicals, protecting your cells from damage and oxidative stress. It may also help regulate your immune function and decrease several specific markers of inflammation. 9
Glucosinolates are a phytochemical found in cruciferous green 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.10
Glucosinolates break down into metabolites, which support a healthy metabolism. What’s more, glucosinolates support a healthy inflammatory response and regulate cortisol levels when you’re stressed.11
Benefits of Phytonutrients
As I mentioned, phytonutrients are the primary reason eating the rainbow is crucial for maintaining overall well-being.
Phytonutrients have powerful benefits, including supporting your immune system, reducing inflammation, detoxification, and protecting against chronic diseases.
There are many different types of beneficial phytonutrients, each giving food different colors. The benefits of phytonutrients are the reason I encourage patients to eat the rainbow.
They are Free Radical Scavengers
You are exposed to toxins from the food you eat, the cleaning products you use. They’re in the clothing you wear, the water you drink, and even your beauty products.
These toxins produce free radicals, 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. The addition of an electron stabilizes the free radicals in your body.
Moreover, your body produces its own powerful free radical scavenger – glutathione. However, poor diet, stress, trauma, pollution, and infections deplete your body’s supply of glutathione.
That’s why ensuring your body gets optimal amounts of phytochemicals from colorful fruits and vegetables is crucial.
Supports a Healthy Immune System
A strong immune system is the first 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.12
Supports a Healthy Metabolism
You likely know that green tea is known for its free radical scavenger properties. This is 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). EGCG 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.
Eat the Rainbow Chart
While there are many benefits to eating the rainbow, it’s essential to eat various colored plants. Eating a variety of colorful, red, and green vegetables gives you essential vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals you need for optimal health. Before I discuss the different colors and the benefits of each color, let’s talk briefly about nightshades and citrus fruits.
Nightshades are fruits and vegetables, such as eggplant, white potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers. They also include citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruits and can cause a reaction in some people. If you have a sensitivity to those foods, I recommend avoiding them. If you believe you are sensitive to nightshades and citrus fruits, do a 30-day elimination diet. Then, reintroduce those foods and track your symptoms.
Now you know which foods may cause sensitivity. Let’s explore the fruits and vegetables I recommend based on their color and benefits.
Red Vegetables and Fruits
Red fruits and red vegetables include beets, cherries, cranberries, pink grapefruit, pomegranates, radishes, and raspberries. More red vegetables are red apples, red grapes, red peppers*, red potatoes, strawberries, tomatoes*, watermelon, mulberries, and Aronia berries. You can obtain a healthy dose of many of these red vegetables and fruits from my Organic Reds formula.
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.13
Yellow & Orange Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables include butternut squash, apricots, cantaloupe, carrots, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, nectarines*, oranges*. Also, 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 Vegetables and Fruits
Fruits and vegetables: Green vegetables include artichokes, asparagus, avocados, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, celery, and collard greens. Other green vegetables are cucumber, green cabbage, green grapes, green onions, green peppers*, kale, kiwi, limes, mustard greens, okra, pears, romaine lettuce, spinach, and zucchini.
Some specialty green vegetables and superfoods include Alkaline greens, which support detoxification and deliver a boost of antioxidants. Spirulina and chlorella are two green vegetables among the richest nutrient sources on the planet. For those of you who love efficiency, I included many of these superfoods in my Organic Greens powder formula.
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.14 Blueberries are powerful free radical fighters. Some studies suggest these foods support heart health. Research shows blue and purple vegetables lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes.15
White Fruits and Vegetables
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 * indicate those are foods you avoid if you have a sensitivity to them.
How to Get More Red and Green Vegetables
Unless you spend all your time preparing food, eating the rainbow in every meal can be challenging. That’s why I created Organic Greens and Organic Reds to help you attain your essential green vegetables and red vegetables.
Organic Greens powder includes green vegetables such as broccoli, kale, and spinach. These green vegetables are high in vitamins A and C, as well as magnesium, calcium, and iron. Adding more green leafy vegetables to your diet can support optimal brain health. Green vegetables also fight belly bloat, relieve stress, support bone health, and healthy aging, boost digestive enzymes, and tame toxins, among many other health benefits.
My delicious Organic Red formula is crafted with red vegetables like beetroot, facilitating healthy blood flow. This power-packed mix of red vegetables and nutrients encourages vascular elasticity and supports healthy blood pressure.
Much of its natural fruit punch flavor comes from red vegetables like organic pomegranate, revered as a circulatory superfood. Optimal circulation means supporting optimal oxygen and nutrient delivery to every cell in your body.
It also contains Aronia berry, a red vegetable supporting heart cells and cell membranes. This potent berry enhances the rich mix of red vegetables, mitigating damage and DNA fragmentation caused by toxins and oxidation. These magical berries also help promote vascular health by supporting the body’s natural antioxidant pathways.
The Final Word on Eat The Rainbow
A balanced diet is vital for maintaining optimal well-being. The benefits of colorful fruits and vegetables are essential for optimal health, ensuring you get sufficient vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.
Phytonutrients are compounds naturally produced by plants that are often associated with anti-inflammation and detoxification. Some of these nutrients can boost antioxidants. They also contribute to the vibrant colors, flavors, and aromas of vegetables, fruits, and other plant-based foods.
Phytonutrients are often completely missing in our modern diets due to conventional farming methods, GMOs, pesticides, and fertilizers. I suggest choosing organic produce when possible.
Maybe you don’t have time or resources to prepare all your own meals. Maybe you can’t source organic produce due to time, regional, or resource restaurants. If so, I encourage you to incorporate my Organic Superfoods Kit into their diet.
- 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 Canad. 2019.
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Benefits, Dosage and Food. Healthline. 2021.
- Lycopene: Health Benefits and Top Food Sources. Link, R.. Healthline. 2021.
- Anthocyanins: Benefits, Side Effects, and Food Sources.. Link, R.. Healthline. 2019.
- Resveratrol and Cardiovascular Diseases. Dominique Bonnefont-Rousselot. Nutrients Vol. 8. 2016.
- Beetroot as a functional food with huge health benefits: Antioxidant, antitumor, physical function, and chronic metabolomics activity. Link, R.. Food Science & Nutrition. 2021.
- Ellagic acid as a potent anticancer drug: A comprehensive review. Biotechnology and Applied Biochemistry. 2022.
- Ellagic Acid: What It Is, How It Works, and Food Sources. Healthline. 2021.
- 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.. Frontiers in Nutrition. 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. 2009.
- A Brief Review of Blue- and Bilberries' Potential to Curb Cardio-Metabolic Perturbations: Focus on Diabetes. M Cameren Crespo. Current pharmaceutical design. 2017.