You may have heard or read something about the concept of a “rainbow diet” or of eating a “colorful plate” – and with good reason!

Many people have called it the “key to nutrition”.

It is the fruits and vegetables of our world that carry all the colors of the rainbow, and it is these foods that have the greatest nutritional value for all of us.

But do you know the specifics?

Why are these foods so good for you?

And what can the colors of these fruits and vegetables tell you about their health benefits?

The American Cancer Society recommends eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and though many of us struggle to accomplish this, perhaps knowing the specific benefit each of these super-power colorful foods brings you will help motivate you to fill your plate – and your body – with a healing rainbow of foods.

Red Foods:

red apples, beets, red cabbage, cherries, cranberries, pink grapefruit, red grapes, guava or guava juice, red peppers, pomegranates, red potatoes, radishes, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, tomatoes or tomato sauce, watermelon.

Red foods contain lycopene, anthocyanins, beta carotene and vitamin C. Lycopene is a very strong antioxidant that has been linked to reductions in cancer risk. Anthocyanins, which are flavonoids that give a fruit or vegetable its red or purple color, have been linked to the reduction of many health risks. In particular, tomato consumption has been linked to lowered risk of heart disease, and berry consumption has been linked to lowered risk of cancer, diabetes, inflammation, neurological diseases and AGING!

Orange or Deep Yellow Foods:

apricots, butternut squash, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papaya, peaches, pears, persimmons, pineapple, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, yellow squash.

Orange or Deep yellow foods contain carotenoids, bioflavonoids and vitamin C. Beta Carotene is the carotenoid that most of us know about . Our bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is a potent antioxidant. Vitamin A helps fight the harmful effects of free radicals, possibly helping to reduce cancer risk. Some orange and yellow vegetables contain lutein, another carotenoid which helps fight age-related macular degeneration – an eye disorder that can lead to blindness. It is also suspected that carotenoids can perhaps protect us from sun damage – another sign of aging.

Green Foods:

Artichokes, asparagus, avocados, green apples, green beans, broccoli, bok choy, chard, collard greens, cucumbers, grapes, green onion, honeydew melon, kale, kiwi, lettuce, lime, peas, peppers, spinach, zucchini.

Green foods contain lutein and indoles and more. Considered by many to be the most important color in the rainbow diet, the nutrients in green foods can repair damaged DNA that might have led to cancers of the breast, lungs or skin. Green foods also contain essential micronutrients like iron, and their high fiber content lowers the glycemic index of foods eaten along with it. They help normalize blood glucose, blood lipids and blood pressure levels. Green foods contain B vitamins for energy, calcium for bone health, and vitamins C and E to fight off free radicals that promote aging and disease. As an added benefit, green foods are naturally alkaline foods which can help reduce the body’s acidity. High acidity caused by a diet high in processed foods and animal protein can leach calcium from bones, which can weaken the skeleton and increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Blue or Purple Foods:

Bilberries, blackberries, black currants, blueberries, eggplant, elderberries, kelp, prunes, purple grapes, raisins.

Blue or purple foods provide anthocyanins and flavonoids. They provide vitamin E and iodine (which enhanced the function of the thyroid gland) and potassium (which keeps oxygen supplied to the brain). Overall these foods help oxygen flow through the body which helps with allergies, inflammation, cancer, and heart and liver diseases. Blue and purple foods also improve urinary tract health, memory and slow the aging process, and who doesn’t like that? Does knowing the specifics help with your motivation? It sure helps with mine! All of these nutrients, when it comes down to it, fight AGING!! I want to feel as young as possible for as long as possible. If eating a rainbow of foods can help me do that, then I am a convert! Let’s hear it for the colorful plate club!!