Monday, 7 May 2012

The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow

When I first graduated from school I used to joke with my friends that we needed to publish the next best-selling diet book. We were going to call it the Rainbow Diet, as in eat the colors of the rainbow. Not very original, I know. The idea of eating different colored plant-based foods has been around for a while but I have noticed recently that this simple idea is starting to catch on. All you have to do is search, "eating the rainbow".

So what is the benefit of eating different colored plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes? There is a multitude of naturally occurring organic compounds in plant foods known as phytochemicals. A subset of these phytochemicals are antioxidants that play an important role in protecting our body from oxidative stress, which can contribute to heart disease, cancer, degenerative eye disease and dementia. The individual chemical structures of antioxidants are what give these plant-based foods their colors. For instance lycopene, an antioxidant in tomatoes and watermelon reflects the color red and beta-carotene provides carrots with their orange color. Rather than remembering their complicated names and combinations, eat a variety of colors and you're covered.

Below is an incomplete list of the colors and foods associated with them.

Red: beets, red onions, red potatoes, tomatoes, radicchio, radishes, red bell peppers, pink or red grapefruit, blood oranges, rhubarb, strawberries, cherries, red plums, raspberries, watermelon, red apples, cranberries, red grapes, red pears, pomegranates, red chili pepper

Orange:  carrots, sweet potatoes, orange bell peppers, orange squash (butternut, acorn), mango, navel and mandarin oranges, papayas, apricots, canteloupe (orange melons), nectarines, peaches, pumpkins

Yellow:  yellow bell peppers, corn, yellow squash (spaghetti), yellow tomatoes, golden beets, rutabagas, grapefruit, lemons, pineapples, yellow apples, yellow pears

Green: artichokes, asparagus, green bell peppers, endive, green beans, lettuce, peas, spinach, watercress, arugula, cucumbers, okra, zucchini, bok choy, broccoli, broccoli rabe, brussel sprouts, green cabbage, endive, kale, leeks, swiss chard, celery, kiwi, limes, green pears, avocados, green grapes, honeydew melon, green chilies, parsley, cilantro, other green herbs

Blue: blueberries, blue plums, blue grapes

Purple: eggplant, purple-tipped Belgian endive, purple cabbage, purple carrots, prunes, black currants, figs, plums, figs, grapes, raisins, blackberries, dates

White/Tan: cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, jicama, parsnips, potatoes, shallots, turnips, white corn, kohlrabi, garlic, ginger, bananas

So my family goal for this week is to increase the variety of colors we are eating every day. I think we'll aim for 4-5 as 7 may be a bit ambitious to start with. I see a great deal of blueberries and eggplant in my near future. How many colors have you eaten today? By the way, yellow fast food french fries don't count.


  1. Well I found your blog today and I am looking forward to reading the posts. As for the colours of the Rainbow, thanks to my husband and his fine cooking skills, we are at five. We are missing the blue and the purple today. Enjoy your journey it is worth it, even if you just become more aware of what you put in your mouth.

    1. Thanks for the comment Madame Hendy! The blue and purple are tough ones I've been relying on blueberry smoothies a lot! Wish we lived closer so we could sample your husband's delicious cooking more often.

  2. Thomas loves "I Can Eat a Rainbow" by Annabel Karmel that you gave him. Great for kids. I now use it as a gift!

    1. Don't you just love the dietitian type gifts we give to each other's children?