Fifty Shades of Grey might be a hit movie playing in theaters right now, but it should not inspire the color scheme for your dinner plate. In fact, if the foods on your plate are primarily bland, neutral colors, such as grey, beige, and white, then chances are you are eating highly processed, high-fat items. Bland-colored foods tend to be more tempting than their naturally colorful counterparts because they are typically more inexpensive, more tasty, and more accessible on the market. But the costs of eating bland-colored foods far outweigh the benefits.
Why should you strive to eat naturally colorful foods? Color is a sign of phytochemicals, which occur naturally in plants and work synergistically with the nutrients in your food (like vitamins, minerals, and fiber) to prevent disease, flood your body with antioxidants, and promote overall good health. Different plant foods have thousands of phytochemicals, so the more variety of color you incorporate into your diet, the greater the chance that you are enriching your body with the essential nutrients it needs to work optimally.
Let’s talk specifics. Here is a graphic that details the particular phytochemicals and nutrients that can be found in the five natural color groups, along with attendant health benefits and specific examples of foods you can incorporate directly into your diet.
No doubt about it: eating the rainbow should be your guiding principle when preparing a meal. But there is one exception to this rule. Some naturally colorless foods are, in fact, rich in nutrients, even if they don’t have the same bright color of the foods listed in the table above. This is because these naturally colorless foods are full of flavonoids, which are colorless phytochemicals that work as powerful antioxidants and help the body counteract free-radicals. There are more than 4,000 different flavonoids that can be found in a variety of foods, such as onions, tea, and the insides of grapes, eggplant, apples, and Brussel sprouts.
So the next time you feel hungry, low on energy, or the onset of a cold coming on, don’t just reach for some pre-packaged comfort food. Instead, grab a guava, pick up some pistachios, or munch on a mango – you’ll be giving yourself the fuel you need to keep going through the day, and you’ll be fighting off germs while you’re at it!
Schaeffer, Juliann. “Color Me Healthy – Eating for a Rainbow of Benefits.” Today’s Dietitian 10.11 (2008): 34.
Shoshana K. – Registered Dietitian