Eating a colourful rainbow of vegetables and fruits each day has wonderful health benefits. Read to the end for two activities for helping you meet your family’s targets.
How does the recommendation to eat a rainbow help us?
Plants contains chemicals known as phytonutrients which help them either ward off attackers, or attract bees and birds to support pollination.
These chemicals give colour to the fruits and vegetables. They are also very good for human health.
Focussing on eating a variety of colour each day helps to ensure you’re getting a wide range of vegetables.
This can support development of a healthy gut microbiome because the bugs in our digestion, feed on what we eat.
There is some research to show that eating 30 different foods a week will support better gut microbe diversity.
We want to encourage a diverse set of microbes in our gut because it supports good digestion, and immune health.
How to increase diet variety
You can make a list of what you eat each week, to see how many different foods you consume.
Each different food can only be written down once (e.g. wheat is written once even if you have bread and then pasta).
You can count red onions and white onions separately, or red and white cabbage count as two.
See how many foods you eat, and then try to increase your number to improve your digestion and health. Here we outline some benefits eating a rainbow through different colours in fruits and vegetables:
The benefit of red foods
Red fruits and veg contain antioxidants including lycopene (in tomatoes and watermelon), anthocyanins (red berries like red currants, cranberries, strawberries), ellagic acid (strawberries, raspberries and pomegranate).
All of these foods have reported anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer properties, and can support a health digestion, heart, hormone balance and liver.
Did you know – Levels of lycopene (from tomatoes) are higher in cooked tomatoes rather than raw so soups, pasta sauces and curries are the best way to get this antioxidant.
The benefits of orange plant foods
The colour in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables comes from betacarotene. This is a strong antioxidant in its own right, and a pre-cursor to vitamin A in the body.
Carrots, butternut squash, pumpkins and sweet potato are all good sources of betacarotene.
You can also include these orange foods mangos, apricots, cantaloupe melons, oranges, tangerines, peaches, papayas, nectarines, cantaloupe, and orange peppers.
Did you know – Vitamin A is used in every cell in the body, and it helps us regulate or cell replication, immune health, as well as supporting eye health. So that’s why people say carrots can help you see in the dark!
The benefits of yellow foods
Yellow foods as well as being bright and sunny contain good antioxidants and vitamin C. These foods help by defending the body against free radicals and enabling cells to talk to each other.
Yellow foods help us create a healthy heart, vision, digestion and immune system.
Include things like pineapple, mango, lemons, grapefruits, yellow peppers, bananas.
The benefit of green vegetables
As well as getting their green colour from chlorophyll green plants are full of essential nutrients.
Green leafy vegetables are a good source or iron, calcium and magnesium.
Eat vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, asparagus, avocado, French beans, cucumber, celery, spinach, or rocket.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and kale contain sulforafane which has been shown in some studies to help protect against blood-vessel damage and cancer of the lungs, breast, colon, prostate and liver.
Did you know – Sulphorafane is a strong anti-inflammatory support to the body, but you can’t take a supplement with it, so get your broccoli in today!
The benefit of purple foods
These bright foods get their rich colour from phytonutrients called anthocyanins.
These are in the skin of the fruit or vegetables such as blackberries, blueberries, blackcurrants, figs, purple grapes, plums, raisins, purple broccoli, aubergine, red cabbage, or red onions.
These foods are often classed ‘superfoods’ and some studies have shown they can help with a longer life, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, liver health, and dementia.
WHITE – Although a variety of colours in your diet is important some white foods are also nutritious!
White foods to include are celeriac, garlic, mushrooms, onions, turnips.
Did you know – Cauliflower is actually high in vitamin C?
How to eat more vegetables
If you need ways to help your family eat different foods here are two tasks you can try:
- Eat a rainbow – Create a rainbow chart and get children to tick off against each colour when they have eaten something green, red etc each day
- Aim for 30 – Create a template with 1-30 marked down the sides, and see if you can eat 30 different foods a week.
Anna Mapson supports busy parents to get family nutrition right, taking away the stress if feeding your family. In Bristol or online via video call
- Weaning Consultations & Group Classes
- Children’s Nutrition Consultations (e.g. fussy eating, constipation, eczema, healthy growth, behaviour)