How to Create a Healthy, Balanced Plate

National Nutrition Month: The Nutrition Rainbow

Fruits and vegetables are the backbone of a healthy, nutritious diet. Eating plenty of vegetables and fruits can help to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. But very few adults in the U.S., less than 10%, are eating the recommended amounts of vegetables each day.

If you're hoping to increase your vegetable and fruit intake, to improve your diet and for better overall health, one way to do so is to pay attention to the colors of the food you're eating. Vegetables and fruits come in a rainbow of colors. Those colors aren't just for show -- the pigments that produce them also contain phytonutrients that can help to boost your health.

Take a look at the nutrition rainbow and see how adding more color to your plate can benefit your health. Red Fruits and vegetables that are red or pink typically get their color from the pigments such as lycopene and anthocyanins. Those pigments also happen to be antioxidants, meaning they help to reduce damage to your cells caused by free radicals. Some of the benefits of adding red or pink foods to your diet include:

  • Reduce the risk of stroke.
  • Reduce the risk of certain cancers, including prostate cancer.
  • Reduce the risk of macular degeneration.

Red Vegetables and Fruits:

  • Beets
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Red peppers

Orange and Yellow

Orange and yellow vegetables and fruits are full of antioxidants such as zeaxanthan, beta-carotene and lycopene. Zeaxanthan is the pigment that gives saffron its distinct, bright yellow color. It's also found in corn and bell peppers. Beta-carotene is the pigment that makes many carrots bright orange. The benefits of the pigments that give orange and yellow fruits and vegetables their bright colors include:

  • Reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
  • Improve skin health.
  • Reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Orange and Yellow Vegetables and Fruits:

  • Carrots
  • Yellow and orange bell peppers
  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Corn
  • Butternut squash
  • Sweet potato


Green vegetables get their color from the pigment chlorophyll. They also happen to be full of antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, E, and K, as well as several B vitamins. Many types of green vegetables are also an excellent source of dietary fiber. Some of the benefits of adding more green to your plate include:

  • Improve heart health.
  • Strengthen bones.
  • Prevent birth defects.
  • Reduce the risk of certain cancers.

Green Vegetables and Fruits:

  • Spinach
  • Lettuces
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Avocado
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Green apples

Blue and Purple

Like red vegetables and fruits, blue and purple foods get their color from anthocyanin pigments. When found in blue and purple foods, anthocyanin pigments offer a number of benefits, including:

  • Potentially prevent high blood pressure.
  • Improve memory in adults with dementia.
  • Improve heart health.

Blue and Purple Vegetables and Fruits:

  • Blueberries
  • Eggplants
  • Plums
  • Purple grapes
  • Purple potatoes
  • Red cabbage
  • Blackberries

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