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Nutrition Rainbow Of Pigment Power

Is your daily diet starting to look a little bland and boring? When you plan meals, you generally think of flavor, texture, and taste… however have you ever stopped to consider color? You should!

Rainbow of Benefits

No single food can provide us with the variety of nutrients we need. Different vitamins and nutrients are associated with different colors of food. That is why it is important to select a variety of colors of foods.

Produce is in season, and there is no better time to shop with all of your senses. See, touch, smell, and taste while taking a stroll around your garden, a farmer’s market, or grocery store to enjoy the aromas, colors, flavors, and textures of the season. Give your body the full spectrum of pigments in the rainbow with powerful antioxidant effects, as well as the nutrients it needs for optimal health.

Reduced Risk of Chronic Disease

People who eat more generous amounts of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including strokes, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and perhaps heart disease and high blood pressure.

Plant foods contain thousands of natural chemicals. These are called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. “Phyto” refers to the Greek word for plant. There are more than 25,000 phytonutrients found in plants, and many have astounding health benefits. Different colors offers different benefits, which is why it’s so important to eat the spectrum! There is some crossover of phytonutrients. Here is a rundown of those you can enjoy this summer and the benefits each color offers.

Eat Red

Red foods contain a number of antioxidants, including lycopene (tomatoes), anthocyanins (red berries) and ellagic acid (strawberries, raspberries and pomegranate). Red is usually an indication that the food contains vitamin A and vitamin C. Typically, red produce are also high in manganese and fiber. Tip: Cook your tomatoes! The body absorbs lycopene more easily when it’s been cooked, so for maximum benefit, lightly cook your tomatoes, use canned tomatoes or make your own tomato sauce.

Eat Green

Green fruits and vegetables are colored by a pigment called chlorophyll. Many are good sources of two carotenoids called lutein and zeaxanthin; in addition, they contain phytochemicals such as indoles and glucosinolates and nutrients such as beta-carotene, folate, iron and calcium. Tip: Kale is one of the great all-round vegetables, it’s also versatile and easy to use: it can be eaten raw in salads, stir fried, used in soups and stews, and even turned into chips!

Eat Blue and Purple

Purple and blue fruits and vegetables are colored by phytochemicals called anthocyanins. Many of these foods also contain ellagic acid and proanthocyanidins. You can also find vitamin A and flavonoids in purple vegetables. Tip: As a general rule, the darker the fruit or vegetable, the more antioxidants it has.

Eat Orange

Orange foods are high in antioxidants such as vitamin C, carotenoids, and bioflavonoids. Orange-colored foods may contain beta-cryptoxanthin, beta-carotene, and alpha-carotene, nutrients that the body can converted into vitamin A. They also contain vitamin B6, potassium, and fiber. Tip: Too much vitamin A can be toxic, so avoiding taking vitamin A supplements. The body only converts as much vitamin A from beta-carotene as it needs, so try to get your vitamin A from foods instead of vitamin tablets.

Eat Yellow

Yellow fruits and vegetables are teeming with carotenoids and bioflavonoids, which represent a class of water-soluble plant pigments that function as antioxidants. Along with antioxidants, sunny-colored foods also have an abundance of vitamin C. You will also find potassium, manganese, magnesium, and fiber in other yellow produce. Tip: Cook with a little oil! Like all carotenoids, beta-cryptoxanthin is best absorbed by the body with some fats, so make sure to cook or dress yellow vegies with a little oil.

Eat White

White fruits and vegetables are colored by pigments called anthoxanthins. Some members of the white group are good sources of the mineral potassium, too. In addition, they may contain vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and fiber. Tip: Allicin, which is found in garlic, is known for its antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. Finely chop or crush garlic and add to your cooking just before you serve for maximum benefits.

Paint Your Plate

Eating a variety of colorful food provides vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to nourish your body. Different colored foods play different roles in the body. Aim for at least three colors at every meal and two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables over the course of the day. Do not be afraid to pick up something new and unusual to try. You might find a new favorite!

Dine on a gorgeous rainbow of fruits and vegetables to net nature’s full spectrum of health-promoting nutrients. Pile your plate high with fresh, crisp, colorful fruits and vegetables to brighten up your plate and benefit your health!


Eat a Rainbow for Health text with rainbow above

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Extension Educator:
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming Extension

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Extension Educator:
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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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