As dietitians, we are passionate about colorful fruits and vegetables. In fact, we often run around saying to “eat the rainbow,” and we are not referring to Skittles.

Most Americans struggle to eat fresh produce; however, switching up the type of fruits and vegetables is crucial to maintaining a healthy microbiome or gut health. Choosing vegetables based on various colors will result in the promotion of good bacteria in the gut.

Bright colors in the plant world contain medicinal properties such as anti-cancer, anti-tumor, and antioxidants. These bright colors, called biochromes, contain phytochemicals that are unique to each plant. 

 When shopping for yourself or your family, hundreds of choices are made within a short amount of time. Cultural, expense, content, cravings, and convenience are deciding factors in purchasing food.

Try shopping for various colors on your next shopping trip to stock your fridge and pantry. Color in produce includes spices, herbs, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Make it your goal to get two to three weekly servings of blue, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and white/tan.

Budgeting extra time to search for more color in the grocery store or online will reward you with new flavors and textures to try. An example of a swap is white or brown rice for black or purple rice. Bell pepper and carrots come in various colors and are easily accessible in stores. Look in both the fresh and freezer section of stores.

Eat the Rainbow

Eat the Rainbow

Here is a list of the ROYGBIV colors to be including into your diet:

  • RED includes apples, cherries, kidney beans, pomegranates, radishes, strawberries, sweet red bell peppers, and tomatoes.
  • ORANGE food category includes apricots, bell peppers, butternut squash, cantaloupe, carrots, mango, nectarine, orange, and sweet potatoes
  • YELLOW foods include bell peppers, corn, lemons, popcorn, spaghetti squash, star fruit, succotash, and yellow squash
  • GREEN food options includes asparagus, Avocado, bean sprouts, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, celery, chard, cucumbers, and green beans, green peas, greens, kale, lettuce, olives, and snow peas.
  • PURPLE AND BLUE  foods include blackberries, blueberries, cabbage, carrots, dates, eggplant, grapes, kale, plums, potatoes, raisins, and rice (black or purple).
  • WHITE AND TAN food category includes bean dips, garlic, hummus, legumes, nuts, onions, refried beans, seeds, shallots, and tahini.

Click Here to get a downloadable list of rainbow foods from the Institute of Functional Medicine.

Other ways to gain more phytonutrients in foods are through varying your choices.

If the same workout routine was performed daily, our body would get comfortable with the exercise. Our bodies would not respond as well as mix up. The same thing occurs in our gut microbiome. We must switch up the type of foods that we eat daily. 

Additionally, certain food combinations promote higher bioavailability or benefits. Examples of food combinations that, when eaten together, cause a reaction to being more significant than the foods by themselves. Some of these are turmeric and black pepper; lemon juice and dark green leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach, tomatoes and broccoli; and dark chocolate and apples. Also, mixing fruit, such as blueberries and grapes, maximizes the antioxidants than if you were to eat a single fruit in a greater amount.

In summary, specific foods high in color are attractive to the eye because of their benefits to our bodies. Combine a variety of fruit and vegetables and choose different colors each week to try. Enjoy some of these recipes to get a variety of colors – Kale chips, Kale and Caramelized Apples, Brussel Sprout Salad, Breakfast Frittata, Stir Fried Cabbage, or Spaghetti Squash Casserole.

We’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite foods from the rainbow?

Leila is a wife and mom of two littles. She has a Masters of Science and is working toward completing a dietetic internship to become a registered dietitian. Leila has a enjoys using foods in their most natural form, along with herbs, to optimize the nutrients the body uses for day-to-day performance.