Paint your plate with the colors of the rainbow: Include all 7 colors and 6 tastes

The most recent US Dietary Guidelines recommend consuming even more: 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. The American Cancer Society recommends 2 1/2 cups per day of fruits and vegetables.

All vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, beans contain phytonutrients. Phytonutrients have potent anti-cancer and anti-heart disease effects besides other health benefits.

Phytonutrients in every color

  • Red: Rich in the carotenoid lycopene, a potent scavenger of gene-damaging free radicals that seems to protect against prostate cancer as well as heart and lung disease [Strawberries, cranberries, raspberries, tomatoes, cherries, apples, beets, watermelon, red grapes, red peppers, red onions]
  • Orange and yellow: Provide beta cryptothanxin, which supports intracellular communication and may help prevent heart disease [carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow peppers, oranges, bananas, pineapple, tangerines, mango, pumpkin, apricots, winter squash (butternut, acorn), peaches, cantaloupe, corn]
  • Green: These foods are rich in cancer-blocking chemicals like sulforaphane, isocyanate, and indoles, which inhibit the action of carcinogens (cancer-causing compounds) [spinach, avocados, asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, alfalfa sprouts, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kiwi fruit, collard greens, green tea, green herbs (mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil)]
  • Blue and purple: Antioxidants called anthocyanins believed to delay cellular aging and help the heart by blocking the formation of blood clots.[blueberries, blackberries, elderberries, Concord grapes, raisins, eggplant, plums, figs, prunes, lavender, purple cabbage]
  • White and brown: The onion family contains allicin, which has anti-tumor properties. Other foods in this group contain antioxidant flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol [onions, cauliflower, garlic, leeks, parsnips, daikon radish, mushrooms]

Our ancient texts and traditions have always advocated the principles of “variety” and “moderation” i.e. eat a variety of food, and eat in moderation. A balanced diet includes all seven colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, white) and six tastes (sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent) for a balanced diet.

They also recommend mindful eating or eating with awareness. Mindful eating means being aware of the hunger and satiety signals of the body. It also means using all the five senses while eating: colors (eye), smells (nose), flavors (taste), textures (touch) and sound while chewing (ear) of the food. Mindful eating also relieves stress and will help to check the rising numbers of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, metabolic syndrome, etc.

The Bhagwad Gita explains how to eat: “While eating, one should concentrate only on eating as the food is served to one’s consciousness” (9.27).

In Chapter 6 Shloka 17 of the Bhagwad Gita Krishna says to Arjuna “Yukaharaviharasya yuktachestasya karmasu. Yuktasvapnavabodhasya yoga bhavati duhkhaha.” This means “the one, whose diet and movements are balanced, whose actions are proper, whose hours of sleeping and waking up are regular, and who follows the path of meditation, is the destroyer of pain or unhappiness.”

(Source: Harvard Health Blog, Katherine D McManus)

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