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Eating a variety of foods with different colors is important for several reasons, primarily because it promotes a well-rounded and balanced diet that provides a wide range of nutrients and health benefits. Adding different colors and a variety of foods helps to improve your overall nutrient intake and even helps with chronic conditions like chronic pain, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and more.

Micronutrients vs Macronutrients

When looking at food to consume, many people have been taught to look at the macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in a particular food source. Macronutrients are needed in large quantities to provide energy for our bodies. On the other hand, micronutrients are only needed in small or trace amounts and provide many health benefits including vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support our body’s vital functions.

Micronutrients are essential nutrients that the human body requires in small amounts to function properly. They do not contribute to our caloric intake, however, they play crucial roles in various physiological processes and are essential for maintaining good health and preventing nutritional deficiencies.

There are two primary categories of micronutrients: vitamins and minerals

Vitamins

Vitamins are organic compounds that act as coenzymes and play essential roles in various biochemical reactions in the body. They are necessary for metabolism, growth, and maintaining the structure and function of tissues. There are two types of vitamins:

  • Water-soluble vitamins
    • These include Vitamin C and the B-complex vitamins (such as B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9, and B12). Water-soluble vitamins are not stored in large amounts in the body and are excreted in urine if consumed in excess.
  • Fat-soluble vitamins
    • These include Vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fat-soluble vitamins are stored in the body’s fatty tissues and the liver and can be stored for longer periods.

Minerals

Minerals are inorganic elements that are essential for various physiological functions, such as enzyme activity, nerve transmission, fluid balance, and bone health. There are two types of minerals:

  • Major minerals (macrominerals)
    • These are needed in larger amounts and include minerals like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, chloride, and sulfur.
  • Trace minerals (microminerals)
    • These are needed in smaller amounts and include minerals like iron, zinc, copper, iodine, selenium, manganese, molybdenum, fluoride, and chromium.

Phytonutrients

Phytonutrients are also known as phytochemicals. They are natural compounds found in all plant foods and there are over 25,000 of them in nature. Phytonutrients are not classified as essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals, but research suggests that they may contribute to overall health and disease prevention. The color of the plant dictates the health benefits to our bodies. They assist with things like eliminating toxins, hormone balance, immune support, and cell protection. These compounds can have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and immune-boosting properties.

The most important takeaway from this is to know that color matters! You need to eat a variety of colors from 1-2 servings per color, per day.

Red and pinks

  • Cancer prevention
  • DNA, prostate, vascular health
  • Immunity
  • Anti-inflammatory

Examples: apple, red beans, beet, bell pepper, cherries, cranberries, tomato, berries

Orange

  • Cancer prevention
  • Immunity
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Skin health
  • Reproductive health

Examples: apricot, bell peppers, cantaloupe, carrot, mango, nectarine, orange, pumpkin, winter squash, sweet potato, turmeric

Yellow

  • Cancer prevention
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Brain & cognitive health
  • Eye, heart, & skin health
  • Vascular health

Examples: Asian pear, banana, bell pepper, corn, ginger, lemon, pineapple, summer squash

Green

  • Cancer prevention
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Brain & heart health
  • Hormone balance
  • Skin & liver health

Examples: artichoke, asparagus, avocado, bell pepper, bok choy broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, celery, cucumber, green beans, green tea, dark leafy greens, lime, pear, zucchini

Blue, purple, black

  • Cancer prevention
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Heart & cognitive health

Examples: bell pepper, berries, cabbage, carrot, eggplant, fig, grapes, olives, plum, prune, black rice

White, tan, brown

  • Cancer prevention
  • Anti-microbial
  • GI & heart health
  • Hormone balance
  • Liver health

Examples: cauliflower, cocoa, coconut, coffee, dates, garlic, ginger, jicama, legumes, mushrooms, nuts, onion, sauerkraut, seeds, shallots, soy, tea, whole grains

Micronutrients are obtained from a balanced and varied diet that includes a wide range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, and dairy or dairy alternatives. Deficiencies or excesses of micronutrients can lead to various health problems.

It’s important to remember that no single color or food can provide all the nutrients your body needs. A balanced diet that includes a rainbow of colors ensures that you receive a broad spectrum of essential nutrients, promoting better health and vitality.

A well-balanced diet, along with proper food preparation and cooking techniques, can help ensure adequate intake of essential micronutrients. If someone has specific nutritional needs or dietary restrictions, it is advisable to seek guidance from a registered dietitian or healthcare professional.

Micronutrients may be small in size, but their impact on our health is monumental. From supporting immune function to aiding in energy production and disease prevention, these essential dietary elements are crucial for a vibrant and thriving life. By understanding the significance of micronutrients and making informed dietary choices, we can unlock the door to optimal health and well-being.

Bottom Line

Go for the rainbow – try to get 1-2 servings per color per day.

You need variety in your diet to get all the nutrients your body needs to function.

What you eat is more important than the amount of calories you consume.