What is a Rainbow Diet?
Fruits and vegetables get their color from the micronutrients they contain. Vitamins and phytonutrients responsible for providing these colorful hues vary in every plant source. This is why it is so critical for you to eat all the colors of the rainbow. So, a ‘rainbow diet,’ is one that is abundant in all the nutritional colors essential for optimal health.
Who Needs a Rainbow Diet?
We ALL should be paying attention to the color of our foods, especially if we know we are not getting enough variation in our diet as-is and want to expand the way we look at incorporating a variety of nutritious foods into our diet.
“Eating the rainbow” is a step in the right direction, especially considering the focus on fresh produce.
What is a Healthy Diet
While there is no one particular healthy food or nutrient that gives us everything we need, likewise, no one color provides all the available nutritional power either.
The wonder of it all is that every color found in food, whether it’s orange, red, yellow, green, purple/blue, and even white, reveals something nutritionally quite unique.
By choosing a variety of color in your diet, preferably at each meal, you can be sure of enjoying a rich and varied spectrum of nutrients and powerful health-benefits from antioxidants.
I love helping my patients jumpstart their health by adding more colorful foods to their diet. Here’s a simple guide to help you look at what types of foods to look for in each color of the rainbow when preparing healthy meals.
6 Groups of Rainbow Colored Foods for a Healthy Diet
1. The Oranges
Good source: turmeric, ginger
Health Benefits: the antioxidant properties of curcumin may help counter the body’s negative responses to high-fat foods, help to lower free radicals, and fight foreign invaders. It also provides powerful anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties.
Good sources: papaya, tangerines, peppers, pumpkin, oranges
Health benefits: this carotenoid provides high sources of vitamin A and plays an important role in vision, increases bone and cell growth, and helps to prevent free radical damage to your DNA.
Good sources: sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash, cantaloupe, tomatoes
Health benefits: this mighty anti-ager, which converts to vitamin A in the body, helps to boost the immune system and is known to prevent several cancers including skin and breast cancer.
2. The Reds
Good sources: red wine, red grapes, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries
Health benefits: the wonder-working polyphenol neutralizes free radicals and may inhibit inflammation, lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, and promote anti-aging and anti-cancer effects as well.
Good source: chili peppers
Health benefits: hot stuff, indeed: this helps stave off hunger and even burns some calories, and reduces levels of insulin which helps lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. It also relieves pain when used as an ointment.
Good sources: tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, red bell peppers, papaya, mangos
Health benefits: a diet rich in this carotenoid may reduce the risk of many cancers including prostate cancer by as much as 35 percent. It also prevents heart disease by lowering the bad cholesterol and provides anti-aging benefits.
3. The Yellows
Nutrient: bromelain and papain
Good source: pineapple, papaya
Health benefits: the proteolytic enzymes, bromelain and papain, help to ease indigestion, reduce inflammation and swelling, and can provide relief from allergies due to the high histamine response.
Good sources: citrus
Health benefits: these are powerful antioxidants high in vitamin C which can help to detoxify, lower cholesterol and protect against breast, skin, lung and stomach cancers.
Nutrients: lutein and zeaxanthin
Good sources: corn, yellow winter squash
Health benefits: this duo keeps eyes strong, protecting the retina and reducing the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
4. The Greens
Good sources: watercress, leeks, arugula, parsley, dark leafy greens, kale, dill, cilantro
Health benefits: present in virtually every green plant food (even pistachios!), this superfood detoxifies the whole body including the liver, promotes weight loss, improves digestion and reduces the risk of many cancers.
Nutrient: apigenin and luteolin
Good sources: celery, parsley, thyme, artichokes, spinach, peppermint
Health benefits: this pair’s neuroprotective properties may fight diseases like Alzheimer’s, relaxes the central nervous system and lowers blood pressure. It may also reduce the risk of prostate, breast, stomach and bladder cancer as well as leukemia.
Good source: green tea, green apples, green pears
Health benefits: consumption of freshly brewed leaves may lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase weight loss and metabolism due to the high EGCG (epigallocatechin-3-gallate) content. May help to reduce the risk of developing cancer, heart disease or neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Good sources: kale, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, bok choy, watercress
Health benefits: found in many cruciferous vegetables, these helps purge the body of potential carcinogens by neutralizing them and reducing their negative effects. Isothiocyanates also exhibited antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.
