Eating the Rainbow: Colourful Foods Carry Powerful Nutrition

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We have all heard the truism “Eat a rainbow for health.” Beyond being a feast for the eyes, every colour brings with it a nutritional strength. By eating a rainbow of foods, you are sure to ingest nature’s finest multi-vitamins.

Here are some quick tips to help identify foods in the nutritional rainbow:

  • Vitamin A foods are most often yellow and orange (carrots, squash, pumpkin, yams, mangoes);
  • Vitamin B foods are most often green (asparagus, green beans, chard, spinach);
  • Vitamin C foods are often red (red peppers, berries, red cabbage, blood oranges, ruby grapefruit);
  • Anti-oxidants are highest in blue and purple foods (blackberries, blueberries, concord grapes, figs, purple cabbage).

Beyond the rainbow it is interesting to note that: Vitamin D foods are often white (milk, mushrooms, fish); Vitamin E foods are often brown (wheat germ, almonds, sunflower seeds); Vitamin K foods are often green and found in the Cruciferous family of plants (bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, rapini).

There is a great deal of “rainbow” crossover with nutrients. A wholesome food will have a  spectrum of vitamins A, B and C, and the pigments give a clue to the highest nutrient. So the colours in fruits and vegetables can help people learn how to fulfill their daily nutrition needs.


It makes sense that red is the colour used to express passion. Most of these red foods feed the heart and keep you beautiful as well!   Almost all red food contains generous amounts of Vitamin C. Here are some of the ruby stars: raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, red cherries, red grapes, pomegranates, red apples, red plums, rhubarb, red grapefruit, watermelon, guava, tomatoes, red peppers, radishes, radicchio, red onions.

In addition, here are two examples of red superfoods; those with the highest nutritional values:

Red Bell Peppers
The combined effects of vitamin A and C create a great antioxidant capacity, and with lycopene in the mix, the red bell pepper becomes a top notch superfood. Lycopene is what makes tomatoes and peppers red. Red peppers contain high levels of lycopene, which can play a role in the prevention of many cancers. A red pepper contains almost 300 percent of your daily vitamin C intake. Besides being a powerful antioxidant, vitamin C is also needed for the proper absorption of iron. If you are iron deficient, try combining red peppers with your iron source for maximum absorption.

One cup of strawberries contains over 100 percent of our daily recommended allowance of vitamin C. Recent studies show that when vitamin C is consumed during times of stress, it actually has the ability to decrease our blood pressure back down to a normal level, preventing the development of hypertension – especially in kids!

Tomatoes are high in vitamin C and beta carotene as well as lycopene. Organically grown tomatoes tend to be higher in lycopene. Studies show that lycopene is protective against bladder, breast, cervical, colorectal, endometrial, lung, pancreatic, prostate, and skin cancers.


The orange pigment, beta-carotene, converts to vitamin A, which is important for healing the gastrointestinal tract, lungs and skin. Beta-carotene is part of the carotenoid family, which provides antioxidant protection from the free radicals that can damage cells. One cup of cooked pumpkin contains 146 percent of the daily-recommended intake of beta carotene. This protects cholesterol from oxidation, which in turn assists in the prevention of heart disease. Beta carotene (aka pro-vitamin A) is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient. Antioxidants have the power to protect us from cardiovascular disease, wrinkles, and cancer so be sure to consume plenty of these foods: apricot, papaya, orange, pineapple, passion fruit, orange pepper, pumpkin, squash, carrot, cantaloupe, nectarine, peach, sweet potato, mango.


Dark green leafy and cruciferous vegetables are among the most potent cancer-preventing foods you could possibly eat. It could be in part because they contain the greatest nutrient density per calorie of any food on the planet. Whether you munch on kale chips or enjoy a watercress salad, you are healing every cell and boosting every organ system. To ensure a long and healthy life, eat more: spinach, arugula, mustard greens, collard greens, broccoli, kale, swiss chard, cucumber, green beans, asparagus, avocado, rocket, spinach, lettuce, watercress, brussels sprouts, sugar snap peas, zucchini.


Research into the nutrient density of food has established that the darker the food, the higher the antioxidant level.  The purple pigment in fruits and vegetables contains flavonoids, including resveratrol, which can help decrease blood pressure by improving the fluidity of the blood.

