It’s a common cooking adage that we eat first with our eyes: we build excitement for the meal by creating a beautiful presentation of the food. If that’s true, what could be more appealing than having the colors of the rainbow on our plates?
“Eat the rainbow” has become popular advice to encourage people to put numerous fruits and vegetables on their plates every day. This not only makes for a colorful presentation, but it also means that a wide range of vitamins, minerals, immunity boosters and cancer-fighting antioxidants are present in the meal.
Further, by encouraging a rainbow, which requires multiple colors, it’s possible that the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat will increase overall, adding fiber to your diet and filling you up faster. This, in turn, may reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol taken in via animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, fish/seafood, dairy and eggs. Such an increase in dietary fiber and reduction in animal-based food are both positive steps towards reducing one’s risk of certain forms of cancer.
Cancer-fighting compounds such as antioxidants, mainly found in fruits and vegetables, assist in halting free-radical damage in the body, which can otherwise lead to cancer development. Fruits and vegetables are rich in protective compounds and immune-boosting nutrients such as beta-carotene, lycopene, vitamin C, and zinc.
It is important to be generous with a variety of vegetables and fruits as you plan your meals. Studies have demonstrated the ability of diets rich in vegetables and fruits to boost immunity and to reduce the likelihood that cancer will develop in the first place. Enjoy a colorful, scrumptious, immune-boosting meal as often as you can.
What does each color of the rainbow provide and what are some of the common and more exotic options for your plate? Let’s take a closer look...
THE NUTRITION RAINBOW:
Reference: Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, www.pcrm.org.
Tomatoes, watermelon, guava-
The antioxidant lycopene is associated with reduced risk of prostate cancer.
Carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, mangos, pumpkins-
Beta-carotene is an antioxidant that supports the immune system.
YELLOW / ORANGE
Oranges, lemons, grapefruits, papayas, peaches-
Vitamin C and flavonoids inhibit tumor cell growth and detoxify harmful substances.
Spinach, kale, collards, other greens-
Folate builds healthy cells and genetic material.
GREEN / WHITE
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower-
Indoles and lutein eliminate excess estrogen and carcinogens, which can help to fight breast cancer.
WHITE / GREEN
Garlic, onions, chives, asparagus-
Allyl sulfides destroy cancer cells, reduce cell division, support immune systems
Blueberries, purple grapes, plums-
Anthocyanins destroy free radicals.
RED / PURPLE
Grapes, berries, plums-
Resveratrol may suppress estrogen activity.
Whole grains and legumes (beans, lentils, pulses)-
Fiber from whole grains removes carcinogens from the body.
Does the color brown in this rainbow surprise you? While you don’t see brown in rainbows in the sky, it’s important to eat whole grains and legumes to add fiber to one’s diet along with the energy-boosting power of complex carbohydrates and plant protein.
MAKE IT A MEAL
It’s easy to make a simple meal of many of the above fruits and vegetables by combining them with whole grains or beans in a bowl with herbs and seasonings, slicing them thinly and putting in a sandwich with hummus, or rolling them into a tortilla or wrap. More ideas: morning oatmeal topped with a few colors of berries and chopped fruit; a colorful “rainbow” sandwich and piece of fruit for lunch; and a loaded salad at dinner – these are all easy ways to add vibrant colors and healthy nutrients to your day.