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Health Benefits of Eating the Rainbow

Guess which color the average American eats the least of in a given day or week? {Answer below.}

When it comes to nutrition, variety is absolutely the spice of life! Phytonutrients are chemical components in plants that are critical for our health, and people who eat tons of plants enjoy benefits like lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Why? Phytonutrients.

These little phytochemicals allow the plants themselves to function, and give plants their beautiful color, taste, and smell.

Phytonutrients perform some critical roles in the human body:

  • They are antioxidants that protect our cells from damage.

  • They trigger gene expression (turning on the good genes and turning off the bad ones).

  • They enable specific body functions (glucosinates, for example, are found in cruciferous veggies like cabbage, broccoli, and kale, and turn into compounds that improve the way estrogen is broken down in the body).

To enjoy the benefits, it's all about getting lots of variety and different colors in our diets!

Some amazing studies:

  • One cup of green tea per day reduced breast cancer risk by 50%.

  • A hamburger eaten by itself leads to inflammation, but half of an avocado thrown on top prevented inflammation altogether.

  • People who developed certain cancers were found to have lower phytosterols, the phytonutrient in greens, in their bodies.


Phytonutrients come in all different colors: green, yellow, orange, red, blue/purple, and white. To get to your best state of health, you should aim to eat at least one (two if you’re a rockstar) foods of each color every single day.

The average person eats about 2-3 servings of veggies each day, but the ideal amount for fighting off and protecting against chronic disease is 9-13 cups (2 cups of fruit, 2.5 cups of veggies). That’s quite a difference!

Here’s what foods containing these colors can do for you:


You're getting tons of nutrients in your whole foods diet - here's how to hack it to get even more mileage out of what you're already eating.

  1. Hide them in your smoothie: Add cocoa powder or a spice like cinnamon to your smoothies, or toss in a small handful of dark greens.

  2. Try unusual version of your usual foods: Buy purple carrots or purple kale instead of the typical colors. Or, try squeezed lime instead of squeeze lemon in your water.

  3. Get fancy with salad: Add new items to your salad, like berries, a bunch of herbs, or a handful of nuts. You can even make dressings with vegetable bases, like roasted red pepper dressing and orange-ginger dressing.

  4. Make it into a simple one-pot meal: Toss together a colorful veggie stir-fry or cut and throw a variety of veggies on the grill. Marinate with coconut aminos, or simply toss with oil and fresh herbs for flavor.

  5. Choose the best fruits and veggies. Smaller – not plump – berries have more phytonutrients, and it doesn’t matter if they’re fresh or frozen. The darkest colored plants tend to be most concentrated with phytonutrients (dark, leafy kale, spinach, etc.)

  6. Mix foods together. Carotenoids absorb best with oil or healthy fats, and the effects of turmeric are stronger when combined with black pepper. Lemon juice with spinach allows nutrients (like iron) from spinach to be better absorbed by your body.

  7. Know when to cook or leave them raw. Lycopene, in red foods, absorbs better when cooked. Glucosinates (in cruciferous veggies like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage) get destroyed by heat, so those are best lightly steamed or raw.

  8. Buy organic. Organic tends to be richer in phytonutrients vs conventional. It might be because these compounds become naturally stronger to protect the plant from bugs, pests, and stress..

To answer the question we posed earlier, most people don’t get enough or any blue/purple/black foods in their daily intake. Here’s your challenge: Can you eat one of each color today?


Get this fun downloadable checklist you can use as a daily color tracker. It’s made for kids, but aren’t we all kids at heart?

There you have it: an accessible and easy way prevent and treat chronic disease. Plants are amazing medicine!

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