Why You Should Paint Your Diet with Every Color
Eat the Rainbow
When was the last time you took notice of the color of your food? And when it comes to tasting the rainbow, nope, sorry, Skittles don't count. If you're nodding your head in shame right now it's time to take a closer look at your diet.
It's no secret that eating the rainbow can help you succeed with your weight loss goals, not to mention the array of nutrients you feed your body. And coat your body with the nutrients it needs. These colorful benefits can strengthen your immune system, promote a healthy heart, create radiant skin, and even help you live longer.
So how exactly do hues affect your health? Torrie Yellen, R.D. for the healthy gourmet delivery service DeliverLean shares why you should aim to make every meal a colorful collage.
"When it comes to eating colorful foods it's best when items are in season or at their brightest and ripest," says Yellen. "That's when they have the highest concentrate and nutrient availability."
And since your body utilizes everything you eat and drink one way or another, it's crucial that you're mixing it up and giving it things that interact with each other in the digestion process. "When someone needs iron they should have it with vitamin C which you'd get from yellow and orange foods to assist with the absorption of both."
One amazing benefit of red foods is that they contain the carotenoid lycopene, says Yellen. And even though you've probably heard about the advantages of a raw diet, lycopene is actually enhanced through cooking. So using items like canned tomato sauce will allow your body to absorb more lycopene than eating a tomato alone. Yellen says lycopene is also known to promote prostate and breast health.
Try grilled watermelon slices, or cooked beets. You can sauté red bell peppers and even warm strawberries for a yummy dessert topping. Grabbing a handful of cranberries, cherries, pomegranate, or raspberries works, too. Best news of all? Red wine counts! The flavonoids from grapes are anti-inflammatory and contain antioxidants that help reduce bad LDL cholesterol, increase good HDL, prevent some cancers, and can even help boost your performance at the gym.
Blue and Purple
If you find yourself constantly forgetting things (deadlines, your friend's birthday, or why you just went into the kitchen), try crossing over to the dark side of fruits and vegetables. Blue and purple foods are the ultimate brain food. Blueberries are the king of antioxidants with a dense amount of these free-radical fighters into just a pea-sized fruit. One study in older adults with early memory changes found that participants had improvements in word recall as well as reduced depressive symptoms after just 12 weeks of drinking wild blueberry juice. Superfood expert David Wolfe swears by blueberries as a way to enhance memory and cognition as well as to help lower blood pressure.
Additionally, prunes, figs, eggplants, raisins, purple potatoes, plums, blackberries, and purple and black grapes (another excuse to have wine), all have anti-aging properties and promote longevity. And it doesn't stop there; the anthocyanins providing the blue-violet pigment to these fruits and vegetables are heart-healthy compounds that work to protect against environmental toxins. Pro tip: Try figs in your smoothie, salad, or protein balls.
Choose from broccoli, spinach, bok choy, collard greens, arugula, or the poster child of dark greens: kale, and you can't go wrong nutrition-wise. Oh, and let's not forget about Brussels sprouts—exhibit A: 10 Seriously Addictive Brussels Sprout Recipes. Each of these leafy-green guys are high in vitamin A, as well as a good source and calcium—great for those who can't tolerate dairy. (The Complete Guide to Leafy Greens.)
"Greens are high in vitamin K too, which people often overlook," says Yellen, which helps regulate normal blood clotting. A compound in these green veggies called isothiocyanates also cleanses the liver and protects against cancer. Plus, they are packed with potassium. If you want more green in your life, but are sick of kale, (Sorry, kale. We still love you, but sometimes you just need a break.) try asparagus, which promotes a healthy bladder and can prevent urinary tract infections. Zucchini, green beans, and artichokes are also great choices, as well as herbs (think basil, parsley, cilantro, thyme, and mint) and green fruits (apples, pears, grapes, kiwi, honeydew lemon, and limes).
Yellow and Orange
Want that natural glow and clear complexion? Yellow and orange foods can help with that. Lemon, pineapple, turmeric, corn, mangoes, oranges, tangerines, sweet potato, papaya, cantaloupe, and passion fruit amp up the skin's elasticity while also giving you a natural warmth to your skin from within. (For a Gorgeous Sunless Tan, Eat These Healthy Skin Foods.) Many orange produce contain beta-carotene, a carotenoid respsonsible for providing a heaping dose of vitamin A, which is well-known to promote good eye health. Orange and yellow foods also fortify your bones and teeth thanks to their vitamin C, potassium, and folic acid.
White is a color, too, and there's so much more to the world of white foods then boring old (and nutritionally minimal) white bread, pasta, or white sugar. Yellen says unrefined foods like cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, the inside of kiwis, celery, and even bananas, fall into the white category and they certainly have more nuttitional value than a slice of Wonder Bread. Potatoes deserve a second look as well. They are heavy on the starch and carbohydrates, sure, but a medium potato contains more potassium and dietary fiber than a medium banana, as well as magnesium and protein.