Antioxidants: Eat the Colors of the Rainbow!

Most people know that it’s important to eat fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet, but did you know that it’s important to eat the colors of the rainbow? Each different color of fruits and vegetables offers unique nutritional benefits that are favorable to our health. The colors of the rainbow are loaded with antioxidants.

Antioxidants help neutralize free radicals which cause cell damage, which ultimately can lead to diseases of the heart and cancer.  It seems everywhere you go it’s blueberry this and strawberry that.  You have your choice of wild blueberry/strawberry smoothie, blueberry/pomegranate juice, or blueberry/cranberry juice and so on.

I love blueberries.  But, in our rush to embrace the latest antioxidant food craze (blueberries, cranberries, pomegranates) we’re ignoring some very high-antioxidant foods that are probably sitting ignored in our cupboards.

You may be asking, “What could possibly be higher in antioxidants than my beloved wild blueberry?”  Well, how about the small red bean?  That’s right, I said “bean.”  The small red bean actually has more antioxidants per serving size than the wild blueberry.  And the red kidney bean and pinto bean have more antioxidants per serving size than a serving of cultivated blueberries. 

What other foods are high in antioxidants?  For starters, there are artichoke hearts, blackberries, prunes, pecans, spinach, kale, and plums. 

The truth is, there are many common foods high in antioxidants and you should not just restrict yourself to one particular food source.  Why?  Well, you probably have heard the expression, “Eat the colors of the rainbow.”  It refers to the fact that foods are in different color “families” containing different types of antioxidants which have different benefits. 

Why Eat the Colors of the Rainbow:

Red (red apples, watermelon, strawberries, red grapes, raspberries, beets, red potatoes, radishes)– are colored by a natural plant pigment called, lycopene or anthocyanins. Lycopene has been found to reduce risk of some cancers and heart disease, by protecting our cells from damage. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that also protect our cells for damage. Several of these fruits and vegetables are high in Vitamin C, which aids in the prevention of illness and boosts our immune system. Overall, foods from this group are disease fighters!

Orange/Yellow (carrots, sweet potatoes, orange bell pepper, oranges, lemons, squash, peaches, pineapple). This food group are colored by plant pigments called carotenoids. Scientists have found that carotenoid-rich foods can reduce risk of certain cancers, heart disease and improve the function of our immune system. Several of these foods are rich in Vitamin A, which is important for the health of our eyes, skin, hair and mucous membranes. Foods in this group can improve the ability to learn and remember.

Blue/Purple (purple grapes, plums, blackberries, blueberries, raisins, figs, eggplant, red onion). Foods in this color group have plant pigments called anthocyanins, which help protect our cells from damage, keep our brain healthy and may offer us some protection from Alzheimer’s disease. These powerful antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties, can help us feel younger and aid in our thinking and learning.

White (bananas, cauliflower, garlic, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, parsnips). Foods in this color group contain the pigment, anthoxanthins and may contain health promoting “allicins” by helping to lower cholesterol, blood pressure and decrease risk of heart disease and stomach cancer. Some foods in this group like potatoes and bananas are very high in potassium.

Green (green apples, green grapes, kiwi, green bell pepper, zucchini, lettuce, spinach, avocados). Foods in this group are colored by a plant pigment called chlorophyll. Foods from this group contain high amounts of phytochemicals which are good for eye sight and a healthy heart. A compound called “indoles” found in broccoli and cabbage may protect against cancer.

It’s important to eat foods from all color groups to reap the full benefits of antioxidants.

The good news is that you can eat healthy foods high in antioxidants (by eating them raw, cooking them, or juicing them) without having to pay a high price for them at your local juice bar or supermarket.

So, give your blueberries some company at the dinner table.  Add them with some beans, spinach, quinoa, and artichoke hearts and enjoy your antioxidants!

Here are some recipe ideas.

  • Add some fresh berries to your oatmeal
  • Snack on 1 cup of grapes or a banana in the mid-morning
  • Add sliced avocado, lettuce, tomato and onion to your sandwich
  • Dip apple slices or banana in peanut or almond butter for an afternoon snack
  • Make a tasty side salad with a homemade dressing, such as apple, mixed greens, and balsamic vinegar.

Namaste,

Shaline

#nutrition #wholefoods #coaching

3 thoughts on “Antioxidants: Eat the Colors of the Rainbow!”

  1. I loved this post! Thank you for the super helpful mini-lists of common foods to eat to get a little more variation and antioxidants!

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