Rainbow Eating and the 5 Healthiest Foods to Assist in Good Health

Rainbow-colored fruits and vegetables including purple cabbage and eggplant, red peppers and strawberries, orange carrots and citrus fruits, green onions and broccoli, and yellow peppers and squash.

Fruits, leafy green vegetables, beans, and whole grains are the main components of a plant-based, whole-food diet that may help reduce the progression of arthritis. (Image: Oksix via Dreamstime)

Rainbow eating includes the many different kinds of rainbow foods on the market that have different colors and contain varied nutrition. Generally speaking, yellow vegetables contain carotene, which can protect the eyes; red vegetables are rich in lycopene, which can increase vitality; green vegetables are rich in carotene and flavonoids, which can protect the heart and liver; purple vegetables contain anthocyanins, which can prevent aging; while white vegetables have a high water and sugar content, which can beautify the skin and moisturize the lungs.

It is recommended to eat different colored vegetables for your health. An easy way to achieve this is to mix and match different vegetables of the same variety when cooking. For example, you can use cauliflower and broccoli in a “double garlic” stir fry, and use yellow and red tomatoes to make a sweet and sour cold dish.

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Rainbow eating for your good health


Yellow carrots contain lutein, which is good for eye health; orange carrots contain lycopene, which is good for heart health and has a preventive effect on some cancers.

Rainbow eating includes carrots; orange carrots contain lycopene.
Orange carrots contain lycopene, which is good for heart health and has a preventive effect on some cancers. (Image: Kondratova via Dreamstime)


Red tomatoes, which are technically a fruit, but are often treated as a vegetable, contain more lycopene, which can effectively prevent diseases caused by aging and weakened immunity. Yellow tomatoes have less lycopene, but more carotene, which can prevent dry and rough skin.


Both green and white cauliflower are rich in protein, cellulose, carbohydrates, carotene, and vitamin A. But green cauliflower and broccoli have 200 times more carotene and vitamin A than white cauliflower.


Purple onions contain anthocyanins, and white and yellow onions are rich in Vitamin C. The content of protein, dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, sodium, and other minerals in purple onions is higher than that of yellow and white onions. However, the carotene and Vitamin C content of the latter two are higher than those of the purple ones, which has better anti-fatigue effects.

Purple onions also contain plant anthocyanins, which are strong antioxidant substances that protect the human body from free radical damage, inhibit inflammation and allergies, and resist aging.

Purple onions sitting on a cutting board beside a knife.
Purple onions contain plant anthocyanins, which are strong antioxidant substances. (Image: Olindana via Dreamstime)


Both white cabbage and purple cabbage contain large amounts of vitamin C, cellulose, and carbohydrates. The nutritional profile of these two cabbages is not much different, but purple cabbage contains higher amounts of anthocyanins.

There are also some fruits and vegetables that don’t appeal to everybody, but they have special properties, too. In fact, these foods have extremely high nutritional values.

What doctors call the 5 healthiest foods

1. Bitter gourd/bitter melon

Bitter gourd is a tropical vine and the fruits have substantial health benefits. Bitter gourd contains an alkaloid — bitter gourd glycoside — which gives bitter gourd its special taste and is packed full of antioxidants. In the eyes of doctors, bitter gourd has a high nutritional value because it provides vitamin C, vitamin A, and folate, which supports DNA development. For many people, this bitterness also has the effect of stimulating taste buds and increasing appetite. Bitter gourd can lower cholesterol, reduce blood sugar, help fight some cancers, and assist in weight loss when used as part of a calorie-controlled diet. It goes very well with onions, garlic, and scrambled eggs, or mixed with ground beef, onions, and garlic.

Bitter melon sitting on a wooden serving tray.
For many people, the bitter taste of bitter melon has the effect of stimulating taste buds and increasing appetite. (Image: Grafvision via Dreamstime)

Do not eat large quantities of bitter gourd as it can dramatically lower blood sugar and cause diarrhea. Do not eat it if you are pregnant. 

2. Eggplant/aubergine

Eggplant, also known as aubergine, is rich in alkaloids, especially cucurbitacin, which has anti-cancer effects. Its rich purple color indicates the amount of antioxidants it contains. In clinical practice, a medicine component called solasodine rhamnosyl glycoside has been extracted from eggplant. This component can assist in the treatment of gastric cancer and cervical cancer according to test tube studies. It can also assist in the topical treatment of some skin cancers. Eggplant is full of treasures, including its flower, root, and juice. 

