The rainbow diet: eating by colour to boost health and longevity

Things are certainly better in colour, and this also applies to food.

Have you tried the rainbow diet? To explain the significance of eating different fruits and vegetables, health professionals often recommend ‘eating the rainbow.’

Research has shown that a colourful diet is a superb way to aid health and longevity. Let’s get to know the rainbow diet and diversify your plate with bright fruits and vegetables [1].

What is the rainbow diet?

Eating the rainbow implies consuming fruits and vegetables of different colours every day. Plants contain various pigments (phytonutrients), which give them their hue [2]. Different coloured plants link to higher levels of particular nutrients and health advantages.

While eating more vegetables and fruit is a good idea, concentrating on assorted colours will improve your intake of additional nutrients to help different areas of your health.

There are considerable benefits from phytonutrients, but conducting randomised controlled trials is challenging; this is the most stringent type of research to prove their efficacy. Most data analysis is based on population-level intakes and disease risk [3].

Intriguingly, these guidelines conform to an age-old Eastern perspective that one should eat foods of every colour daily. Eastern wisdom believes that health and longevity rely on a balance of elemental energies, represented by the rainbow’s colours.

Red

The pigments that make up the red colouring of many foods are anthocyanins, and these flavonoid compounds fight free radicals and stop oxidative damage to cells. 

The antioxidant lycopene found in watermelons, pink grapefruits, and tomatoes is established to decrease prostate cancer risk. 

The pigments that make up the red colouring of many foods are anthocyanins, and these flavonoid compounds fight free radicals and stop oxidative damage to cells. 

Add red to your meals with:

  • Amaranth
  • Apples
  • Beets (sometimes categorised differently as ‘dark red’ )
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Buckwheat
  • Goji berries 
  • Raspberries
  • Red onions
  • Pecans
  • Pomegranates
  • Red bell pepper
  • Red adzuki or kidney beans
  • Strawberries

Yellow and orange

Carotenoid pigments in orange vegetables (sweet potatoes and pumpkins) can keep free radicals away, enhancing eyesight and strengthening the immune system. 

Beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. In contrast, citrus fruits’ vitamin C and folate fight free radicals and boost immunity. 

Carotenoid pigments in orange vegetables (sweet potatoes and pumpkins) can keep free radicals away, enhancing eyesight and strengthening the immune system. 

Try some yellow and orange with:

  • Almonds
  • Bananas
  • Butternut squash
  • Butter beans
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Cashews
  • Chickpeas
  • Corn
  • Grapefruit
  • Golden beets
  • Lemons
  • Mangoes
  • Millet
  • Oranges
  • Orange and yellow peppers
  • Papayas
  • Peaches
  • Pineapple
  • Tangerine

Green

The green pigment in plants (chlorophyll) augments blood-cell production. It also enhances oxygenation, detoxification and circulation. Greens also contain lutein, a phytochemical that helps lower the risk of cataracts and age-related macular deterioration. 

The green pigment in plants (chlorophyll) augments blood-cell production. It also enhances oxygenation, detoxification and circulation.

Here are a few of the many greens that benefit your health:

  • Asparagus
  • Arugula
  • Avocados
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Collard greens
  • Edamame
  • Grapes
  • Green apples
  • Green beans
  • Green cabbage
  • Green grapes
  • Kale
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Lentils
  • Lime
  • Mung beans 
  • Peas
  • Pistachios
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Zucchini

Purple and blue

Like red berries, blueberries and blackberries receive their colouring from phytonutrient flavonoids. The phytonutrients in blue and purple foods maintain healthy blood vessels, helping your cardiovascular system and diminishing the risk of heart disease. 

Like red berries, blueberries and blackberries receive their colouring from phytonutrient flavonoids.
Photograph: Oleksandr Pidvalnyi/Pexels

Flavonoids also help invert short-term memory loss that comes with ageing and may help deter cancer. Raise your dark-food intake with: 

  • Black beans
  • Black mushrooms
  • Black wild rice
  • Black beans
  • Chestnuts
  • Dried plums
  • Eggplant
  • Figs
  • Flaxseeds
  • Grapes
  • Navy beans
  • Plums
  • Prunes
  • Purple cabbage
  • Purple cauliflower
  • Purple potatoes 
  • Quinoa
  • Raisins
  • Seaweed
  • Walnuts

Brown and white

Regardless if you prefer pine nuts, crispy daikon radish or sweet pear, the anthoxanthins in white foods can help drop your blood pressure and cholesterol. 

Love the crunch and spice of white onion? In that case, you’ll be pleased to know that these are full of the flavonoid quercetin, which is recognised for its cardiovascular health benefits and anti-inflammatory properties.

Additional white foods to help ward off disease include:

  • Barley
  • Cauliflower
  • Garlic
  • Jicama
  • Mushrooms
  • Parsnips
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Soy beans
  • Turnips
  • White beans

Make it a habit to eat the rainbow every day

To eat the rainbow, remember to consume assorted different-coloured fruits and vegetables throughout your day. Most colourful fruits and vegetables contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that may aid different aspects of your health. It is also good to remember that when it comes to vitamins and minerals, levels can differ for each fruit or vegetable.

Here’s a few more tips:

  • Eat a lovely breakfast: rather than your usual eggs, bagels, or yoghurt, start the day with oatmeal topped with red berries, a green smoothie or a tofu scramble with red peppers.
  • Enjoy stimulating salads: large, colourful salads with beans and a mixed choice of vegetables are an excellent way to include lots of colourful veggies and fruits.
  • Revitalise your lunch: soups, stews, veggie sandwiches, and wraps can help you get a proportional selection of colourful foods for lunch.
  • Try making vegetables as the main dish: experiment with new recipes for dishes, like tempeh vegetable stir-fries or vegetable curries.

Nearly all studies indicate benefits from regularly eating colourful fruits and vegetables with practically no downsides. By obtaining a variety of colours in your diet, you’re giving your body a collection of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals to benefit your health.

[1] https://foodrevolution.org/blog/eating-the-rainbow-health-benefits/
[2] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/eat-the-rainbow#benefits
[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31267783/

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The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.