We’ve all heard the legend that a pot of gold lies at the end of the rainbow, if only we could find it. But before we can reach that intangible destination, the magic prism vanishes.
If there were a way to reach the treasure of a different, more tangible rainbow, would you try for it? There is! You can reach the good fortune of good health when you “eat the rainbow.” Before you misunderstand, we’re not advocating the mass consumption of Skittles® candies. “Eat the Rainbow” is a slogan used by healthy eating advocates like doctors, dietitians and other health and wellness professionals to remind us that eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables can help make sure we are getting enough of the essential vitamins and minerals we need in our diet. Think of it as a variation on “color by numbers.” Instead, it’s “nutrition by color.”
Eating fruits and vegetables of different colors gives us a wide range of nutrients – vitamins, minerals and fiber that our bodies need to promote health and reduce our risk of chronic diseases, including stroke, other cardiovascular diseases and some cancers.
Color your diet healthy. The key to following this rainbow is learning that certain colors of food indicate an abundance of specific nutrients. For example, red produce contain healthy levels of antioxidants, lycopene and anthocyanins, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables (citrus fruits and squash, for example) are excellent sources of 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. Even white fruits and vegetables such as garlic, onions, bananas, mushrooms and potatoes, contain important nutrients such as the phytonutrient allicin.
Color matters because plants often derive their colors from various phytochemicals found in them. Those chemicals then offer different nutrients when they’re eaten. That’s the basis for “eating the rainbow.” By adding a variety of colorful produce to our diet we can increase the amount of vitamins and minerals we consume without putting in too much effort beyond assembling a diverse palette of colors, flavors and textures.
More than just another pretty plate It’s important to remember that good nutrition relies on balance, variety and appropriate proportions. MyPlate, created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, illustrates healthy servings of fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. And, it is a reminder to help us find our healthy eating style and build it throughout our lifetime. Everything we eat and drink matters. The right mix can help us be healthier now and in the future. This means:
The journey of a lifetime Eating healthy is a journey shaped by many factors, including our stage of life, situations, preferences, access to food, culture, traditions, and the personal decisions we make over time. All food and beverage choices count. MyPlate offers ideas and tips to help us create a healthier eating style that meets our individual needs and improves our health. For a colorful visual of MyPlate and the 5 food groups, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.
“Eating the rainbow” is a memorable way to make sure we pack all the diversity nature has to offer into our meals. Granted, the concept is simplistic, but it can be an effective reminder that variety is not only the spice of life, but also an essential ingredient in a diet that supports an all-around healthy lifestyle that can sustain us for a lifetime.