All fruits and vegetables with a purple hue contain a variety of polyphenols that can reduce the inflammatory response in the body. In my book Meals That Heal Inflammation, I outline the ways in which inflammation is at  the root of all major diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and immune dysfunction.

Here are some of the dark heroes that are revered for their amazing healing powers: blackberries, blueberries, black grapes, beetroot, black currants, purple plums, figs, prunes, raisins, purple cabbage, purple grapes, elderberries, cranberries, bilberries, purple Belgian endive, purple olives, purple asparagus.

Purple foods kill cancer. The resveratrol found in purple grapes, cranberries, blueberries, bilberries, and of course red wine and grape juice have been shown to inhibit the spread of colorectal cancer in animal studies. Other studies also show that resveratrol can induce cancer cell death in cases of prostate, breast, skin, liver, lung and blood cancers. The curcumin in turmeric seems to boost the anti-cancer activity of resveratrol, so have a glass of pinot noir (wine highest in resveratrol) next time you eat curry.

Purple foods are ulcer fighters. A 2011 study found that anthocyanins from blackberries reduced stomach ulcer formation in test animals. Researchers believe this is because the antioxidants in blackberries prevent oxidation and boost the activity of other important antioxidants, such as glutathione, that are naturally present in the body.

Purple superfoods include: acai berries, purple carrots, noni berries, and purple maca root.


Strawberry Onion Spinach SaladThis is a classic strawberry spinach salad. It is a perfect blend of sweet and sour and savoury. The spinach is one of the richest sources of lutein, which protects your vision. As an antioxidant, lutein protects the macula tissue in your eyes by absorbing damaging UV radiation and dissipating it harmlessly. The bell pepper is teeming with vitamin C for immune protection. Together with the strawberries, you get your full day’s need of vitamin C in just one serving of salad! (Makes 4 servings.)


  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 1 medium red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 large red or yellow pepper, finely sliced
  • 2 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

1) Layer veggies in a bowl and top with berries and pine nuts. Mix dressing ingredients in a Mason jar and pour over the salad.

Heirloom Tomato SalsaStore-bought salsa is so soggy and sad. This recipe takes five minutes and pops with sharp, sweet and spicy flavours. Tip: Heirloom tomatoes are perfect to eat when they yield to slight pressure, but should not feel mushy. And they should not be stored in the refrigerator. If heirlooms can’t be found, use cherry tomatoes. (Makes 2 cups.)


  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 cups heirloom tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium green onion
  • 1/8 tsp pink rock or grey sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp hot pepper, minced (optional ingredient)

1) Combine all ingredients into a bowl and stir to coat. Serve at room temperature.

Spicey Orange Carrot SoupTo say I am fond of carrots is an understatement. The old saying, ‘I liked it so much I bought the company,’ rings especially true for me – I have been a co-operative member/owner of The Big Carrot Natural Food Market in Toronto for more than 14 years. Once, while doing a detox cleanse, I ate so many carrots and drank so much carrot juice that my hands and feet turned bright yellow. Turns out that a glass of carrot juice contains more than 25,000 IU’s of pro-vitamin A. I got carotenemia, an excess of carotene in the blood, as my liver could not keep up with converting the carotenes to Vitamin A, so my body decided to store it in my extremities. Lucky for me it was temporary.

This soup sings of the Caribbean. When you can’t go on a tropical vacation, this cheerful soup is the next best thing.


  • 6 cups water
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 5 cups carrots, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp roasted or sautéed garlic
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp roasted ginger
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • ¼ cup raw coconut butter

1) Bring the water, garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, cumin, ginger, sea salt, and coconut butter to a simmer.

2) Add in carrots and cook until soft. Reduce heat, and add orange juice and nutritional yeast.

3) Blend soup in a high power blender until silky smooth. Serve warm.

Ginger Apple Green Bean SaladGreen beans are an excellent source of protein and fibre, vitamins A, B complex, C, and K, and the minerals iron, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. This makes green beans one of the most nutritious foods – like a vegetable multivitamin. Green beans can be called by many other names: French beans, runner beans, winged beans, string beans and snap beans. Essentially, green beans are the unripe fruit of any kind of bean. All over the world, they’re enjoyed steamed, boiled, stir-fried, or baked in casseroles. Green beans are easier to digest than mature dried beans, so they are well tolerated by most people.
When I recently made this recipe, my mother-in-law said, “Eating with you is like dining in a restaurant.” The sweet apple, the spicy ginger, and the fragrant thyme all combine into a quick and easy delicious summer dish. (Makes 8 servings.)


