Many of us understand that we need to eat more fruit and vegetables. What we may not recognise is that we also need to eat an assortment of different coloured vegetables and fruits daily. Different coloured fruit and vegetables have different health benefits and so variety in our diet is essential for us to get all that our body needs from these foods. Simply eating the same piece of fruit each day and just lettuce on our sandwich does not cut it. Ideally we need to aim to eat a rainbow a day of coloured fruit and vegetables. That is, we need to consume all seven colours of the fruit and vegetable rainbow every day to receive the protection we need from chronic diseases.
People who eat an assortment of different coloured fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet have reduced risk of chronic diseases including stroke, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, heart disease and high blood pressure. This is because fruits and vegetables are coloured differently due to the presence of different phytonutrients, which are powerful antioxidants. Below is a list of the different colours that we find in fruit and vegetables and what this means in terms of different nutrients.
ORANGE FRUITS & VEGETABLES such as Carrots, Sweet potatoes, Apricots, Mangoes, Squash, Sweet corn, Cantaloupe, Papayas, Pumpkin
RED FRUITS AND VEGETABLES such as Red apples, Red capsicum (peppers), Beets, Pomegranates, Red cabbage, Red potatoes, Cherries, Radishes, Cranberries, Raspberries, Pink grapefruit, Rhubarb, Red grapes, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Watermelon
YELLOW/ORANGE FRUITS such as Oranges, Yellow grapefruit, Lemons, Tangerines/mandarins, Limes
RED/PURPLE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES such as Blackberries, Purple grapes, Blueberries, Raisins, Eggplant, Prunes, Figs, Red wine, Raspberries, Red cabbage, Plums
YELLOW/GREEN FRUITS AND VEGETABLES such as Green apples, Honeydew melon, Green grapes, Artichokes, Kiwi, Green cabbage, Asparagus, Lettuce, Spinach, Avocados, Limes, Green pepper, Green beans, Green onions, Cucumbers, Broccoli, Peas, Zucchini
GREEN VEGETABLES such as Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower
WHITE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES such as bananas, Onions, Cauliflower, Parsnips, Garlic, Potatoes, Ginger, Turnips, Mushrooms
Preferably when it comes to fruit-and-vegetable consumption we should be aiming to eat at least five serves of vegetables per day and around two serves of fruit per day. Many people eat adequate amounts of fruit but not enough vegetables. Some suggestions for increasing vegetable intake would be to eat a large salad for lunch every day, have a stirfry for dinner, or even hide vegetables in casseroles, bolognaise, lasagnes etc. I even have a patient who includes vegetables like spinach, kale and carrot in homemade muffins and adds cocoa powder to disguise the taste.