Beige may be a staple in your wardrobe because of its versatility, but when it relates to diet, beige just doesn’t cut it. American’s have an attraction to all that is quick, cheap, and convenient. Think about it, what foods are beige? Crackers, cereal, (some) chips, and cookies. This leads to a high-fat and highly processed “beige diet” that is lacking in nutrients.
We tend to eat foods based on their taste, cost, and how convenient they are. Food manufacturers have done a great job of creating foods that are easy to eat, inexpensive, and rich in sugar, fat, and salt so that they “taste good”. Starches, fats, and sweets are typically the least expensive foods, so it’s easy to see why people lean toward a ‘brown/beige’ diet. They fill you up, but at what cost? There are significant health costs to a diet that is so high in refined carbohydrates and low in the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals that are so abundant in plant foods. One thing people don’t know about fruits and vegetables (and a plant-based diet) is that PLANTS HAVE PROTEIN! Protein doesn’t only exist in meat, dairy, and peanut butter. You can get a lot of protein by eating the right plants!
The bottom line here is that eating a plant rich diet is associated with good health. You can get everything you need to be healthy by relying on plants. And for people who are looking to add more plants to their diet, adding any fruit or vegetables is great! But for those of us who are are always picking up fresh produce at the grocery store, sometimes we tend to stick to the same few. I’m definitely victim to this, too! But I’d like to explain why a wide variety of colors are so important.
Red foods are packed with phytochemicals like lycopene and anthocyanins. Red foods help increase heart and circulatory health, improve memory, support urinary tract health, and decrease the risk of certain types of cancers. Some great choices of red foods:
- Cherries – High in antioxidants that have been shown to protect against heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis. They also help reduce inflammation in the body and relieve pain from gout and arthritis.
- Cranberries – High in antioxidants and proanthocyanidins, cranberries have been shown to prevent bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract wall and reduce inflammation in the body.
- Red bell peppers – Bell peppers are low in calories and high in vitamin C and fiber. Bell peppers have been linked to increased immunity, improved digestion, lower cholesterol, and a decreased risk of colon cancer.
- Tomatoes – High in the antioxidant lycopene, tomatoes have been shown to help reduce damage to our cells and decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
- Beets – This low calorie veggie is high in fiber, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K. Beets have also been shown to optimize digestive health, decrease inflammation, and help fight heart disease.
Other great options include: strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, pink grapefruit, pomegranate, red kidney beans, red apples, red grapes, radishes, and red onions.
Orange foods are high in antioxidants such as vitamin C, carotenoids, and bioflavonoids. Eating orange foods has been linked to skin and eye health, increased immunity, decreased risk of cancer, and a healthy heart. Some great orange foods:
- Carrots – Carrots are high in vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy skin. They’re packed with beta carotene, which boosts the immune system and can potentially reduce the chances of skin cancer.
- Oranges – High in vitamin A and C, which leads to increased immunity, heart health, and healthier skin. Also high in magnesium and fiber, oranges can help strengthen bones and improve digestion.
- Sweet potatoes – This one has been said to be one of the healthiest veggies we can eat, and one of our family’s favorites! High in fiber, vitamins A and C, iron, and antioxidants. Promotes healthy skin, increased immunity, and a decreased risk of cancer.
- Peaches – High in vitamin A, C, E, K, and fiber, and have been shown to help prevent cellular damage, promote healthier digestion, reduce inflammation in the body, and help reduce your risk of cancer.
Some other great choices: Orange bell peppers, apricots, cantaloupe, pumpkin, mangoes, papayas, and butternut squash.
Yellow foods contain nutrients that promote good digestion and optimal brain function. High in alpha- and beta-carotenes, yellow foods have also been linked to increased immunity, a decreased risk of some cancers, and healthy eyes and skin. Grab these yellow foods on your next shopping trip:
- Pineapple – High in bromelain, an enzyme that helps regulate and neutralize body fluids and aids in digestion. Its high vitamin C content can decrease heart disease, cancer, cataracts, and stroke.
- Yellow peppers – High in vitamin C and A, increases immune function and healthy skin. Also high in carotenoids, which help protect from heart disease.
