Why is it important to eat the rainbow?

When it comes to eating vegetables, it can be easy to stick to a few tried and true. However, by eating the same few fruits and vegetables on rotation, you are missing out on the many nutrients found in the ones you’re not eating. The phrase “eat the rainbow” is a simplified way of encouraging a balanced diet by eating a wide range of whole foods. The varying colors of fruits and vegetables indicate an abundance of certain nutrients within them. By eating a variety of colors, you can ensure that you are consuming the full range of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients your body needs to thrive!

Why do fruits and vegetables come in such a variety of colors? 

The color in fruits and vegetables is determined by the specific kinds of phytonutrients in them. Phytonutrients are natural chemicals that protect plants against environmental threats like insects, diseases and pollution. They work synergistically with vitamins and minerals, and are packed with antioxidants. Unlike micronutrients, phytonutrients are non-essential nutrients for our survival. Nevertheless, they play an important and positive role in our health due to their powerful antioxidant properties.

Benefits of phytonutrients

There are five different color categories with different health benefits based on the types of phytonutrients that each color indicates. The guide below breaks down each color category by phytonutrients, health benefits, and examples of fruits and veggies of that color.

Tips for eating the rainbow

  1. Eat with the seasons. By eating seasonally, you will naturally incorporate a wider variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet. You’ll also experiment with produce you’ve never tried before, and hopefully you’ll discover a new fruit or vegetable you love. Check out our blog post for more information on why eating seasonally is important!
  2. Eat a beautifully colorful breakfast. Breakfast is one of those meals that tends to lack color – think toast, cereal, bagels, granola bars, oatmeal and more. Many Americans fall victim to this “beige diet” of highly processed foods, because these foods are quick and convenient. Try adding veggies to your egg scramble or juicy red and blue berries to your oatmeal to make your breakfast more nutrient dense.
  3. Challenge yourself to make a rainbow meal. When making dinner, try to incorporate as many colors as you can into your dish. This can be easily done by making a salad or a Buddha bowl with all sorts of veggies in varying colors. Not only will it look beautiful, but the different vegetables will add various flavors and textures to your meal, making it taste delicious!

Recipe Ideas

  • Indian-Inspired Cauliflower Crust Pizza. This recipe uses all sorts of vegetables, including baby romanesco, serrano peppers, fresh peas and shallots. For the pizza sauce, use our Spicy Cilantro Salsa.
  • Vegetable Tofu Scramble. Tofu is an awesome source of protein that pairs well with all kinds of veggies due to it’s neutral flavor. In this recipe, the tofu is flavored with our Spicy Eggplant Salsa and paired with yellow onion and kale.
  • Veggie Spring Rolls. These spring rolls can be made with a variety of vegetables of all sorts of colors. This recipe specifically uses lettuce, purple cabbage, red pepper, carrots, and more. Pair them with our Spicy Peanut Coconut Dip, and you’ve got yourself a delicious, nutrient-dense lunch!

Overall, “eating the rainbow” is a good idea when used as a guide to eating a balanced, healthy diet full of fresh and whole foods. Although it doesn’t hurt to become more aware about the nutritional value of foods you eat, you certainly don’t need to obsess over getting the right amount of certain and specific micronutrients or phytonutrients. Rather, focus on eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to ensure that you are fueling your body with all of the nutrients you need to be healthy. Experimenting with cooking and learning to love different and healthy foods helps nurture healthy eating habits!