Eating the rainbow

Sarah O'Brien Nutrition / Back to basics  / Eating the rainbow

Eating the rainbow

I recently re-shared a past blog post about a favorite back to basics nutrition concept of mine – balanced meals, and it got me thinking about another simple concept that I view as being one of the foundations of nutritional health – eating the rainbow…

There are a few reasons that this is beneficial to keep in mind as we put our meals and snacks together and aim for our 5+ serves of veg and 2 serves of fruit throughout the day:

  • It provides our bodies with a great range of nourishing nutrients and beautiful phytonutrients (compounds derived from plants) which, thanks to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can assist with a multitude of functions from supporting immune function and eye health to regulating blood pressure and looking after our heart
  • By providing fibre and prebiotic fuel for the ‘good guys’ within our gut and supporting diversity within our microbiome, eating a variety of whole foods, especially a range of plant foods like fruits and vegetables, assists with maintaining gut health, which we know is so important for overall health and wellbeing, being linked to a multitude of factors such as immune function and mental health – research actually suggests we should ideally aim to eat 30+ plant foods a week! *
  • It provides a feast for the eyes – it is often said that we eat with our eyes, and indeed, we do – apart from helping us to mindfully take in and appreciate the beautiful meal and colors in front of us, the very act of digestion can actually start before you swallow your first mouthful – as we see, appreciate and anticipate food, our brain lets our digestive system know it’s time to prepare for incoming food, then as we chew our food, enzymes in our saliva begin to break it down while further along our digestive tract, enzymes and digestive juices which can help us break down and assimilate the nutrients from the food we are eating begin to flow

The beauty of eating a variety of whole foods each day (fruits, veg, whole grains, legumes & pulses + grass fed/free range/organic animal products if that resonates) and focusing on getting some colour on that plate is that generally, you can feel fairly confident that you are covering off, or at least working towards, covering off a wide range of macro & micronutrients ~ a great place to start when it comes to nutrition and overall health.

I wanted to touch briefly on a few colourful fruit & veg examples below to highlight some of the nutritional love you are providing your body when you are eating the rainbow…just some everyday examples to help make the point that simple, back to basics food choices can make a difference as part of our overall health…it all adds up and remember ~ food & nutrition don’t have to be complicated or stressful!

  • RED – tomatoes, red capsicum, strawberries, raspberries, radishes, cherries, rhubarb, red grapes and cranberries can thank an antioxidant beneficial for heart health; lycopene, for their red color and are also good sources of vitamin C
  • PURPLE – blueberries, beetroot, purple cabbage, plums, blackberries, purple carrots, eggplant and purple grapes get their purple colour from anthocyanin, whose antioxidant properties can be beneficial for protecting against cell damage and reducing inflammation and heart disease
  • GREEN – leafy greens (ie; kale, spinach, rocket and asian greens) are lovely sources of nutrients like magnesium & folate, helpful for things like nervous system support and DNA synthesis respectively, to name but a couple, and can also be a good plant based source of iron (pair with vitamin C foods to increase iron absorption), while broccoli and other green cruciferous veggies like Brussels sprouts are a great source of dietary indoles, helpful for positive estrogen metabolism. Other green goodness foods like avocados, asparagus, broccoli, kiwifruit, green apples and grapes, pears, cucumber, green capsicum and peas are always a good (& yummy!) choice too
  • YELLOW & ORANGE – among the carotenoids found in these foods, beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A (a nutrient known for supporting eye, skin & immune health), is what gives orange foods their colour, while citrus fruits like lemons & oranges are known for their vitamin C content & yellow capsicum, corn, squash, pineapple, yellow tomatoes, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, mango & apricots provide a range of nutrients like fibre and B vitamins among them
  • WHITE – the phytonutrient allicin found in garlic is thought to have antiviral and antibacterial properties, while other white foods such as parsnips, bananas & potatoes contain potassium which can be helpful for the functioning of our muscles & nerves and bananas are a nice source of the amino acid tryptophan, required to make serotonin (our ‘all is well’ neurotransmitter), and melatonin (our sleep hormone)…some other great white foods to remember are mushrooms, leek, onion & white peaches

Some tips to help you up the rainbow factor:

  • Shop the perimeter when you are at the supermarket – this is where all the fresh produce is
  • Choose a new fruit &/or veg to try each week
  • Make veggies the hero of your plate at main meals
  • Get creative and mix it up – keep up the variety and enjoy the process of exploring which fruits and veggies you love most
  • Focus on the colours on your plate and aim for a rainbow to help you include fruits and veggies
  • Use mashed roasted pumpkin or sweet potato as a spread on toast/wraps/sandwich’s
  • Keep chopped fruits in the fridge & freezer to grab for snacks + chopped veggies for snacking and dipping
  • Create yummy dips around veggies + include them when making old favorite like hummus ie; beetroot, spinach, pumpkin
  • Add a side of salad or veg when ordering meals out
  • Add berries, sliced pear/banana or stone fruits to your peanut butter toast
  • Include veggies at each meal – you can include them in your smoothies too (ie; pre-cooked pumpkin/carrot/zucchini/cauliflower, fresh cucumber or leafy greens or grated or cooked beetroot)


* 30 + plant foods a week can seem like a lot, but if we break it down to be 5 plant foods a day for 6 days it starts to become a little more doable!

Image via Pixabay


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