5. The Purples/Blues
Good sources: purple cauliflower, purple cabbage, purple kale
Health benefits: all cruciferous veggies are high in sulfur and indole-3 carbinol (IC-3) which can dramatically induce beneficial effects on estrogen metabolism. This beneficial effect has the power to greatly reduce the risk of estrogen-related cancers such as breast, ovarian and prostate cancer.
Nutrient: ellagic acid
Good sources: blueberries, pomegranate seeds, purple grapes
Health benefits: this potent phytochemical provides high antioxidant activity to neutralize free radicals, helps to lessen the effects of estrogen-related breast cancers and may stop cancer cell growth, and reduce viral and bacterial infections.
Good sources: eggplant, concord grapes, blueberries, black raspberries, elderberries
Health benefits: this remarkable antioxidant improves many health conditions related to urinary problems, kidney stones, liver disorders, high blood pressure, colds, flu, heart disease, age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, as well as many cancers and more.
6. The Whites
Good sources: raw garlic, onions, shallots, chives, leeks
Health benefits: a powerful natural medicine containing a sulfur compound used to treat infections, inflammation, and hypertension. Allium vegetables have been found to reduce the risk of many cancers such as stomach, esophageal, breast, and prostate cancer.
Nutrient: Beta Glucans
Good sources: mushrooms (shiitake, reishi, and maitake)
Health benefits: a source of soluble fiber strongly linked to maintaining and reducing cholesterol levels which make it extremely effective at protecting against heart disease. Beta-glucans are used to boost the immune system and helpful in treating conditions such as chronic fatigue, Lymes Disease, HIV/AIDS and many cancers.
Good Sources: white corn, cashew nuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, beans
Health benefits: present in a variety of plant foods which provide a high source of dietary fiber, benefiting overall health including digestive and brain function. Lignans block the effects of hormone-related cancers such as breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate cancer.
A Look at Rainbow Diet Supplementation
While it is super important to try your best to eat as much of the array of the rainbow-colored foods as possible, sometimes we fall short and can benefit from some supplementation. I often recommend various nutritional boosts to help my patients get the full benefits of the important vitamins that some of the rainbow diet foods are known for. Let’s have a closer look at a few of those key supplements under the rainbow spectrum.
1. Orange nutrients
The plant pigment lutein has been proven in studies to reduce the risk of macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness in old age. It is such a vibrant shade of orange it is sometimes used as a food coloring. Turmeric, also known as curcumin, has shown to reduce inflammation and cancer risks. My favorite little orange supplement is called Curcum-Evail which contains a highly bioavailable form of health-promoting curcuminoids.
2. Red nutrients
Cranberries are publicized as an antioxidant-rich superfood with amazing health benefits. They provide astonishing anti-inflammatory effects for health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, digestive disorders, and cardiovascular disease.
The antioxidants called proanthocyanidins have been touted and time-tested for many years in treating urinary tract infections. These tiny red berries help to reduce the adhesion of certain bacteria to urinary tract walls, which lowers the incidence of UTIs. Similarly, stomach ulcers caused by a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori, also benefit from cranberries by preventing this bacteria from attaching to the lining of the stomach. This same action is seen in preventing bacteria from adhering to the teeth and gums, and in the blood vessel walls for cardiovascular conditions.
Researchers continue to identify more and more ways that cranberries are beneficial in slowing tumor growth, and have shown positive effects against certain types of cancer, including prostate, lung, breast, and colon cancer.
UT Synergy™ is a powerful blend of whole fruit cranberry extract and D-mannose, a type of sugar found in many fruits and vegetables but does not affect blood sugar because it is eliminated from the body.
3. Yellow nutrients
Zeaxanthin, a pigment often found alongside lutein, has been also shown to protect against age-related macular disease and cataracts. Research shows zeaxanthin and lutein may also slow the growth rate of bowel cancer and other tumors.
