H for Health

Eat a Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables

Do you know that all fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants? The darker and more colorful they are, the more antioxidants they contain. Do you know that when the antioxidants come from plants, they are called phytonutrients? If you wish to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in your body, then ‘Eat a Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables’

Understanding the concept of ‘Eating a Rainbow’ is an essential step towards improving our health.

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This idea emphasizes the importance of consuming a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods to ensure a broad intake of beneficial compounds, known as phytonutrients. Phytonutrients are found exclusively in plant foods. The prefix “Phyto-” means “plant”. There are at least 8,000 known phytonutrients, each with unique healing properties.

‘Eating a rainbow’ involves consuming fruits and vegetables of different colors every day. The aim is to consume at least 30 different plants per week, as research has shown that the single greatest predictor of a healthy gut microbiome is the diversity of plants in our diet.

Eat a Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables

Many phytonutrients function as antioxidants in our body. These essential molecules neutralize harmful substances called free radicals. Free radicals are produced by various processes in our body. They are also obtained from external sources such as smoking, pollution, and unhealthy foods. If left unchecked, these free radicals can cause oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can lead to cell damage and has been implicated in the development of numerous chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.

The antioxidant defense systems in our bodies help neutralize these free radicals, reducing oxidative stress.

This is where consuming a variety of plant foods is crucial. The relationship between the color of plant foods and their antioxidant content is such that the more vibrant the color, the higher the antioxidant content. By eating a range of different colored plant foods, we can ensure a broad intake of different antioxidants, which are typically abundant in these food groups.

Here's how you  can 'eat a rainbow':

  • Red foods, like tomatoes, watermelon, and red peppers, are rich in antioxidants like lycopene and anthocyanins, associated with heart health and a reduced risk of certain cancers.
  • Orange and yellow foods, such as carrots, oranges, and sweet potatoes, contain high levels of carotenoids like beta-carotene, known for their immune-boosting properties and potential protective effect against certain eye diseases.
  • Green foods, including spinach, broccoli, and kale, are packed with chlorophyll, folate, and a variety of antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin, known for their role in eye health and possibly reducing cancer risks.
  • Blue and purple foods, such as blueberries, blackberries, grapes, and eggplant, are rich in anthocyanins and resveratrol, antioxidants linked to heart health, brain health, and potentially reducing cancer risk.
  • White and brown foods, like onions, garlic, and whole grains, contain a variety of beneficial compounds, including allicin, quercetin, and fiber, known for their anti-inflammatory and heart health benefits.

Considering herbs and spices in the ‘eat a rainbow’ concept is also important. They are excellent sources of antioxidants. For instance, turmeric contains curcumin, a potent antioxidant with strong anti-inflammatory properties, while rosemary and thyme are high in rosmarinic acid, a powerful antioxidant compound.

In conclusion 

‘Eating a rainbow’ is not only a delicious and visually appealing strategy but also an effective one for improving overall health. By increasing the diversity of plant foods in our diet and consuming at least 30 different plants per week, we can ensure a wide range of antioxidants to help combat oxidative stress, thereby reducing our risk of chronic diseases.

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