Gardening Insights from Edwards Greenhouse

Eating the Rainbow

An easy way of getting a broad spectrum of nutrients and vitamins is to eat a broad spectrum of colors of fruits and vegetables. Oxidization, such as when an apple slice turns brown, or when fish becomes rancid, also happens to the cells in our bodies. Free radicals, caused by oxidization, damage cells as well as DNA. This may lead to the onset of cancer, heart disease, cataracts, and arthritis. The more brightly colored produce is, the more protective the health benefits from phytochemicals, plant compounds that help the body neutralize free radicals, and undo some of the damage already done to cells. Antioxidants including beta-carotene and vitamins E and C are often found in colorful vegetables and fruits. More detail regarding healthful nutrients of the following colors of produce:

RED: Beets, pomegranates, rhubarb, raspberries, cranberries, cherries, and red bell peppers. Contain vitamin A, beta-carotene, vitamin C, manganese, anthocyanins, and fiber. Red apples also have quercetin, a compound that fights colds, the flu, and allergies. Lycopene, found in tomatoes, watermelon, and red grapefruit, has cancer fighting properties. Contributes to a healthy heart, memory function, urinary tract health, and a lower risk of some cancers.

ORANGE: Butternut squash, peaches, carrots, nectarines, sweet potatoes, orange peppers, cantaloupes, pumpkins, and oranges. Similar to red, including vitamins C, A, B6, potassium, and fiber. Contain carotenoids and bioflavonoids. Contributes to a healthy heart, vision health, immune system, and a lower risk of some cancers.

YELLOW: Banana, yellow bell peppers, summer squash, spaghetti squash. Potassium, fiber, manganese, vitamin A, and magnesium. Health benefits similar to orange produce.

GREEN: Spinach, arugula, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, dark green lettuces and kales, green beans, pumpkin seeds, peas, collard greens, lima beans. These vegetables are more nutritious than iceberg lettuce. Rich lutein content aids eyesight, and folate supports cell reproduction. Additionally, green vegetables lower risk of some cancers, and contribute to strong bones and teeth. Green vegetables are important for vegetarians to obtain iron instead of the iron that meat provides.

BLUE/PURPLE: Blueberries, red onions, plums, eggplant, currants, blackberries, Concord grapes. Vitamin A and flavonoids are found in radicchio, purple cabbage, purple potatoes, and purple carrots. Blue and purple produce has powerful antioxidants that protect blood vessels and preserve healthy skin. Additionally, health benefits include a lower risk of some cancers, urinary tract health, memory function, and healthy aging.

WHITE: Cauliflower, parsnips, rutabagas. Contains vitamins C, K, folate, and fiber. Onions and garlic have allicin, a compound that protects the heart and blood vessels. The mineral selenium is found in mushrooms. White beans provide iron, potassium, and protein. These vegetables help maintain heart health, cholesterol levels that are already healthy, and a lower risk of some cancers.

BLACK: Black, (or wild) rice, black lentils, black beans. Provides high levels of antioxidants. Black rice has 70 percent more protein and twice as much copper as brown rice, though it is lower in manganese and zinc.

Percent Daily Value (% DV) provides an estimate of how individual foods contribute to the total diet. Foods that are an “excellent source” of a nutrient provide 20% or more of the daily value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 19% of the daily value.

Opening your mind to new flavors can be beneficial in expanding to new colors of fruits and vegetables. Another way of doing this is trying new cuisines, especially Asian or Middle Eastern. Eating a variety on the rainbow ensures a variety of nutrients. Now your colorful fruit and veggie garden looks not only visually stunning, but is showing off its healthiness!

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Edward’s staff members are happy to provide support and advice throughout the gardening experience to strengthen each gardener’s skills at all experience levels.

Gretchen Weitemier

Occupational Therapist

Herbs and Veggies Worker