How often have we heard health gurus tell us all to "eat the rainbow"? What does it actually mean and why is it so important?
Basically it's a simple way of reminding us that a variety of fruits and vegetables in our diet will get us most of the vitamins and minerals we need. We can learn a lot about our nutritional intake just by looking at the colour diversity on our plates. Here's what it means, and how it works.
It's actually not that difficult to get the vitamins and nutrients we need from a healthy, balanced diet, but it can be difficult if we're picky eaters or have children who don't exactly like to expand their horizons.
Eating the rainbow isn't the golden ticket to going from an unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy one, but it is a step in the right direction, especially when we focus on fresh produce.
One point to note here is that certain colours of food indicate an abundance of specific nutrients.
For example, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables (citrus fruits, gourds) are abundant in vitamins C and A. Green fruits and veggies (kale, spinach, asparagus, avocado) are high in vitamins K, B, and E. Purple produce on the other hand (eggplant, red cabbage, grapes) are high in vitamins C and K.
The reason we can tell this from looking is that plants often derive their colours from various phytochemicals found in them. Those chemicals then offer us different nutrients when they're eaten.
That's the core message of "eating the rainbow." In short, adding a variety of colourful produce to our diet is an easy way to get a lot of vitamins and minerals without putting in too much effort beyond selecting a bunch of colours.
At the end of the day, "eating the rainbow" is a good idea, but only as good as eating a balanced, healthy diet full of fresh foods. Learning to love our food is very important, as is eating new things, and trying different foods is essential to getting into healthy habits like cooking and watching what you eat.
It is also difficult to judge the nutritional value of the foods we eat, due to the changes in farming and transportation of our food. This is where supplementation of green and red food, as well as multivitamins, can play a part.
Learn to listen to your body and as a guide, a third of our diet should be fruits and vegetables, a third starchy carbohydrates (preferably high fibre as wholegrain versions), and the final third lean protein-rich foods (meat, fish, beans, lentils) and reduced-fat dairy products.
Fruits and vegetables are particularly colourful, so a rainbow plate can help us with our 5-a-day. Plus, we’re more likely to enjoy eating an attractive meal. Eating small amounts of foods high in fat and sugar is OK too… everything in moderation.
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