It’s Pride month! One of the most commonly used symbols to celebrate LGBT+ diversity is the rainbow and the rainbow flag. This flag was created in 1978 by Gilbert Baker to create a unifying symbol of pride for the gay community. (source) These colors symbolize harmony, spirit, life, and more.
The same colors of the Pride flag are easy to find in the produce aisle. Dietitians even recommend “eating the rainbow” for good health. But why do the colors of our foods matter?
Substances called phytochemicals found only in plants provide health benefits beyond the vitamins and minerals you may normally think of. The colors of the food you eat can give you clues about the phytochemicals in the food and what healthy nutrients they provide when you eat them.
Check out this guide to the colorful benefits of your Michigan grown produce:
Red produce contains a pigment called lycopene which gives them their red or pink color. This pigment is a powerful antioxidant that fights inflammation and has even been associated with lower prostate and breast cancer risk. Lycopene is best absorbed from cooked produce so don’t be afraid to grill your tomatoes or saute your peppers.
Examples: Tomato, red peppers, watermelon, cranberries, and more!
Check out these ideas for utilizing tomatoes: https://staging.localdifference.org/crop-spot-tomatoes/
Orange and yellow plant foods are rich in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that is responsible for their color. Beta-carotene fights inflammation and is a precursor to Vitamin A – a nutrient critical for eye and immune health. So, eating your orange fruits and vegetables is important for good eye function and boosts your immune system!
Examples: Carrots, peaches, winter squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, apricots and more!
Learn how to make this warm treat with pumpkin. Hint: It’s not pumpkin pie. https://staging.localdifference.org/crop-spot-pumpkins/
Remember learning about chlorophyll in science class? This compound is found in all plants and helps convert sunlight into energy. Green plants get their color from chlorophyll. Many veggies that are green in color also have compounds called isothiocyanates which help enzymes in the liver clear carcinogens (cancer-causing substances). Most green vegetables are also excellent sources of Vitamin K, folic acid, and potassium.
Examples: Broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, kale, and more!
Find new ways to use leafy greens: https://staging.localdifference.org/crop-spot-dark-leafy-greens/
The blue or purple colors of foods like eggplant and blueberries come from a component called anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are antioxidants known for promoting heart health and healthy blood pressure. These blue and purple foods are ripe when their color is its richest.
Examples: Eggplant (especially the skin), blueberries, blackberries, prunes, plums, and more!
Not sure how to use eggplant? Find inspiration here: https://staging.localdifference.org/crop-spot-eggplant/
While it is true that colors can give clues about what nutrients are in plant foods, some beneficial nutrients have no color at all. White and tan plant foods like garlic, onions, scallions and leeks contain allicin, which causes their pungent smell and cancer fighting properties. Other white produce, such as the white potato, are excellent sources of potassium.
Examples: Garlic, onion, cauliflower, leeks, scallions, turnips, mushrooms, white asparagus, white potatoes, white corn and more!
Ramps are like a tasty cross between onion and garlic. Find guidance on their uses here: https://staging.localdifference.org/ramps/
Find all these produce items and more great recipes at localdifference.org . How are you celebrating Pride and eating the rainbow this month?
For more information about Michigan Pride events, check out this list of events.
Heidi Hudd is a clinical dietetics graduate student at Grand Valley State University. Her favorite way to eat the rainbow is to make fruit salsas for fish tacos. Yum!
Emma Beauchamp is the Communications Manager for Taste the Local Difference. Contact her at [email protected]