There’s no doubt that eating fruits and vegetables is a part of any healthy diet. Eating fruits and vegetables is a way that we get a lot of our micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as a good source of fiber which is essential to a healthy gut.
A variety of fruits and vegetables is important as well. Not only do they provide different nutrients that we need, but different colors have different antioxidants in them. Antioxidants help with cellular damage and protects against aging, and inflammation. Not only eating enough fruits and vegetables throughout the day is important, but also a variety of colors throughout the day. Hence the phrase “eat the rainbow”.
Let’s talk colors for a moment…
- Foods: apples, raspberries, tomatoes, strawberries, radishes, etc.
- Antioxidant: lycopene which helps with fighting against heart disease.
- Food: Carrots, pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, etc.
- Antioxidants: carotenoids alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. The body converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A which is important for your immune, skin, and eye heath.
- Foods: pineapple, lemon, yellow peaches, corn, summer squash, etc.
- Antioxidants: beta-carotene like orange foods, but they also contain beta-cryptoxanthin which has been shown in studies to help reduce inflammation and may play a role in reducing inflammatory disorders.
*Although bananas are yellow, the inside that you eat is white. See below.
I wouldn’t be much of a nutrition consultant if I didn’t take a moment to talk about green vegetables. They are some of the most nutrient dense foods. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and you guessed it, antioxidants.
- Food: spinach, broccoli, and green peas
- Antioxidant: lutein and zeaxanthin which helps with age related eye problems.
- Food: the cabbage family which also includes brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, etc.
- Antioxidant: sulforaphane and glucosinolate which helps protect against certain cancers and blood vessel damage that can lead to heart disease and stroke.
Blue & Purple
- Food: blueberries, blackberries, cherries, purple grapes, eggplant, purple cabbage, black olives, purple onion, etc.
- Antioxidants: anthocyanins which protect against cell damage.
White & Brown
Although you might not think “if it doesn’t have rich color it doesn’t have antioxidants”, know that fruits and vegetables that are white are that way because of antioxidants.
- White Foods: Bananas, potatoes, and parsnips
- Antioxidant: Anthoxanthins make the foods white which may reduce cardiovasular disease and arthritis. In addition, a lot of white foods like bananas, potatoes, etc. are good sources of potassium which is needed for nerve and heart health, fluid balance, and muscle health.
- Brown Foods: Mushrooms mainly
- Antioxidants: selenium (another antioxidant) which plays a role in metabolism and supports the immune system.
How to Incorporate a Variety of Fruits and Vegetables in Your Diet
How cool is it that we can see antioxidants by the colors of the food we eat! And the fact that the food is beautiful and it helps to protect us from cellular damage.
What if you are just trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet and seeing how you can have more of a variety in your meals in general? If you are just getting use to adding in more fruits and vegetables into your diet, you want to make sure they taste good.
Here are some of my favorite suggestions and ways I get my fruits and veggies in!
- Blend Them In Smoothies
- Fruits are pretty easy to incorporate into smoothies, but what about vegetables?
- Spinach will not add flavor and blends really easily
- Zucchini is another veggie to add in that doesn’t add a lot of flavor and will add a creamy texture.
- Avocados are another fruit/vegetable to add to your smoothie for a smooth texture. This is more or less your healthy fats, so a little goes a long way and will help keep you full. And technically, avocado is a fruit.
- Pasta Sauces
- Tomato Sauce: Onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms are some of my favorites!
- Cream Sauce: Onions, broccoli, peas, sauteed greens like kale or spinach, and you can even get your own rainbow going to sliced carrots, peas, yellow squash, and some red onion for a more primavera type of sauce.
- Butter Sauce: You can sautee just about any veggie in some butter and top it over pasta and it will be delicious, personally. I mean, it’s butter.
- Veggie Omelet
- Potatoes, onions, bell pepper, spinach, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, etc.
- Lettuce Wraps and Stir Fry
- A lot of times lettuce wraps consist of ground meat like chicken or turkey with a spicy sauce and cooked veggies. Top it with some shredded carrots and cabbage.
- Same goes for a stir fry. Add your protein and veggies with a sweet and spicy sauce and throw it on top of some rice.
- Roast Them!
- Roasting vegetables are my all-time favorite way to cook vegetables. They stay firm, but soft, and they keep all the flavor and then some when roasted.
- You hate vegetables, but want to start eating them more, try roasting them! Well – other than leafy greens.
- Here is an old post on Tips On How To Roast Vegetables
There are plenty of ways to get a variety of vegetables in your diet and into the recipes you already love. Know that you don’t need a whole load of fruits and vegetables in your diet for it to improve your health. Mess around with it, find your favorites, and incorporating more vegetables into your regular diet will get easier.