It is important to get all the various vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that our bodies need in order to support the biological processes that keep us alive and healthy. However, chances are you don’t calculate your intake of every nutrient—that would be quite time-consuming and tedious. So how do you make sure you’re getting everything you need?
Eating the rainbow is a nice visual tool to verify that you are getting the broad range of nutrients that you need every day. Each color (the red in raspberries, the orange in carrots, the yellow in pineapple, the green in kale, the blue in blueberries, and the purple in the skin of eggplant) indicates a different profile of vitamins and minerals. The colors also represent different phytonutrients in the foods, which perform a variety of functions in the body, such as defending against cancer-causing oxidative damage, protecting the eyes, and supporting healthy blood pressure.
An overwhelmingly white, tan, or brown plate might look like meat and potatoes, or white pasta with cheese, or chicken and rice. What are these plates lacking? Fruits and vegetables. Focusing on eating the rainbow encourages adding plenty of fruits and vegetables to your meals and snacks throughout the day. So, chances are, asking yourself how you can add color to your plate will result in adding produce.
Including more produce in the diet adds a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber, water, and phytonutrients, which all are beneficial to health. Diets around the world that are higher in fruits and vegetables, such as the Mediterranean diet, are associated with better health outcomes, such as lower rates of heart disease and cancer, and greater longevity. Most people in the U.S. do not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day, so we may be missing out on the health benefits of these nutrient-packed foods. Aiming for eating the rainbow throughout the day—adding more color to each meal and snack—will help you get your servings of fruits and vegetables. It will also help edge out color-less foods such as refined starches and saturated fats, making your diet more nutrient-dense and satisfying overall.
You can add more color to your plate by having a salad along with lunch and dinner, no matter what else is on your plate. Adding a salad will ensure that you get those leafy greens, and throwing in some tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers will add even more color. Including a variety of vegetables with every meal, in addition to your salad, will help you to pack in even more color and nutrients. Balance out your plate with at least half of your plate vegetables at every meal. You can also add more color to your plate throughout the day by snacking on fruits. Fruits are packed with fiber and are also hydrating, making them an ideal filling snack. Pair them with unsalted nuts and seeds for a protein boost. Another way to add color to your meals is to experiment with different herbs and spices. Turmeric, cayenne, basil, oregano, cinnamon, ginger, rosemary, and other herbs and spices add flavor to meals without added sodium, and contain beneficial phytonutrients and antioxidants, boosting the nutritional quality of the diet even further.
So take a look at your plate…and add some color! Aim for eating the rainbow every day and you will likely be including important health-boosting nutrients in your diet.
Check out MAC's Recipe of the Month for a nutrient-packed rainbow recipe!
This month's blog contribution comes from Louisa Paine, Registered Dietitian at The Mount Auburn Club.
Personalizing recipes is one of our specialties! Contact the MAC Nutrition team today.
The information presented here is for general educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or health condition. As always, please speak with your registered dietitian regarding any dietary modifications or nutrition-related questions.