- Star fruit – High in vitamin C and calcium. Also linked to increased immunity, bone health, and muscle contractions.
Some other great yellow foods: yellow apples, lemon, yellow tomatoes, winter squash.
Green foods contain varying amounts of potent phytochemicals such as lutein. Benefits include a lower risk of some cancers, improved eye health, rejuvenated musculature (the arrangement of muscles in the body), bone health and strong teeth. Stock up on these healthy green foods:
- Broccoli – High in calcium and iron, and has been linked to stronger teeth, bones, and muscles, and a decreased risk of cancer.
- Spinach/Leafy greens – Leafy greens are high in antioxidants, folate and vitamin K, which helps strengthen bones.
- Kiwi – High in folate, vitamin C (more than an orange!) E, and K, which all help decrease the risk of heart disease. High in potassium, and are proven to reduce symptoms associated with upper respiratory and digestive illnesses like irritable bowel syndrome. Helps with bone growth, eye and vision health, and can even help you sleep better! *Kiwi is one of the best fruits you can eat!*
- Avocado – The only fruit that provides a substantial amount of heart healthy monounsaturated fatty acids! Contains more potassium than a banana, and several studies show that high potassium intake is linked to reduced blood pressure.
Other great green foods: Kale, brussel sprouts, celery, cabbage, green grapes, green apples, asparagus, lettuces, zucchini, and peas.
Blue/Purple foods improve memory, promote bone health, and have been shown to lower the risk of some cancers, and increase urinary tract health. The main benefit of blue and purple foods is increased circulation and microcirculation.
- Blueberries – Blueberries are very high in fiber, vitamin E and C, and have been linked to improved cholesterol, increased urinary tract health, and a boost in brain activity.
- Blackberries – Nutrient PACKED! High in fiber, vitamin K (promotes calcium absorption and bone health), and high in antioxidants that improve overall health. Research has also linked blackberries to increased immunity, improved heart health, lower cholesterol, and decreased cancer risk.
- Plums – Plums are high in vitamin B, which helps metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. High in vitamin K, plums also help promote bone health.
- Eggplant – In addition to being high in fiber (8 percent of your daily needs), eggplant is also high in vitamin C, calcium, and phosphorus which promote strong bones and teeth.
Other nutrient-packed blue and purple foods include: elderberries, figs, purple grapes, purple carrots, black currants, and purple cabbage.
And we can’t forget white foods!
While many white foods are refined, like white bread and white rice, there are a lot of white foods that are packed with nutrients. White fruits and veggies have been linked to lower cholesterol, decreased blood pressure, and a lower risk of heart disease. The key benefit of white foods is increased immunity. They help enhance the immune system, the lymph systems, and aids in cellular recovery. A few great white foods:
- Garlic – In the same family as chives and onions, garlic has been linked to heart health and decreased cancer risk. Garlic also has anti-microbial compounds.
- Onions – Onions have powerful sulfur-bearing compounds that work as anti-microbial agents (similar to garlic), and have also been shown to help lower blood sugar levels and improve heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Onions are also high in the flavonoid quercetin, which has been linked to cell protection and slower tumor growth.
- Cauliflower – This is one of our go-to sides for dinner! High in powerful antioxidants such as manganese and vitamin C. One cup of cauliflower has 52 mg of vitamin C, almost as much as an orange! This healthy food has also been linked to increased immunity.
This was one of my favorite posts to write. I loved learning about all of the benefits from each fruit and vegetable. As you can see above, there are a few common themes here:
- Boosting the immune system
- Cardiovascular health
- Lowering risk of cancer
- Cell protection
- High in fiber and antioxidants
But in order to reap the benefits for each organ in your body, you have to switch it up every once in a while! Maybe try one new fruit or veggie each time you go to the grocery store. It’s fun to try new things, and you may be surprised at how much you enjoy one you never thought you would like. If you see one you’ve never tried but always pass in the produce aisle, pick one up! And ALWAYS feel free to contact me if you would like ideas on how to prepare it. I hope this post encourages you to branch out and try different fruits and vegetables from every color of the rainbow!