I wrote the title of this blog to the tune of the Reading Rainbow theme song, and if you weren’t alive in the 90’s, you should look up Reading Rainbow clips on YouTube. LeVar Burton reads you books and shows you the illustrations, it is soothing and wholesome.
When I say eat the rainbow, I don’t mean fill up your plate with Skittles and call it good, but you already knew that. Processed starches and proteins are pretty much brown or white, aka: non-rainbow colors, which means today’s topic is about fruits and vegetables!
Phytochemicals are the reason having a variety of colors in every meal is awesome. Phytochemicals (or phytonutrients) are produced by plants and are part of what gives food their bright color and strong scents. They have tons of health benefits that you can only get by eating the whole fruit or vegetable, vitamins aren’t gunna cut it bud! There are a bunch of different kinds of phytochemicals that all have different benefits but some of the benefits include anti-inflammatory, cancer fighting, and antioxidant properties.
These little powerhouse chemicals are sort of new-ish to nutrition science, plus there are a bunch of different kinds of them, which means we don’t completely know the full extent of their benefits, but it’s never a bad thing to eat more fruits and vegetables. Here’s a link to a chart that shows you what foods fall into which color group and generally what the benefits of each color are.
If you’re a self-proclaimed picky eater or generally don’t love vegetables, try roasting your vegetables or gently sautéing them. When veggies get mushy from boiling or overcooking them, their fiber breaks down and their benefit to gut health decreases, plus mushy vegetables are gross (in my opinion). My favorite way to cook almost any vegetable is to roast it by heating the oven to 450, drizzling the veg with oil and sprinkling seasonings (try this: oregano, salt, garlic, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cumin. It’s very nice. Do whatever ratio makes you happy and smells good to you) on top, and baking them for like 20-ish minutes or until they’re starting to brown a little bit.
We’re roasting some red beets later this week for a big punch of betalain, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation and neutralize free radicals, but that’s enough nerd talk for today. Your takeaway is to work in a new color this week and maybe try something new!
-Jen Lyman, RDN, LD, CLT