“Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true” (Y, Harburg).
Whether you hear the soft melody of Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz… or Israel Kamakawiwo’ole strumming at his ukulele in Hawaii, this is a song that most people recognize as a classic. In essence, it is an expression of hope and that no matter the circumstance, happiness and good health can always be found.
Some have said that the song represents the end of life, however, I think that it rather focuses on recognizing the important things in life and reminds us to treasure them. Nutrition is one of the main ‘pillars’ of health and wellness, which should be prioritised, and treasured, from a young age.
“Eating the rainbow” is not another FAD diet, but rather an evidence-based recommendation promoting VARIETY in what we put into our bodies, with the particular focus on fruits and veggies. However, the concept of “eating the rainbow” goes deeper than merely suggesting that we eat more fruit and veg, it also encourages increasing the variety of these types of food groups when we eat.
Tim Spector (a professor of genetic epidemiology with subspecialties in the microbiome and diet), advocates for an intake of 30 DIFFERENT types of fruit and veg per week in order to optimize our gut health. 30 sounds like a crazy amount doesn’t it? But when you think about it, this includes not only your typical fruit and veg, but also nuts, seeds, grains, herbs, and spices.
So you might actually be closer to 30 than you might realize…13 going on 30? Gut health is predominantly based upon the condition of your gut microbiome. Naturally, we have lots of different microbes/microorganisms (particularly bacteria) in our gut at any given time. Some of these microorganisms might be beneficial for our body, and others more detrimental.
Therefore, the ideal goal would be to increase the number of ‘good guys’ in your system, in place of the ‘bad guys’ that could cause any harm. By eating a variety of different fruit and veg, we feed our microbiomes: allowing a greater variety of microbes to grow and develop. Improved gut health has a magnitude of evidence-based health benefits. These include improved utilisation of vitamins and minerals in the body; immune boosting properties; aiding in digestion; and even preventing depression and/or anxiety.
I am therefore urging you to recognize the importance of both your, and your child’s microbiome and aim to increase your percentage of microbes in your diet by eating a variety of fruit and veggies, i.e. eating the rainbow. Reducing ultra-processed foods is another way to optimise your gut health, due to the fact that the processing of these foods often removes the husks of the food (which the microbes tend to feed off); as well as contain many foreign chemicals which disrupt the functioning of the microbiome (emulsifiers, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, etc.)
Each colour variety of fruits and veggies also have health benefits, not only limited to gut health. Plants contain various phytochemicals, phytonutrients and pigments which contribute to their colour. Humans have trichromatic vision, which means we can see in colour, and there is a reason for this…our bodies are adapted to be able to recognize plant varieties in colour, we can therefore see a ‘rainbow’ of different coloured plant-sources. For example… (you definitely don’t need to know all of this detail, that is what a dietitian is for, but for those of you interested:)
RED: lycopene, folate and potassium (anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cardiac functioning, etc.)
YELLOW/ORANGE: carotenoids, vitamin A, vitamin C (eye function, immune system strengthening, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant)
GREEN: chlorophyll, isothiocyanates, iron, vitamin K, etc. (bone strength, blood clotting pathways, prevents fatigue, oxygenation of organs, etc.)
BLUE/PURPLE: anthocyanins, betalains, manganese, potassium, vitamin C, Vitamin B, etc. (neurological functioning, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidants, etc.)
WHITES/BROWNS: anthoxanthins, folate, magnesium (heart health, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory)
As you can see, the argument in favour of “eating the rainbow” is very strong, and is something I would encourage all parents to do for their children’s diets.
Georgia Burnett (Registered Dietitian, Sweet Paeds) – RD, BScHONS
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