Easy to add to one’s diet, eggplant can be baked, roasted, fried, or grilled and added to Mediterranean vegetables such as tomatoes, olives, and drizzled with olive oil or basil pesto to make a delicious, cheap, filling meal or an alfresco sharing platter.  

Four eggplants sitting on an old wooden table.
The rich purple color is an indication of the amount of antioxidants contained in the eggplant. (Image: Svetlana Kolpakova via Dreamstime)

3. Green pepper/bell pepper

Green peppers are actually a type of fruit, although they are treated as vegetables and are classified as such by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and have high nutritional value being rich in vitamin C, provitamin A (a precursor to making vitamin A),  and vitamin B6 (needed to aid metabolism), as well as carbohydrates and fiber. Based on Chinese medicine, green peppers have the effect of warming the middle of the body (or core) and lowering the qi, dispelling cold, and dehumidifying the body. They help to strengthen physical strength and relieve fatigue caused by work and life pressure. 

Green peppers are good for the gut because the large amount of fiber helps produce good bacteria in the intestines, which contributes to overall wellbeing. Green peppers contain many antioxidants and anti-inflammatory plant components that can contribute to eye health and heart health, and they help to lower deep abdominal fat when used as part of a healthy diet. 

Two green bell peppers sitting on a wooden table.
Green peppers contain many antioxidants and anti-inflammatory plant components that can contribute to eye health and heart health. (Image: Tadeusz Wejkszo via Dreamstime)

Green peppers can be cooked with eggs and onions to make a Spanish omelet or cut up and used as crudites with a dip. They can be added to chicken or other meat, or be stuffed with cheese and breadcrumbs to make a vegetarian dish. 

4. Shiitake mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms are a fungus, although they are classified as a vegetable by the U.S, Department of Agriculture, found growing on decaying hardwood trees mainly from Japan, containing high protein, low fat, polysaccharides, multiple amino acids, and multiple vitamins. They can help improve human immune function, delay aging, and prevent and fight cancer. Shiitake mushrooms have therapeutic effects on diabetes, tuberculosis, infectious hepatitis, neuritis, and other diseases, and can also relieve indigestion and constipation.

Shiitakes are mainly known for their beneficial effect in lowering blood fat and cholesterol because they contain certain compounds, including eritadenine, which reduces an enzyme that produces cholesterol, sterols known to block cholesterol absorption in the gut, and beta-glucans, a special type of fiber that lowers cholesterol. Shiitakes contain high levels of copper per gram of mushroom, which is known for aiding skin health and maintaining hair color. 

Shitake mushrooms sitting on a wooden surface.
Shitake mushrooms can help improve human immune function. (Image: Piman Khrutmuang via Dreamstime)

Please be aware that Shiitakes may cause skin rashes for some people. Concentrated Shiitake extract in powder form or capsules may also cause digestive problems and sensitivity to sunlight.

Shiitakes can be added to the diet in place of any mushroom in a recipe and the dried version is very popular with cooks. Soaked, the juice can be added to a broth while the rehydrated mushrooms can be chopped and used with eggs, meat, or added to a savory rice dish for extra richness. Shiitakes can also be used to make a tea when boiled water is added to the dried mushrooms in a teapot and the resulting liquid may be drunk with honey like a herbal tea in order to get all the benefits if you prefer not to eat them. 

5. Cilantro

Cilantro is sometimes confused with coriander or parsley. Cilantro is actually the stems and leaves of the plant that smells strongly of spicy citrus. Some people have a genetic reaction to the herb and find it tastes soapy, but this is nothing to be concerned about as you can substitute parsley in a dish, which has good levels of minerals. 

Fresh cilantro sitting on a wicker basket.
Cilantro is sometimes confused with coriander or parsley. (Image: Amarita Petcharakul via Dreamstime)

Cilantro can promote gastrointestinal motility, stimulate appetite, and refresh the spleen due to its high levels of Vitamin K, which assists in blood health. People with a weak spleen and stomach can eat cilantro moderately, which can warm the stomach, reduce intestinal spasms, dispel cold, help digestion, and relieve stomach pain. 

Cilantro can be used to flavor butter mixed with lime and added to fresh corn on the cob, added to soft cheese with black pepper, and is typically found in Mexican, Indian, and Asian cooking. The plant does not dry well so the fresh leaves are mostly used. 

Please note that fresh cilantro can cause an allergic reaction, but not often with the cooked plant. Mild symptoms include itchy bumps under the skin, swollen irritated lips or tongue, and coughing. Extreme reactions include anaphylaxis, which is life-threatening and requires immediate medical intervention. 

Translated by Patty Zhang and edited by Helen 

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