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Somewhere over the rainbow: Why eating a full array of colorful foods is essential to a balanced diet.

Little girl with variety of fruit and vegetable. Colorful rainbow of raw fresh fruits and vegetables. Child eating healthy snack. Vegetarian nutrition for kids. Vitamins for children. View from above.

There are many diets that exist. Some are simple. Some are complicated and hard to stick with. But one of the easiest diets to understand is the Rainbow Diet. And with all those colors, it can be a fun way for children and adults alike to make sure they are getting all the various nutrients that bodies need to be healthy. It’s really as simple as understanding that the colors of foods represent the nutrients they contain. And then making sure you eat a full rainbow of colors every day!
RED: Tomatoes and apples are the first two foods that come to my mind when I think of red foods. And these two are a perfect example of how processing our food changes its value. For example, tomatoes are packed full of a very powerful antioxidant called lycopene. Cooked tomatoes have very high levels of lycopene, and have been found to effectively prevent prostate cancer as well as be helpful to maintain good cardiovascular health. Lycopene is one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants, and in fact, you’ll find it in most red foods, as well as those foods with a pink or pinky-red hue. Think of watermelon, red or pink grapefruits and you are looking at some lycopene! However, it’s important to remember that cooking a food reduces other nutrients. Raw tomatoes will offer another variety of health benefits. The same is true of apples. Apple juice, applesauce and cooked apples still have many health benefits. But raw apples with the skin have been proven to be most effective in aiding digestion, regulating insulin, providing dietary fiber, and regulating appetite. Research shows that eating a whole apple before a meal will cut your fat intake by at least 15%. Pomegranates are a red food considered a super food because of the many vitamins and minerals they contain. And another magic red food is the cherry which reduces pain and inflammation, aids in muscle health, and contains melatonin which is powerful for sleep regulation.
ORANGE AND YELLOW: These colors offer many of the same nutrients. And some of the most prominent benefits here are heart health and immunity. Orange and yellow foods are especially high in Vitamin C polyphenol antioxidants. Melons in this color group contain high levels of Vitamin A which is essential for healthy eyes and immunity. Carrots are a favorite orange food and contain lots of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Iron. Squash is an important fall food and it is especially high in potassium and beta carotene. And be sure to include peppers which actually come in a rainbow variety on their own!
GREEN: It would be hard to live in the world and miss the fact that green fruits and veggies are high in nutrients that our bodies crave. Green is possibly the most power-packed color and deserves a little extra space on your plate. It signifies vibrancy, cleansing, health, energy production, detoxification, rejuvenation and longevity. These foods are rich in chlorophyll (similar to iron), many B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin K, potassium, minerals and fiber for an overall healthy body and blood system. Broccoli is a well-loved and widely available vegetable, and actually a great source of vitamin C (as are Brussels sprouts!). Vitamin C is an effective antioxidant that reduces disease risk, boosts the immune system, improves iron absorption, and promotes wound healing too. Try replacing your starchy carbs (potatoes, bread and pasta) with a selection of green vegetables, and you might find losing weight a whole lot easier! Greens are also valuable protein sources, especially when eaten raw.
BLUE AND PURPLE: In foods, blues and purples can be hard to differentiate. And this is because they share many of the same nutrients. These deep beautiful colors contain high levels of anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidin pigments. Anthocyanins are responsible for the purple tint of these fruits and veggies, and are known for their antioxidant qualities by giving your circulatory system a nice boost! Plums and figs happen to be excellent sources of vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, Vitamin C, and fiber. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and other phytochemicals and Vitamin K. Grapes have been positively linked to fighting cancer, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease and other ailments.
Rainbow diets really are a simple way to manage nutrition and have a little fun doing it. For other tips on managing weight and making your family a little healthier, call and ask about our Healthy Child Program. Call us today at (302) 292-1334. And make sure you eat a full rainbow this week!

Brodie Hughes, graduate intern at CCD

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Center for Child Development
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