Eating a Rainbow of Foods: Why this is Important

August 31, 2020

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Have you ever heard of ‘eating more colour’, or ‘eating a rainbow’? What does this mean? And why is this important? The American Heart Association divides eating in colour into five main categories: Red/Pink; Blue/Purple; Yellow/Orange; White/Brown; and Green

Below are some examples of foods you can find within these groups:

We want to dive a little deeper to understand why eating in colour is important and explore its benefits. We found that eating a rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables will positively impact your health. Here’s a snapshot of some key nutrients found in the colour groups and their corresponding benefits:

1. Red & Pink
Nutrients: beta-Carotene, ellagic acid, lycopene
Benefits: antioxidants, cancer prevention, cell renewal, heart health, immune system, skin health, vision support

Why is this colour important? Lycopene targets reactive oxygen molecules that have potential to create free radicals and cause cell damage that leads to disease; helps protect the heart. Beta-carotene is converted in the body to vitamin A and then is used to help control genes with structural proteins essential for healthy skin, immune system, and vision health. Ellagic acid has antioxidant properties fighting free radicals and protecting cells from damage and helps fight various cancers and other diseases.

2. Blue & Purple
Nutrients: anthocyanin, resveratrol
Benefits: anti-microbial, anti-aging, antioxidants, cancer prevention, diabetes Control, heart health, memory function, neuroprotective, vision support, obesity reduction

Why is this colour important? Anthocyanin works at the molecular level and has anti-thrombotic effects for the heart; prevents new blood vessel formation supplying oxygen to cancer cells; lowers glucose and insulin resistance; promotes ocular blood flow; helps to regular adipocytes (where irregularity is linked to obesity); fights infection and enhances the energy of a cell (mitochondrial functioning). Resveratrol is a natural substance found to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi; works to prevent oxidative stress (fighting free radicals in the body that can damage fatty tissue, DNA, and protein leading to a number of diseases); inhibits carcinogenesis (the stages that cancer cells go through); enhances cardiac environment through anti-inflammatory properties and reduces the secretion of inflammatory factors; boots cells.

3. Yellow & Orange
Nutrients: beta-carotene, vitamin C
Benefits: antioxidants, skin health, immune system, vision support, heart health

Why is this colour important? Vitamin C is a natural defence against inflammation and fights off free radicals, helping prevent damage to cells. It also helps build collagen and promotes optimal skin health. The benefits of beta-carotene have been noted above in the red category.

4. White & Brown
Nutrients: allicin, quercetin, sulforaphane
Benefits: anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, antioxidants, cancer prevention, heart health, immune system, neuroprotective

Why is this colour important? Vitamin C is a natural defence against inflammation and fights off free radicals, helping prevent damage to cells. It also helps build collagen and promotes optimal skin health. The benefits of beta-carotene have been noted above in the red category.

5. Green
Nutrients: lutein, isothiocyanate, isoflavones, vitamin K, folate
Benefits: bone health, colorectal health, growth and development heart health, immune system, wound healing

Why is this colour important? Lutein works as an anti-oxidant and fights free radicals that can damage cells and lead to disease. Isothiocyanates work with enzymes to help prevent abnormal cell growth. Isoflavones help regulate estrogen levels and have also been shown to promote bone health and work as an antioxidant. Vitamin K helps make proteins and is essential for bone health and wound healing. Folate is essential in creating new proteins and is vital for pregnancy, infancy, and adolescence.

As you can see, eating more colours is beneficial to your health. In our July 2020 blog, we introduced Canada’s Food Guide, which recommends one half of our daily food portion come from fruits and vegetables. We can certainly see why this is the case! So, how can you teach and encourage your little ones? Feeding time can be fun with a rainbow of colours and nutrition—encourage the family to make eating a rainbow a marvelous mission! 

Tidbits for your Tiny One
To help inspire children, we created a fun word find and printable colouring sheet that might bring a smile to their face when talking about the importance of nutrition. 

Word Find: How to Eat a Rainbow at Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
How many words can you find? And what colours are the ingredients? 

Download our FREE printable—‘Eat a Rainbow’ Colouring Sheet
Yellow, orange, green, red, purple, and blue
These are the colours so good for you!

We hope we’ve contributed something a little fun to your day, and remember…don’t hog the blog! Share these fun activities with
friends (and classmates) today!

Have a bloomin’ summer day!
Sarah & Karen 

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about Watch Me Bloom, you can buy our Recipes for Growing Me ~6 months book, or preview the ~9 months edition, say hello on Facebook or follow us on Instagram. If you liked this blog, share it with a new parent or caregiver. Reading this for the first time? Subscribe and receive a complimentary digital download of our ‘Love Me Forever’ Digital Print to frame for baby’s room.

American Heart Association, (2020). Eating More Color Infographic.

Food Revolutions, (2020). Eating the rainbow: why a variety of fruits and vegetables is important.

Fiona, M., (2016). Newly discovered benefits of lutein. Alternative/Complementary Therapies; Consumer Health, 1-3. 

Healthline (2018). Why is ellagic acid important?

Heathline. (2020). The 4 best vitamins for your skin.

Keshandehghan, A., Nikkhah, S., Tahermansouri, H., Heidari-Keshel, S, Gardaneh, M., (2020). Co-Treatment with sulforaphane and nano-metformin molecules accelerates apoptosis in HER2+ breast cancer cells by inhibiting key molecules. Nutrition & Cancer, 72 (5): 835-848. 

Mahyar, D., Armin, Z., Hossein, H, (2020). Garlic (allium sativum) as an antidote or protective agent against natural or chemical toxicities: A comprehensive update review. Phytotherapy Research; 24 (8), 1770-1797. 

Medical News Today, (2017). All you need to know about beta carotene.

Medical News Today, (2018). Why is folate good for you?

Messina, M., Ho, S., Alekal, D.L., (2004). Skeletal benefits of soy isoflavones: a review of the clinical trial and epidemiologic data. Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care; 7(6): 649-658. 

Salehi, B., Prakash Mishra, A., Nigam, M., Sener, B., Kili, M., Sharifi-Rad, M., Valere Tsouh Fokou, P., Martins, N., Sharifi-Rad, J., (2018). Resveratrol: A double-edged sword in health benefits. Biomedicines, 6 (3): 91, doi: 10.3390/biomedicines6030091

Story, E., N., Kopec, R, E., Schwartz, S.J., Harris, K. (2013). Update on the health effects of tomato lycopene. Annual Review Food Science Technology. 10.1146/

Tse, G., Eslick, G.D., (2014). Cruciferous vegetables and risk of colorectal neoplasms: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition & Cancer; 66 (1): 128-139. 

 Ya-Yu, W., Cheng-Yi, C., Shih-Yi, L., Jiaan-Der, W., Chiig-Cheng, C., Wen-Ying, Yu-Hsiang, K., Su-Lan, L., Wen-Yi, W., Chun-Jung, C. (2020). Quercetin protects against cerebral ischemia/reperfusion and oxygen glucose deprivation/reoxygenation neurotoxicity. Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 83,

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