Eat the Rainbow 4-Week ChallengeDec 30, 2022 02:26PM ● By Kati Forholt
Lasting healthy nutrition habits begin with one small step at a time. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with nutritional information overload in the diet and fitness industry. There are new diets at every turn, and many people give up before they even start. Others follow rigid rules that are just not sustainable for the long term.
Here is a simple four-week path to eating the rainbow that will result in sustainable eating habits packed with health benefits. The ultimate goal being to consume 9 handfuls of a wide variety of fruits and vegetables daily.
Week 1: White
Add one handful of white
fruit or vegetable each day of the week.
While white isn’t in the rainbow, white fruits and vegetables have incredible nutritional value that is overlooked and underrated. By eliminating white foods, we’ve thrown out a very valuable nutritional tool. Many white foods are resistant starches. Resistant starches are a type of carbohydrate that aren’t digested until they reach the large intestine. Because they are more slowly digested, they keep blood sugar lower after eating. This keeps us feeling full longer and improves insulin sensitivity. Improving insulin sensitivity specifically helps target belly fat.
Since resistant starches are harder for the body to break down and use, gut bacteria can use them to make short chain fatty acids. Short chain fatty acids help regulate appetite, reduce gut inflammation, heal leaky gut and protect the brain.
The catch with resistant starches is that content is highest when prepared in certain ways. For example, white potatoes and white rice become resistant starches when cooked then cooled before eaten. Others are only resistant starches when uncooked.
Not all white foods are resistant starches, but still contain many health benefits. White foods tend to be rich in fiber, potassium, and lignans which are good for metabolism and gut health.
Aim for 1 handful of healthy white foods every day of Week 1
White potato cooked, then cooled (potato salad)
White rice cooked, then cooled (sushi, rice stuffed grape leaves eaten cold)
Uncooked oats (muesli, no bake oatmeal bites)
Bananas (green bananas are high in resistant starch)
Cauliflower (high in antioxidants, cruciferous vegetable which is hormone balancing)
Chickpeas (high in zinc and magnesium))
White mushrooms (immune boosting, rich in minerals, B2, and B3)
Week 2: Blue/Purple/Black
This week, continue eating one handful a day of healthy white foods, and add in at least one handful of blue/purple/black foods.
These richly pigmented
plant foods contain anthocyanins. Foods that contain anthocyanins are
anti-inflammatory and high in antioxidants. They are cancer fighting, and help
prevent diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.
Aim for one daily handful of blue/purple/black foods in addition to white.
Purple and black grapes
Week 3: Red
In addition to enjoying white, blue/purple/black foods every day, add an easy one: red.
Red foods are heart healthy. They help lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and protect against heart disease. They are also cancer fighting and good for brain health. Like the dark blue and purple hues, reds rich in color are also high in antioxidants and anthocyanins. Reds, in particular, tend to be high in Vitamin A and C and contain antioxidants like quercetin and lycopene.
This week, add one handful of red food each day in addition to daily whites and purples.
Week 4: Orange
This week, each day should include one from every week (white, blue/black/purple, red and now add orange).
Orange foods are high in
carotenoids. Carotenoids are fat soluble and best absorbed when eaten with a
healthy fat source. Orange foods contain important nutrients that help the body
make Vitamin A. Orange foods are important for eye health. They improve night
vision and reduce risk of macular degeneration. They also help prevent fatigue,
skin issues and a weakened immune system.
Research indicates that the people who eat the most fruits and vegetables have the lowest rates of cancer and enjoy longer lives. Consider setting a goal to include 9 handfuls of fruits and vegetables and eat the full rainbow every day.
Kati Forholt, MSN APRN, is an advanced practice nurse practitioner who specializes in integrative medicine, hormone balance and gut health at Radiantly Healthy MD - 150 Fifth Avenue , Ste A, Indialantic, FL.