You’ve probably read the old, “eat the rainbow” piece of advice in most articles about balanced nutrition and a balanced diet plan. You’re thinking red – tomatoes. Orange – a carrot or two. How on earth do you eat blue? Okay, so we’re exaggerating a little, but here are some guidelines to and reasons for actually eating the rainbow. You’ll find that a variety of foods with different hues will help maximise the nutritional benefits you reap from eating fruits and veg. The various colours each present their own compounds that your body metabolises and uses to function. Getting as much variety in your fruit and vegetable choices as possible will help you achieve an important part of a balanced diet. 

Red Alert

Fruits and veg with a red hue or deep red pigment contain a nutrient called lycopene. Studies show that lycopene is extremely beneficial in cancer prevention, including stomach and lung cancers. It’s an antioxidant that protects cell structures and your DNA from free radical cells that cause damage to healthy cells which can then lead to tumour development. Look to tomatoes, peppers, guavas, papayas, blood oranges, cherries, raspberries, beetroot… the list is as long as your arm, so just traipse down the fresh produce aisle.

Orange you healthy

Orange and yellow produce contain cryptoxanthin and beta-carotene, which are two optimum nutrients to fight against mental and physical ailments. You’ve heard that carrots will keep your vision sharp, but the beta-carotene also helps with cognitive function and memory decline. The cryptoxanthin has been proven to help fight against cancer and some research even suggests a slower development of rheumatoid arthritis. Try adding pumpkin, carrots and sweet potatoes or some apricots, grapefruit and peaches to your diet. This particular shade of produce is never in short supply, all year round.

Green Dreams

The words ‘dark leafy greens’ are probably top of mind for anyone who has ever searched for food as medicine. Broccoli is almost always the answer to everything, purely because it contains nutrients that protect your eyes, heart and immune system in general. Lutein and zeaxanthin keep us from going blind and reduce the risk of optical degeneration as we age. Every daily serving of leafy greens reduces the risk of heart disease by nearly 11%. Greens also contain loads of vitamins A and C, which help your body metabolise other nutrients and reduce cholesterol. Spinach, salad leaves, green beans, broccoli, zucchini, peppers and so on. And don’t forget the miraculous kale! Just look for the green stuff.

Purple or Blue it’s up to Hue

These varieties of fruit and veg are rich in anthocyanins that prevent tumours and contain anti-inflammatory properties. They help reduce and ease arthritic pain and protect against heart disease. These foods have been closely linked to immunity and cell strength in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Keep your eye on those blueberries, figs and plums, and look out for purple cabbage, beetroot, eggplant (aubergine) and purple potatoes. Purple and blue veg are not in short supply. There are a few that will surprise you, so look for interesting varieties as you shop.

The other Brownies

Beans are technically legumes, not fruits or vegetables, but they are still an important part of the rainbow. Thankfully, beans aren’t so hard to incorporate into your diet since veganism and vegetarianism have become more prominent diet choices for people. There are lots of recipes that use black beans, broad beans, and lentils and chickpeas more commonly. Beans are an excellent source of folate – a variety of B vitamins that help prevent damage to arteries. Beans are great in soups and salads as a start.

There are a million and one ways to get a variety of colours into your diet throughout the week. You don’t have to eat every colour every day, but it’s important to get them in wherever you can. Take a stroll down the produce aisle and marvel at the rainbow you get to eat.