Eat the Rainbow
Story and Photos by Renee Davies
Mom loves to tout that same old phrase, "Eat your greens." But what about all the other colors of the rainbow? For some reason, mom never said, "Eat your blues, oranges, reds and yellows." How is it that blueberries and red peppers got left out of the mix? After all, it's more important to eat colors than just greens, says Jill Kelly, Western's registered dietician.
"The more colors we have on our plate, the more vitamins and minerals our diet will consist of," Kelly says. This is especially true with plant foods. The deeper the color, the better the nutrients.
As college students, the new routine has become standing in front of the grocery aisle, heads moving back and forth, debating between the $2 processed white bread, or the $4 wholesome, nutritious wheat. The last bank statement has replaced the nagging mother, a reminder of a different type of green that people are lacking. Kelly, however, says it is still possible for college students to eat healthy and shop on a budget.
For example, she recommends buying foods in season to avoid the high cost that comes from shipping those cherries all the way from Chile. According to Kelly, the less distance traveled also means preserving more of the nutrients that come in fruits and vegetables, and therefore getting more nutrition for your money.
One diet that carries out Kelly's advice and incorporates all food groups is the seven-day color diet. The overall concept of the diet, developed by Mindy Weisel and her two daughters in their book, "The 7-Day Color Diet: The New Way to Health & Beauty," separates the colors into different days.
For example, the dieter would only eat red foods, such as red peppers, strawberries and a tomato salad on Tuesdays; and then on Wednesday, they eat only green foods. The diet also incorporates a rainbow day, which, the book quickly points out, does not mean it is OK to eat jelly beans all day.
Although the focus on color means the food selection consists mostly of fruits and vegetables, the diet stresses the importance of eating from all main food groups. Many days still allow the dieter to eat foods like rye bread on red day, cheddar cheese on orange day, and rainbow-baked fish on rainbow day. The diet also builds on a core group of white foods that can be incorporated into every day's meals, such as chicken, eggs, milk and cheese. After fruits and vegetables of that day's color are added, the dieter can also add a beige, such as wheat bread, brown rice or a small baked potato.
However, the diet does have some restrictions. For example, the dieter is given a daily allowance of only one tablespoon of butter and just one cup of coffee each day.
Other color diets recommend eating only one color, such as green vegetable diets, or completely eliminating one color, such as those that eliminate white foods to try to limit carbohydrate intake. Kelly says she remains more skeptical of a diet that eliminates other nutritious colors.
"Plant greens are extremely high in vitamins and minerals, but if that's all that's being eaten, that means there's going to be a lot of other vitamins and minerals that are going to be excluded," she says.
Kelly says the key is eating foods that are closest to their original form. If eating white foods while on the seven-day color diet means eating potato chips, Wonder Bread and a Twinkie, then it is not going to help anyone lose weight. White foods, such as mushrooms, onions and milk, all have important nutrients that someone would not want to eliminate in an all-green, or no-white diet.
In an article published in a 2002 issue of Readers Digest, Dr. David Heber argues that the reason for many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer is the common beige-only diet. Heber's diet recommends eating one fruit or vegetable from each color group every day.
According to the National Cancer Institute, current research shows that nutrients from the different colors of plant foods can protect against cancer, heart disease, cataracts and macular degeneration.
Whether eating a different color each day, or just incorporating colors into an everyday diet, most nutritionists would agree color is a key factor to healthy eating. "Just eat your greens," is no longer the popular phrase it used to be. It's time to sweep out the vitamins and broccoli from behind the couch and get creative with all the colors of the rainbow food has to offer.