Good supplementation of lutein and zeaxanthin can be found in OcuForce™ which also provides a broad spectrum of other nutrients specifically important in supporting healthy eye function. These include mixed carotenoids, vitamin A, riboflavin, a specialized bilberry extract, and taurine.
4. Green nutrients
The benefits of getting your daily leafy greens are maybe too many to list here. Chlorophyll makes plants green and may have has anti-cancer properties. And leafy green vegetables are rich in folic acid or folate which helps maintain new cells, which is one of the reasons women hoping to become pregnant are advised to take it to help prevent birth defects.
If you can’t get enough leafy greens in your diet for whatever reason, PaleoGreens™ is a great tasting powder made with over 70% organic ingredients, meticulously cultivated to protect all the precious enzymes and beneficial phytonutrients in it. It contains three times the amount of chlorophyll as compared to other formulations and unlike other greens powders, does not have inexpensive fillers or bulking agents (such as fiber, whole grasses, pectin, rice bran, or flax), which greatly dilute potency.
Broccoli and other members of the brassica family such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kale and bok choy are high in sulforaphane, a chemical which appears to protect against several cancers and diabetes.
BroccoProtect™ contains an extract from a specially cultivated form of broccoli seed, which is standardized to contain 8% sulforaphane glucosinolate, the direct precursor to sulforaphane. You would have to consume 500 grams of fresh broccoli to get the same level of sulforaphane that you can get from one capsule.
5. Blue/Purple nutrients
Blueberries and blackberries get their color from anthocyanins, plant chemicals which are such powerful antioxidants they are being investigated as possible treatments for cancer. The pigment has been shown to speed the death of cancer cells, reduce inflammation associated with tumors, inhibit the tumor’s ability to build the blood supply it needs to grow and spread and reduce cancer’s damage to DNA.
Grapes, particularly the purple Concord variety, have several plant chemicals including resveratrol, catechins, quercetin and ellagic acid which protect against heart disease and cancer. Studies suggest they may also protect against loss of brain power as we age.
While some say drinking red wine is the answer to getting some of those great nutrients, there are more benefits to supplementing with something like Grape Seed Supreme™ which is derived from grape skin and seed extracts and contains protective polyphenols and anthocyanins and is a formula with a unique combination of whole grape extract (similar to a non-alcoholic wine extract), grape skin powder and a special grape seed extract; all included to help provide the vast array of benefits seen in studies on various grape or wine extracts.
Resveratrol is another important nutrient found in grapes, berries and red wine that has drawn a lot of attention. It is a great antioxidant, meaning that it works to protect cells from damaging substances known as free radicals and even remove them from the body. Here’s where supplementing with Resveratrol Synergy™ might be good as it also contains quercetin and lecithin which enhance the effects and absorption of resveratrol.
6. White nutrients
Garlic contains a compound called allicin and throughout history, it has been used for its medicinal properties. We now know that most of the health effects are caused by one of the sulfur compounds found in garlic. Remarkably, garlic can combat many illnesses including a common cold, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, bone loss and age-related diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
More recent evidence-based research suggests garlic may be effective against inflammation, fighting infection and reducing the potential risk of many cancers.
Allicin™ soft gels are enteric coated to reduce the strong garlic odor and repeating of the ingested garlic. This supplement also includes parsley oil to act as a natural breath freshener.
Fruits and Vegetables
That’s Rainbow Power! Now you can see why everyone can benefit from eating a rainbow of colors in their diet. If you love vegetables as much as I do – it is easy to load up on these nutritious foods. You can effortlessly cook a variety of vegetables by steaming, roasting or even cooking them in a large pot for a delicious vegetable soup. Or you can eat them raw by adding them to your salad. Consider this delish rainbow salad recipe to easily fit in your rainbow power in one dish. And voila, you’ve just livened up your plate with an array of colors that will give a boost to your health.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the best way to empower your diet is to eat a rainbow of foods. If you are unsure of how to make the necessary changes, contact me and let me help you build your healthy meals and snacks around the kaleidoscope of colors that will ensure you get the vitamins and minerals you need to maximize your health.
Do you have any tips to add color to your plate?
Do you have a favorite recipe that includes a rainbow of foods?
I’d like to hear your comments below.
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