Taste the Rainbow…and I don’t mean Skittles

iStock_000005938409XSmallMost of us have heard that fruits and vegetables are part of a healthy diet. Our parents or teachers have told us that fruits and vegetables make us stronger, smarter, and even contribute to a longer life. You may already be aware that these foods are loaded with important vitamins and minerals yet you may not get around to eating the recommended amounts of them on a daily or weekly basis. Some of us may not even like the taste of fruits or vegetables. So does it really matter if we don’t eat the recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies every day? Can’t we just substitute a side of veggies with a Vitaminwater® or a PowerBar® loaded with similar nutrients? Isn’t it basically the same thing?  Not exactly…

Over the past ten years, there has been much more research that has focused on the important role of fruits and vegetables in disease prevention.  In addition to the nutrients you may already know about, such as vitamins or minerals, fruits and vegetables contain chemicals called phytochemicals, or phytonutrients which literally means “plant nutrients.”  These nutrients have been shown to promote good health and fight diseases such as cancer and heart disease.  Although these chemicals can be extracted from plants and added to foods and beverages, they work best when they are consumed in their original whole food.

The various colors of fruits and vegetables represent different phytonutrients, such as beta-carotene in carrots or flavonoids in grapes. In order to get lots of these different nutrients, aim to include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables during the week:

RED: red apples, cranberries, strawberries, cherries, red bell peppers, beets, tomatoes, watermelon

ORANGE/YELLOW: apricots, butternut squash, carrots, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes, yellow squash

GREEN:  kiwis, spinach, kale, broccoli, celery, asparagus, zucchini, green beans, cucumbers, arugula

BLUE/PURPLE: blueberries, blackberries, plums, grapes, pomegranates, purple cabbage, eggplant

WHITE/BROWN: bananas, cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, garlic, parsnip, dates, brown pears

What are some practical ways to incorporate more colors into your diet?

  • Add strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries to your cereal or yogurt at breakfast time
  • Add spinach, tomatoes, onions, or sliced cucumbers to your sandwich at lunch
  • Cook homemade pizza with bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, and/or arugula
  • Blend smoothies for snacks using various colors of frozen fruit and vegetables
  • Make salads using all the colors of the rainbow

Next time you get a craving for a colorful treat, consider nature’s tasty rainbow!

-Nutrition Student Becca