Updated: 4 hours ago
Phytonutrients: Eating the Rainbow
Increasing Our Dietary Diversity with Natural Color
Winter is almost always the most challenging time to alter our eating lifestyle. While most of us start January off with promises to ourselves and others to make nutrition a goal for the year, the bleak days of gray skies and cold temps can leave us struggling to motivate ourselves to make changes. There is all too often too much pressure to cut out, cut back on, or cut off, and while certainly for some this is a necessary goal, for the majority of us making healthy eating decisions doesn’t have to be about restricting.
What if instead of attempting to pull things out of our diets we shifted our mindset to add more color. And what better time than the dark days of winter to boost our lives with a diverse array of natural color. Initially designed to help children incorporate more nutrients into their diets, the “Eat the Rainbow” philosophy is one we can all use to increase our dietary diversity and add phytonutrients into our eating lifestyle.
Phytonutrients are compounds found in plant-based foods that aid in protecting the plant while it grows in its natural environment. Essentially they are the plant’s immune system, and turns out they have huge benefits to us as humans as well.
Here are just a few of the ways phytonutrients are vastly beneficial to us:
-Boost the immune system
-Detoxify with antioxidants
-Balance hormonal pathways
-Protect healthy cells from damage
-Slow, prevent, and reverse cancer cell growth
-Fight inflammation and slow chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease
-Reduce Alzheimer’s risk and aiding in memory
So how do we know where to find these essential benefactors? Thankfully they are as vibrant in color as they are in health benefits. For example the deep blues of wild berries, the bold yellows of peppers, the rich greens of broccolis, and the fiery oranges of citrus. Where we see natural colors the most, we know they are packed with the phytonutrients essential to our well being.
And while some foods we may enjoy in their raw form, others actually benefit from cooking. For example a light steaming of broccoli will draw out a more vibrant green, alerting us to its maximum phytonutrient power. Or the slow roasting of sweet potatoes that sweeten the taste and enrichen the color help our bodies digest and use the phytonutrients best.
So next time we’re venturing through the produce section, instead of thinking about what foods we’re trying to avoid, let’s instead focus on how we can add vibrant colors into our winter days and our eating lifestyle. We can all examine our carts for the rainbow, and perhaps challenge ourselves to buy two different foods in each rainbow color. Because in my coaching practice, I believe food is our best medicine, and creating a diverse diet of natural foods will give our bodies the tools it needs to help function at its best and aid us in our journey to overall well being.