Healthy eating basics: Eat a rainbow of fruits and veggies

A loving adult in your life probably told you to eat your vegetables when you were growing up. You may even tell your kids the same thing. But do you know the benefits of eating a variety of fruits and veggies?

It can be easy to find yourself in a routine of eating the same fruits and vegetables all the time. Maybe your family’s favorite is broccoli, or bananas are a staple in your household.

But to reap the benefits of healthy eating, it’s a good idea to include fruits and vegetables of all types — and colors — in your diet.

Why is that, though?

Well, the colors in produce often signal the nutrients those fruits and veggies contain. That’s why it’s important to liven up your dinner plate with multiple colors. Read on for a look at a healthy eating rainbow of sorts.

Healthy eating rainbow: Red

Red fruits and vegetables typically contain beta-carotene and lycopene, along with vitamin C. All three are powerful antioxidants that help the body in multiple ways.

Lycopene, which gives food their red color, helps prevent blood clotting and has been shown to help rid the body of so-called “free radicals” that cause cellular damage. It’s also been linked with a reduced risk of heart disease and prostate cancer.

Beta-carotene is beneficial for eye health and contributes to healthy muscles, while vitamin C helps protect and repair the body’s tissues.

Fill your plate with tomatoes, red potatoes, kidney beans, red peppers, radishes, strawberries, raspberries, red apples and cranberries.

Healthy eating rainbow: Green

Green foods often contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which have both been shown to help protect eye health and prevent some types of cancer.

Both help protect the eyes from the damaging blue light that’s emitted by so many technologies today, and they lower your risk of developing macular degeneration and cataracts.

Darker green vegetables also contain B-vitamins, calcium and potassium.

Fill your plate with avocado, collard greens, Brussels sprouts, spinach, lettuce, green peppers, broccoli, green apples, green grapes, honeydew melon and kiwi.

Healthy eating rainbow: Orange/Yellow

Like red foods, orange and yellow foods also contain high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C. These foods also come packed with vitamin A, another nutrient that’s beneficial for healthy vision, which also helps boost brain health.

Fill your plate with pumpkin, orange peppers, sweet potatoes, corn, summer squash, oranges, peaches, nectarines, papaya, cantaloupe, lemons and pineapple.

Healthy eating rainbow: Black

Black fruits and veggies might not seem appealing, but in general, the darker the color of produce, the more antioxidants it contains.

Black foods contain both iron and calcium. Iron helps red blood cells deliver oxygen to the other cells in the body, while calcium helps build strong bones and teeth.

Fill your plate with black beans, black olives, black rice, black pepper and black lentil.

Healthy eating rainbow: Blue/Purple

Foods with these darker hues contain vitamin C and flavonoids called anthocyanins. Anthocyanins have been shown to have positive effects on both memory and learning, and may also help protect against heart disease and breast cancer.

Fill your plate with blue potatoes, purple cabbage, eggplant, blue corn, blueberries, blackberries, plums, purple grapes and black cherries.

The bottom line for healthy eating

While you don’t need to analyze each of the fruits and veggies you put on your plate, it’s a good idea to spread the joy when it comes to the produce you eat.

Choosing a variety of fruits and vegetables to incorporate into your family’s diet will benefit you in multiple ways — introducing you to new and delicious flavors, while also ramping up the health benefits of the foods you’re eating.

Besides, eating the same foods over and over again can get just plain boring, right?

Not sure if you’re getting enough of the essential nutrients? Your doctor can check you for vitamin deficiencies as part of your regular checkup. Need a doctor? Find one here.