A Dietitian’s Guide To Eating The Rainbow

by Elizabeth Vennefron, RDN, LD

Last Updated: October 2, 2020

Consuming more fruits and vegetables is an easy way to improve your overall health and well-being. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend individuals consume eight servings of fruits and vegetables each day. It’s not just the amount you consume that matters, but the variety of fruits and vegetables you consume as well. By eating a diverse set of colors, you are ensuring an adequate intake of essential nutrients your body needs to thrive. All fruits and vegetables have a unique nutrient profile that provide us with different vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals (or phytonutrients). Phytochemicals are compounds in plants that contribute to their color. In total there are six different colors of fruits and vegetables that make up the rainbow, and each group of colors provide us with key benefits.
  1. RED
    Anthocyanidins and lycopene are phytonutrients that cause produce to be red in color. They help reduce cancer risk, support the immune system, and enhance brain and heart health.
    • Examples include apples, beets, red bell peppers, cranberries, cherries, grapes, plums, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, and tomatoes.
    • Try topping yogurt with a mixture of berries, adding a slice of tomato to a sandwich, or freezing grapes for a cool treat.
    The phytonutrients that make up the orange group are beta-carotene and curcuminoids. They help support the immune system and optimize eye and skin health.
    • Examples include apricots, orange bell peppers, carrots, mangos, oranges, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and turmeric.
    • Try dipping bell peppers into your favorite dip, adding mango chucks to a smoothie, or stirring pumpkin puree into your muffin mix.
    Lutein and zeaxanthin phytonutrients create the yellow group. They reduce inflammation and promote eye, skin, brain, and heart health.
    • Examples include pears, bananas, yellow bell peppers, lemons, pineapple, and summer squash.
    • Try roasting squash and bell peppers for the perfect side dish or grilling pineapple for a sweet addition to your favorite burger.
  4. GREEN
    The phytonutrients that make up this group are chlorophyll and isoflavones. They are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, and also support liver function and are important for brain and heart health.
    • Examples include asparagus, avocados, green bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, edamame, leafy greens, limes, and zucchini.
    • Try adding greens to a wrap, spiralizing zucchini for a new take on pasta, or grating broccoli into mac & cheese.
    Anthocyanidins and resveratrol add the blue or purple hue to this group of produce. These phytonutrients have anti-inflammatory properties, can help reduce the risk of cancer, and are vital for brain health.
    • Examples include blueberries, blackberries, cabbage, purple cauliflower, eggplant, grapes, plums, and prunes.
    • Try swapping out regular lasagna noodles for eggplant slices or topping pancakes with blueberries or blackberry compote.
  6. WHITE & TAN
    The phytonutrients that make up the white and tan group are allicin and tannins. They are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, support healthy liver function, and improve hormones.
    • Examples include cauliflower, coconut, dates, garlic, ginger, chickpeas, peanuts, mushrooms, onions, flax seeds, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, and tahini.
    • Try spreading tahini on a bun for a creamy texture, sprinkling sunflower seeds on a salad, or adding dried coconut to oatmeal.

When purchasing fruits and vegetables, most individuals think of fresh produce first. However, fresh produce tends to go bad quickly if not used right away. Fortunately, there are several other forms of fruits and vegetables available, such as frozen, canned, dried, and freeze-dried. These options make it easier to eat the rainbow, as they usually are ready to eat and last longer than the fresh options.

Eating the rainbow can be challenging if you aren’t sure how to pick, prepare, or incorporate fruits and vegetables into your current routine. Let a Kroger Health Dietitian help you by providing tips and tricks on how to pick ripe or ready to use fruits and vegetables. Whether you are looking for a new eye-catching dish to share with friends or a way to sneak veggies into your kids’ meals, we’ve got the perfect recipe for you. Schedule a virtual Telenutrition appointment today, and reap the benefits of eating the rainbow.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Elizabeth Vennefron, RDN, LD

Elizabeth Vennefron, RDN, LD

Elizabeth loves being a dietitian because it connects her two passions- helping people, and healthy living. She’s a walking encyclopedia of better for you foods, meals, and culinary hacks to ensure her patients are enjoying the flavors they love while eating and staying well.