  • Salad:
  • 4 cups green beans, tipped
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh thyme, stem removed
  • Dressing:
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp ginger root, grated

1) Steam beans five minutes until crisp tender. Drain.

2) Place all ingredients into bowl, then toss with dressing until well coated.

Asparagus is brimming with B-vitamins that energize and protect your heart and brain. It also boasts 5 grams of vegetarian protein, vitamin C, fiber and tissue repairing manganese and iron! Salmon is one of the richest sources of Omega 3 fats, best known for reducing inflammation, boosting mood and improving memory and concentration. Salmon also contains nerve-relaxing tryptophan that assures a good night sleep. (Makes 12 rolls.)


  • 1 bunch thin local asparagus, cut in half
  • 1 medium lemon
  • 1 Tbsp all natural healthy mayonnaise (i.e. Veganaise)
  • 2 Tbsp mustard
  • 140 g smoked salmon (sugar free)
  • 1/2 cup fresh chives or dill springs
  • 12 rice paper rounds
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1.5 cups pea or sunflower sprouts

1) Partially fill a large frying pan with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil asparagus until tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold running water to stop cooking. In a small bowl, place 1 Tbsp lemon juice, then stir in mayo and mustard.

2) Fill a pie plate with lukewarm water and place beside a clean cutting board. Line up smoked salmon, mayo mixture, asparagus and greens near the cutting board.

3) Dip one rice-paper round at a time into water and leave until very pliable, about 30 seconds. Gently lay wet rice wrap against a towel to dry and then lay on cutting board. Place a slice of salmon along the bottom third of round. Spread a teaspoon of mayo mixture over salmon. Place two asparagus spears with the tips in opposite directions and lay on top of the salmon. Top with chives, basil and sprouts.

4) Lift rice paper edge closest to you up and over filling, then roll tightly toward the centre. When you reach the centre, fold in sides.

5) Continue rolling to form a log. Set roll, seam-side down, on a platter. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

6) As soaking water cools, replace with lukewarm water. Slice rolls in half diagonally to serve right away or leave whole and refrigerate up to 4 hours.

Purple Hemp ColeslawLook for unpasteurized sauerkraut in your local health food store as the natural process of fermentation creates beneficial probiotic bacteria. The tasty zip in this recipe is from the tangy sour flavour of the sauerkraut.

I love Ambrosia apples because this Canadian apple variety is slow to brown when cut, making it ideal for salads. Ambrosia is a sweet apple with a distinct honeyed aroma that pairs nicely with the purple cabbage.

For maximum nutrition, top the coleslaw with the nuttiness of hemp hearts, which offer the healing benefits of omega 3 fatty acids.

(Makes 6 servings.)


  • 4 cups purple cabbage, finely sliced
  • 1 cup unpasteurized Sauerkraut
  • 1/2 cup red onion, finely sliced
  • 2 organic Ambrosia apples, finely sliced
  • 2 Tbsp Hemp Hearts (shelled hemp seeds)
  • Dressing:
  • 2 Tbsp Veganaise (healthy mayo substitution)
  • 2 Tbsp sauerkraut liquid
  • 1 tsp dill weed, dried
  • Honey, to taste
  • 2 tsp unrefined sea salt

1) Mix salad ingredients together. Mix dressing ingredients together. Combine until salad is evenly coated.

(Editor’s note: Look for a review of Karthein’s Organic Unpasteurized Sauerkraut in the March 2012 issue of Vitality or find it posted on our website at

Cosmic Blend SaladThe salad greens are from Kind Organics at the BrickWorks Market here in Toronto.
Cosmic blend is a premium blend of organic baby salad greens, micro-greens, lots of herbs and edible flowers. Description: baby greens are fibre and mineral rich and excellent sources of chlorophyll, enzymes, and vitamins. Our salad mix brings in more concentrated forms of healthful greens and other sprouted vegetables in order to excite your palate and energize your soul.
The flowers I can identify in the salad include: calandula, daisies, nasturtiums, marigolds, and cornflowers.

Here is a lovely lemonade dressing that uses wild flower honey to complement the beautiful flowers:


  • 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp local wild flower honey
  • A pinch of unrefined sea salt

1) Mix all ingredients together and sprinkle over salad.

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