Are You Eating a Rainbow?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It is well understood that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides many health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and reducing risks of heart disease, cancer, and digestive problems. Not only do they provide many necessary vitamins and minerals, but also beneficial fiber as well.

According to U.S. nutritional data, we are not measuring up when it comes to eating a variety of fruits and vegetables but tend to consume the same bland produce repeatedly. When you limit fruit and vegetable intake to only a few more common sources, you are also limiting your phytochemical intake as well. Phytochemicals are the naturally occurring non-nutritive disease preventive chemicals found in plants.

It doesn't matter whether you rely on the ROY G BIV mnemonic or need to look at a rainbow picture, as long as you focus on an intake that includes all the colors of the rainbow, you will be certain to provide your body with a wide range of nutrients. Here are some fruit and vegetable suggestions to help you eat a rainbow.

Red fruits and vegetables are colored naturally by lycopene or anthocyanins. Some of the more popular choices include red apples, beets, cherries, cranberries, pink grapefruit, red grapes, red peppers, pomegranates, red potatoes, radishes, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, tomatoes, and watermelon.

Orange/Yellow fruits and vegetables are usually colored by natural pigments known as carotenoids. Options that are more popular include yellow apples, apricots, butternut squash, cantaloupe, carrots, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, pears, yellow peppers, pineapple, pumpkin, rutabagas, yellow summer or winter squash sweet corn, sweet potatoes, tangerines, and yellow tomatoes.

Green fruits and vegetables receive their color from natural pigments known as chlorophyll and some contain lutein and zeaxanthin. Common green choices are green apples, artichokes, asparagus, avocados, green beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, green cabbage, cucumbers, green grapes, honeydew melon, kiwi, lettuce, limes, green onions, peas, green pepper, spinach, and zucchini.

Blue/Purple fruits and vegetables get their color from natural pigments known as anthocyanins. Most common examples of these foods are blackberries, blueberries, eggplant, figs, plums, prunes, purple grapes, and raisins.

When talking about light, white is the presence of all color. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, the same theory can also apply when you include white choices along with all the other colors. The pigment anthoxanthins provide the white color to fruits and vegetables and common examples include bananas, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, and turnips.

As you work to get five rainbow servings of fruits and vegetables each day it is important to know what a serving would be. Recommendations for fruits and vegetables are usually in cups so here are some typical portion sizes in cup and half-cup references:

Examples of one cup serving size

1 small apple

1 large banana

1 medium grapefruit

1 large orange

1 medium pear

1 small wedge of watermelon

2 large or 3 medium plums

8 large strawberries

1 large bell pepper

1 medium potato

2 large stalks of celery

1 cup cooked or 2 cups raw greens such as spinach, collard, mustard or turnip

Examples of half cup serving size

1 snack container (4 oz) of applesauce

16 grapes

1 medium cantaloupe wedge

Half a medium grapefruit

4 large strawberries

5 broccoli florets

6 baby carrots

1 large plum

1 small box (1/4 cup) of raisins

Here are some helpful tips from the NDSU Extension Service to help you increase fruits and vegetables in your diet.

  • Save prep time by using prepackaged salads and stir-fry mixes.
  • Add different colorful vegetables to casseroles, stews and soups.
  • Consider investing in a juicer to experiment with different 100% fruit and vegetable juices instead of high-sugar drink options.
  • Make fruit your dessert at the end of your meal.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables cleaned and ready to go in the refrigerator and grab and go snack options like apples, bananas and oranges readily available in a bowl on the counter.
  • Use plenty of sandwich fillers like lettuce, onions, peppers and tomatoes.
  • When you need a sweet treat, reach for dried fruits like dates, apricots, raisins or prunes.
  • Order double veggies on your pizza.