Eat the Rainbow

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Eat the Rainbow
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Eat the Rainbow

Read on for the benefits of an "eat-your-colors" diet.

The Reds

Resveratrol:
Good Sources: red wine, red grapes

Benefits: The wonder-working polyphenol neutralizes free radicals and may inhibit inflammation.

Cooking Tip: For a quick hit, roast whole grapes with garlic and fresh thyme. Add frozen grapes to fruit salad (bonus: they’ll keep the dish chilled).

Capsaicin:
Good Source: chile peppers

Benefits: Hot stuff, indeed: This helps stave off hunger and even burns some calories. It also relieves pain.

Cooking Tip: Add minced chiles to scrambled eggs and stir-fries.

Lycopene:
Good Sources: tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, bell peppers

Benefits: A diet rich in this carotenoid may reduce the risk of prostate cancer by as much as 35 percent.

Cooking Tip: The body best absorbs lycopene when combined with fat: Toss tomatoes and watermelon with olive oil and feta. Canned tomatoes are a smart staple during the fruit's off season; lycopene content may even increase in foods processed at high temperatures.

Image Credit: Christopher Baker

Beet Pasta with Ricotta

Whole-grain spaghetti gets striking color from a quick toss with pureed beets (a prime source of the phytonutrient betalain). Sun-dried tomatoes -- richer in lycopene than fresh ones -- lend the sauce a caramelized sweetness.

Get the recipe: Beet Pasta with Ricotta

The Oranges

Curcumin:
Good Source: turmeric

Benefits: An added perk to take-out curry: The antioxidant properties of curcumin may help counter the body’s negative responses to high-fat foods.

Cooking Tip: Mix the spice into salad dressings or sprinkle it on cooked vegetables such as kale and cauliflower.

Beta-Cryptoxanthin:
Good Sources: Papaya, tangerines

Benefits: This carotenoid plays an important role in vision and in bone and cell growth.

Alpha-Carotene:
Good Sources: sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash, cantaloupe

Benefits: This mighty antiager, which converts to vitamin A in the body, bolsters immunity.

Cooking Tip: Like other carotenoids, it's best absorbed with fat: Roast vegetables with oil; pair cantaloupe with avocado.

Hesperidin and Naringenin:
Good Sources: Citrus

Benefits: The powerful flavonoids stave off inflammation and blood vessel damage caused by poor diets.

Cooking Tip: Broil citrus slices sprinkled with a pinch of raw sugar and serve over oatmeal.

Image Credit: Christopher Baker

Roasted Sweet Peppers And Carrots With Orange and Hazelnuts

Fresh slices of citrus give a jolt of energy to roasted peppers and carrots while also complementing their natural sweetness. Goat cheese adds a satisfying creamy tang, but sherry vinegar is the real secret weapon here, bringing out the floral notes of the fruit.

Get the recipe: Roasted Sweet Peppers and Carrots with Orange and Hazelnuts

The Yellows

Bromelain:
Good Source: pineapple

Benefits: This enzyme may ease indigestion and asthma.

Cooking Tip: Grilled pineapple slices make a sweet, simple dessert, and chopped cubes go well with a little Greek yogurt.

Limonoids:
Good Sources: citrus

Benefits: These may lower cholesterol and protect against breast, skin, and stomach cancers.

Cooking Tip: Zest away: Limonoids are concentrated in citrus peel. For dinner, bake fish with Meyer lemon slices -- then eat the fruit, skin and all.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin:
Good Sources: corn, leafy greens

Benefits This duo keeps eyes strong, protecting the retina and reducing the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.

Cooking Tip: Grill corn and top with feta and cayenne. Preserve kernels in the freezer; this may increase lutein levels

Image Credit: Christopher Baker

Pineapple, Mango, And Meyer Lemon Salad

The classic pairing of pineapple and coconut goes even more tropical with juicy mango. Meyer lemons, which have a sweet-tart flavor, are so delicate they can go in skin-on.

Get the recipe: Pineapple, Mango, and Meyer Lemon Salad

The Greens

Chlorophyll:
Good Sources: watercress, leeks, arugula, parsley

Benefits: Present in virtually every green plant food (even pistachios!), this may decrease the risk of liver cancer.

Cooking Tip: Leeks are milder than onions; thinly sliced, they make a delicious addition to salads.

Apigenin and Luteolin:
Good Sources: celery, parsley

Benefits: This pair's neuroprotective properties may fight diseases like Alzheimer's.

Cooking Tip: Add parsley to salads. Sliced celery, plain yogurt, and lemon juice make a simple dip.

Catechins:
Good Source: green tea

Benefits: Consumption of freshly brewed leaves may lower LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Cooking Tip: Blend brewed green tea with frozen berries and honey for a smoothie.

Isothiocyanates:
Good Sources: Kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli

Benefits: Found in cruciferous vegetables, these help purge the body of potential carcinogens.

Cooking Tip: Raw foods offer the most potent supply. For a no-cook side, marinate thinly sliced brussels sprouts in olive oil and lemon juice and toss with sliced apple.

Image Credit: Christopher Baker

Broccoli-Spinach Soup With Avocado Toasts

No cream required: Tahini gives this soup its buttery flavor and silky texture -- and makes a serving of dark leafy greens unusually enticing. Sliced avocado dressed with lemon and sprouts jazzes up ordinary crusty bread and rounds out this balanced meal.

Get the recipe: Broccoli-Spinach Soup with Avocado Toasts

The Purples

Indoles:
Good Sources: purple cauliflower, purple cabbage

Benefits: Derived from sulfur compounds in cruciferous veggies, these may slow the metabolism of carcinogens.

Cooking Tip: Steam cauliflower: it's likely the best prep for retaining indoles. Toss chopped kale with mashed avocado and olive oil.

Ellagic Acid:
Good Sources: berries

Benefits: The phytochemical may lessen the effect of estrogen in promoting breast-cancer cell growth.

Cooking Tip: Keep frozen berries on hand for smoothies. For a spritzer, mash them and top with club soda.

Anthocyanins:
Good Sources: red cabbage, eggplant, grapes, berries

Benefits: These antioxidants improve brain function and balance, and they may reduce the risk of cancer, stroke, and heart disease.

Cooking Tip: Try swapping in finely shredded cabbage for your typical salad greens and toss with avocado and red onion.

Image Credit: Christopher Baker

Black Rice Stir-Fry

Not your average stir-fry: Black rice takes on a deep purple hue when cooked and makes for a dramatic and more nutritious dinner plate. Plus, spoonful for spoonful, the dark grain has more anthocyanin antioxidants than blueberries. Japanese eggplant brings meatiness; red cabbage supplies fresh crunch.

Get the recipe: Black Rice Stir-Fry

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Dine on a gorgeous rainbow of fruits and vegetables, nutritionists like to remind us, and we'll net nature's full spectrum of health-promoting nutrients. But what does an "eat-your-colors" diet look like after the first few salad bar creations? We've come up with a handful of inspiring dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that taste as vivid as they look.

Check out the slideshow above for your "eat-your-colors" diet.

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