Eat the rainbow: health benefits of phytonutrients

Eat the rainbow: health benefits of phytonutrients

Eating a plateful of different-colored foods is appetizing visually, but also provides numerous health benefits as well. Consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables in different colors ensures that you are obtaining a full spectrum of health benefits found in phytonutrients.


Phytonutrients are natural compounds found in plant-based foods that give these plants their vibrant colors while protecting them from harsh environments, pollution, UV-rays, predators, and pests. And when we consume these plants (fruits and vegetables), we obtain these benefits. Ever wonder why kale is considered a superfood compared to iceberg lettuce? It is because of its deep, vibrant color. It contains more phytonutrients, and each color provides an abundance of specific nutrients. Phytonutrients have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may help protect us from certain chronic illnesses.

Here is a summary of the phytonutrients and benefits found in fruit and vegetables sorted by color.


Red foods

Found in cranberries, strawberries, pomegranates, tomatoes, beets, red peppers, raspberries, etc. Red foods contain lycopene, the carotenoid that has antioxidant properties that help combat free-radicals that may protect against heart disease, lung disease, and prostate cancer.


Orange and yellow foods

Found in carrots, bananas, sweet potatoes, oranges, pumpkins, mangoes, pineapple, etc. Orange and yellow foods are rich in alpha and beta carotene, which converts to an active form of vitamin A, and acts as an antioxidant to support the immune system, eye health, and may help prevent heart disease.


Green foods

Found in kale, avocados, spinach, cabbage, kiwi, green tea, green herbs, broccoli, etc. These foods are high sources of sulforaphane and glucosinolate, which may help protect against harmful carcinogens and protect blood vessels.


Blue and purple foods

Found in blackberries, blueberries, elderberries, grapes, plums, purple cabbage, etc. Blue and purple foods are potent in anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant that may help protect cells from damage and reduce the risk of heart disease, improve blood pressure, and increase physical performance.


Eating the rainbow helps support a diverse diet, helps provide the body with a balanced gut microbiome that helps support gut health and prevent constipation and bloating, and can even impact mood.


  1. Available at: Accessed May 27, 2020.
  2. Correction to Lancet Infect Dis 2020; published online March 27. Lancet Infect Dis. 2020;20(6):e116.
  3. Available at: Accessed May 27, 2020.
  4. Correction to Lancet Infect Dis 2020; published online March 27. Lancet Infect Dis. 2020;20(6):e116.

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