Color is known to affect our mood and emotions, but did you know that the colors in foods do more than just look tasty? I often tell my clients to eat a rainbow everyday, and here’s why…

Colors in foods promote the expression of healthy DNA coding and are called phytonutrients – chemicals in foods that promote health. Phytonutrients come in whole foods, and appear to have synergistic benefits when combined with other phytonutrients. The bottom line: one needs to eat a variety of colors daily to obtain the variety of phytonutrients that promote health. No pill, powder or concoction will contain all the phytonutrients needed, but Mother Nature has conveniently packaged the complete array of phytonutrients in plant based foods.

food colorsGreen indicates antioxidant potential and helps promote healthy vision and reduce cancer risks.

  • Fruits: avocado, green apples, grapes, honeydew, kiwi and lime
  • Vegetables: artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, green peppers and leafy greens such as spinach, bok choy, collard greens and beet greens.

Orange and deep yellow fruits and vegetables enhance healthy vision and immunity, as well as reduce the risk of some cancers. The orange color acts as an antioxidant and also has anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Fruits: orange, apricot, cantaloupe, grapefruit, mango, papaya, peach, nectarine and pineapple
  • Vegetables: carrots, winter squashes, yellow pepper, chili peppers, yellow corn yams and sweet potatoes

Purple and blue foods have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits, and increase memory, maintain urinary tract health, and reduced cancer risks.

  • Fruits: blackberries, blueberries, plums, raisins, acai, elderberries
  • Vegetables: eggplant, purple cabbage, purple-fleshed potato
  • Other: red wine and dark chocolate (in moderation of course)

Red may help maintain a healthy heart by reducing the oxidation of LDL (lousy cholesterol), maintain healthy vision, immunity and reduce cancer risks.

  • Fruits: cherries, cranberries, red apples, pomegranate, red/pink grape fruit, red grapes and watermelon
  • Vegetables: beets, red onions, red peppers, red potatoes, rhubarb, red/purple cabbage and tomatoes

Naturally-colored white, tan and brown contain phytonutrients that may promote heart health and reduce cancer risks.

  • Fruits: banana, brown pear, dates and white peaches
  • Vegetables: cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, turnips, white-fleshed potato and white corn

Natural color is a powerful tool that can be used to improve and maintain health. Next time you walk down the produce aisle in the grocery store, remind yourself that you are viewing a rainbow and the pot of gold at the end of the produce aisle is your good health!

Elizabeth Quigley is a Registered Dietitian and was Eisenhower Medical Center’s Chief Dietitian for 23 years. She is now a nutritional consultant with EQ Consulting and can be reached at 760.773.1796 or

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