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How to 'Eat the Rainbow'

Updated: Oct 19, 2022



What does 'Eating the Rainbow' mean?

Simply put, eating the rainbow means including variety and colour in you diet. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains all count as food sources when it comes to choosing the colour of our meals.

What gives the colour to these food sources is something called phytonutrients. They are often referred to as phytochemicals and are chemicals produced by plants, which are used by the plant to stay healthy (Szalay, 2015).

Though they are not as essential as macronutrients or micronutrients, when we consume plants containing them, we experience a vast array of health benefits, such as: antioxidant capacity, immune and eye health (Group, 2016) as well as acting as antibacterial and antifungal agents.

As well as protecting from chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease, phytonutrients have been found to delay ageing in animal studies (Sia and Liu, 2014). Many of the health benefits of phytonutrients have been attributed to their antioxidant capacity (especially carotenoids and polyphenols) of reducing the oxidative stress damage created by free radicals, or reactive oxygen species (ROS), in the body (Zhang et al., 2017), which can contribute to inflammation.

We know the phytonutrients are important for wellness and longevity, however they have not yet been well studied and a lot more research is required.

How do we 'Eat the Rainbow'?

Eating the rainbow doesn't mean that we are only introducing phytonutrients in our diet. If you think about it, all the food sources (plants) containing phytonutrients are also those providing us with a wide variety of minerals and vitamins, and of course micronutrients, that are essential to our wellbeing.

Therefore, we should aim to ‘Eat the rainbow’ every day. Meaning that our diet should be varied and colourful in order to be balanced and nutritious. This of course is an oversimplification, but one that works very well, helping us to increase variety and fresh produce in our diet, fibre, vitamins and minerals. By including nuts, seeds and legumes we will also include fats and protein, so covering all the macronutrients as well.

The main consideration with phytonutrients, considering that there is no official guideline in regards to daily recommended intake, is to eat a colourful variety of unprocessed foods.

Roughly, we should aim to eat 9 to 10 portions of fruit and vegetables each day, and by adding in nuts, seeds, legumes and herbs and spices we can include all the phytonutrient categories. This is affirmed by the Institute of Functional Medicine, who have produced a colour guide for the phytonutrients. It is broken down into 6 colours: red, orange, yellow, green, white/ tan and blue/ purple, and recommend eating two portions (at 50g each) from each colour, every day. You can see an example of this below:

Rainbow Chart
Download • 73KB

If you are struggling to include all the colours every day, start with a weekly approach, rather than a daily one. You will see it's not that complicated when you are picking out the vegetables and fruit for your weekly meal plan.

Get in touch to learn more about eating a nutritious and balanced diet.

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