by Karmen Gregg
Throughout our lives, we’ve all been told to eat more fruits and vegetables. Whether it’s being drilled into us by well meaning friends, health professions or our mom, this significant but straightforward recommendation is often pushed aside and ignored—much to our own detriment.
Their advice is right—if we want to live healthy lives, we need to eat an abundance of plants. These health-giving foods are made up of thousands of natural chemicals called phytochemicals or phytonutrients. Phytonutrients, commonly called antioxidants, have been shown to be extremely beneficial for health and the prevention of disease. Their primary mechanism of action is through their ability to scavenge free radicals that create oxidative stress, inflammation and contribute to the pathology of disease.
Every day, our bodies are continually producing free radicals or being exposed to substances that generate free radicals in our body that add to our level of oxidative stress and inflammation. We can control some of this exposure by drinking filtered water, eating organic foods, limiting our exposure to toxins by cleaning up our personal care products, and removing processed foods from our diets. Even with these positive steps, we can still be deficient in the antioxidants needed to combat the levels of inflammation in our bodies.
One of the easiest steps we can take to increase antioxidant levels is to boost our consumption of phytonutrients by eating an array of colorful plant foods. Plant colors can help us to visually identify the phytonutrients we’re consuming. When we intentionally decide to eat a variety of colors, our bodies become more nourished and we become more engaged and intuitive in our food choices. Just by increasing our consumption of vibrant and colorful fruits and vegetables we are taking a huge step forward in reducing inflammation and promoting health within our body.
Eating the Rainbow to Reduce Inflammation Antioxidant Color Guide
Red Helps to protect the cardiovascular and reproductive system Phytonutrients: Ellagic acid, quercetin, anthocyanidins, lycopene
Foods: Tomatoes, watermelon, cherries, raspberries, grapefruit, apples, strawberries
Orange/Yellow Helps to protect the eyes, skin and immune function
Phytonutrients: Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein/zeaxanthin
Foods: Carrots, pumpkin, yams, pineapple, bananas, oranges, peppers
Helps protect the eyes, arteries and supports detoxification and hormonal balance
Phytonutrients: Indoles, sulforaphane, isoflavones, EGCG, lutein, zeaxanthin
Foods: Kale, spinach, collard greens, romaine lettuce, broccoli, Brussel sprouts
Helps protect the brain, cognition and support healthy aging
Phytonutrients: Resveratrol, phenolics, flavonoids
Foods: Beets, figs, grapes, blueberries, blackberries, eggplant
A Day of Rainbow Eating Meal Plan
Breakfast: a veggie omelet made with 2 to 3 eggs mixed with chopped red onions, mushrooms, orange peppers, spinach and topped with a few avocado slices
Lunch: a chopped cucumber, celery, apple and jicama salad tossed in olive oil and vinegar and topped with garlic and lemon seasoned salmon
Afternoon snack: a small bowl of seasonal berries with a cup of green tea
Dinner: chicken stir-fry with carrots, water chestnuts, bok choy, broccoli and kale over cauliflower rice and seasoned with tamari
Dessert: two slices of watermelon and a small piece of 88 percent dark chocolate
Karmen Gregg, M.S. is a nutritionist and owns Cultivate: Mind-Body Nutrition located in Lakeside Holistic Health in Coeur d’alene and Liberty Lake. Learn more at LakesideHolisticHealth.com or CultivateMindBodyNutrition.com.