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Eat a Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables for Better Health


Eat a Rainbow of Fruits and Vegetables
for Better Health

By Jane Harrison, R.D., Staff Nutritionist, myOptumHealth

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Ever heard of the rainbow diet? It's not an actual diet – it refers to choosing fruits and vegetables of every color in the rainbow.

Eating the full rainbow of foods regularly helps give your body the nutrients it needs. In addition to fiber, vitamins and minerals, naturally colored foods contain what are known as phytochemicals. These powerful nutrients are the disease-fighting substances that also give fruits and vegetables their array of colors.

Research has shown that eating a variety of these nutrients can work together to:

  • Strengthen your immune system
  • Lower your risk for certain cancers
  • Help ward off type 2 diabetes
  • Reduce high blood pressure
  • Prevent some eye diseases
  • Maintain urinary tract health
  • Maintain heart health
  • Improve memory
  • Help build strong bones and teeth

Your daily quota

Only about one out of four Americans eat the minimum recommended servings of fruits and veggies per day. Instead, most of us eat too many high-fat, high-calorie foods such as fatty meats, junk foods and sweets.

And the experts' five-a-day rule has changed. Depending on your age and gender, you may need more for optimal health:

  • Children 2 to 6 years old should get three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit, for a total of five.
  • Children older than 6, teenage girls, active women and most men should get at least four servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit, for a total of seven.
  • Teenage boys and active men should get five servings of vegetables and four servings of fruits, for a total of nine.

A rainbow of choices

Ready to shop the rainbow? The next time you are at the supermarket or local farm stand, try to choose fruits and vegetables from each of these categories:

Red: Red apples, cranberries, red grapes, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, pink or red grapefruit, tomatoes, radishes, radicchio, red peppers, red onions

Blue/purple: Raisins, blackberries, blueberries, plums, purple grapes, eggplant and purple cabbage, purple figs

White: Bananas, white nectarines, white peaches, garlic, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, potatoes.

Green: Green apples, green grapes, kiwi fruit, honeydew melon, kiwi, avocado, broccoli, spinach, okra, artichoke, zucchini, lettuce, celery, asparagus

Yellow/orange: Yellow apples, apricots, cantaloupe, oranges, peaches, nectarines, mangoes, grapefruit, pineapple, yellow peppers, pumpkin, sweet corn, yellow tomatoes, lemons, sweet potatoes

Looking for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? For some, the prize may be measured in pounds. Since fruits and vegetables tend to be filling and low in calories, they can also be a good way to help you reduce or manage your weight.