The Eating Rainbow: Bright Foods Bring You Benefits

fruits and vegetablesMost of us know many of the world’s healthiest foods are found in the produce aisle. You’ve heard “eat your vegetables” since you were a kid, but did you ever know why?

Eating plants brings you powerful health benefits, owing to the special collection of phytonutrients found in a rainbow of brightly-colored fruits and vegetables.

Phytonutrients are the naturally-forming chemicals found in plants which play key roles in optimizing health and warding off disease at the cellular and genetic level. There are believed to be about 25,000 phytonutrients all across the spectrum of produce and other plant foods like grains and seeds.

You might be familiar with some of their more common names, such as the lycopene in tomatoes or beta carotene in carrots. Though researchers still don’t know all the bio-chemical processes aided by these and other phytonutrients, they do know they provide cellular protection in the form of anti-oxidants, and they trigger positive genetic “expression,” or production of “good” more than “bad” gene traits.

They also support specific organs, structures and functions of the body, such as vision or the digestive tract. Vegetables win out over fruits for packing the most powerful nutritional punch, but including a wide variety of both on a regular basis is the best approach to getting the full range of nutritional benefit.

Since they are often responsible for creating the color of the plants they develop in, you have a rainbow of beautiful foods to choose from to get your phytonutrients!

  • Red: red bell peppers, tomatoes, red onion, cranberries, cherries, apples, beets, radishes, radicchio, watermelon and cayenne peppers.
    Notable phytochemicals in red foods: Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant and is being studied for its potential role in helping prevent exercise-induced asthma. Phytoene may have a direct role reducing the risk of certain kinds of cancer including prostate, ovarian and gastric.
  • Orange: orange bell peppers, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, turmeric, cantaloupe, oranges, mangos, apricots, carrots, butternut squash.
    Notable phytochemicals in orange foods: Alpha- and beta-carotenes are carotenoids that protect cells from oxidizing, or breaking down in face of free radicals that can lead to heart disease and cancer. Carotenoids also allow the body to manufacture Vitamin A, which is essential to eye and skin heath.
  • Yellow: yellow bell peppers, bananas, pineapple, golden apples, summer squash, corn, ginger, lemons.
    Notable phytochemicals in yellow foods: Flavonoids are class of phytochemicals known for their potent anti-oxidizing and anti-inflammatory effects. One well-known flavonoid is quercetin, has been shown to promote balanced blood pressure as well as well as protection against stress-induced release of cortisol.
  • Green: green bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, limes, pears, spinach, kale, arugula, green olives, zucchini, avocados, green grapes.
    Notable phytochemicals in green foods: The glucosinolates in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale and brussels sprouts are known to aid in the development of cancer-fighting compounds called isothiocyanats and indoles. Limes contain flavonol glycosides, which seem to have an antibiotic effect.
  • Blue/Purple: purple bell peppers, eggplants, blackberries, blueberries, purple grapes, purple cauliflower, plums, prunes, red cabbage.
    Notable phytochemicals in purple foods: Anthocyanins have been linked to heart-health in several studies, which may be attributed to both its role in reducing blood cholesterol as well in managing blood sugar levels. Anthocynins have also been shown to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells.
  • You’ll be able to work with all these colors in this simple recipe for stuffed bell peppers made in the slow cooker.

    Stuffed Bell Peppers – Slow Cooked Rainbow


    stuffed bell peppers

    • 6 small bell peppers (mix of red, yellow, orange, green and purple is ideal)
    • 1 pound ground beef
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 1 clove of garlic, minced
    • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
    • 1 cup cooked brown rice or couscous
    • Salt and Pepper to season meat mixture to taste
    • Parmesan cheese to shred on top

    1. Cut tops off peppers and remove seeds. Place ¼ cup of water on the bottom of a large slow cooker.
    2. Mix beef, onion, garlic, tomatoes, rice or couscous in a large bowl. Stuff peppers and put in slow cooker, meat side up.
    3. Cook for 7 – 9 hours on low or 4 – 5 hours on high. Top with shredded parmesan cheese to serve.

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