Author: Kate Higham

As the cold weather sets in, our bodies may need more nutrients to guard against seasonal ailments such as colds and flu. Embracing the 'colorful plate' concept, often referred to as "eating the rainbow," is an inviting, tasty, and visually appealing approach to naturally enhancing your immune health. This method adds vibrancy to your meals and packs a nutritional punch, providing the essential vitamins and minerals your body requires to stay healthy during the colder months.

The science behind colors and nutrients

The colors in fruits and vegetables aren't just to make them look appealing. They signify a variety of nutrients, each with its own set of health benefits. Let's break it down by color:

Red - Heart Health Champions

Red-hued fruits and vegetables are not just striking in appearance; they're packed with essential antioxidants for your heart and immune health. For instance, the lycopene found in tomatoes is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers. (1)Additionally, red foods are an excellent source of Vitamin C. For example, a single medium-sized red bell pepper delivers a whopping 169% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of this crucial vitamin (2).

  • Add to your plate: Strawberries, tomatoes, red peppers, cranberries, cherries, raspberries, pomegranate.

Orange/Yellow - The Sunshine Nutrients

These sunshine colors are your go-to for Vitamin A and Vitamin C. For example, one study found that beta-carotene (which our bodies convert into Vitamin A) is critical in supporting immune function (3). The good news is that getting enough vitamin C is easy. In fact, just one orange can provide about 89% of our recommended daily intake! (4).

  • Add to your plate: Oranges, carrots, pumpkins, lemons, peaches, pineapple, grapefruit, sweet potatoes, orange and yellow bell peppers, and squash.

Green - The Detoxifiers

Green vegetables are akin to nature's own multivitamin blend. Just one cup of raw spinach, for example, impressively meets 56% of your daily Vitamin A requirements and fulfills your entire daily need for Vitamin K (5). These nutrients are vital for maintaining vision, bone health, and proper blood clotting. Additionally, research is underway into the potential health benefits of the natural pigment chlorophyll, responsible for the green coloration, (6).

  • Add to your plate: Spinach, broccoli, kale, apples, peas, avocados, limes, green grapes, asparagus, and brussel sprouts

Blue/Purple- The Brain Boosters

Foods in the blue and purple spectrum are celebrated for their potential cognitive and cardiac benefits. For example, studies are looking into the impact of blueberries on memory, particularly in older adults (7).

  • Add to your plate: Blueberries, eggplant, blackberries, radish, plums, purple cabbage, purple carrots, figs, elderberries, and purple asparagus.

White/Brown- The Immune Supporters

Don't underestimate the power of less colorful foods like garlic, onions, and mushrooms. These are rich in powerful compounds like allicin (in garlic) and selenium (in mushrooms) with strong immune-boosting properties.

  • Add to your plate: Garlic, mushrooms, white onion, cauliflower, parsnip, ginger, turnip, and sauerkraut.

Understanding the nutritional science behind the colors of fruits and vegetables empowers you to make informed choices about your diet, ensuring each meal is not just a feast for your eyes but a boost for your health as well.

The health benefits of a colorful diet

Each color on your plate brings something unique to the table, but the combination of these truly makes the magic happen. This concept, known as 'nutritional synergy', means that food nutrients can work together to enhance your health. For instance, combining Vitamin C-rich foods with iron-rich foods can improve iron absorption, a crucial mineral for energy and immune function (8).

The American Heart Association advocates for a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, advising that they should make up at least half of your plate (9). This isn't just for heart health; a colorful diet is also essential for a thriving gut microbiome. The varied fibers and nutrients in these foods nourish the beneficial bacteria in your gut, an important factor for a strong immune system and overall wellness.

Crafting a colorful diet

Incorporating colors into your diet is a simple yet effective way to boost your health. And the best bit? It doesn't require any drastic changes. Here's how you can easily embrace the rainbow in your daily eating habits:

  1. Colorful shopping: When making your grocery list, think of colors. Aim to include fruits and vegetables from every color group. This makes your shopping more fun and ensures you get a wide range of nutrients.

  2. Creative cooking: Turn your meals into a colorful canvas. Experiment with salads, smoothies, and mixed vegetable dishes. Combining different colors and textures makes your meals visually appealing and nutritionally rich.

  3. Smart snacking: Choose snacks that add color to your diet. A handful of mixed nuts, for example, provides healthy fats and a variety of colors, from green pistachios to brown almonds.

  4. Seasonal selections: Embrace seasonal fruits and vegetables. They're usually fresher, tastier, and packed with more nutrients. Additionally, they're often better for the environment and your wallet.

  5. Herbs and spices: Don't overlook the power of herbs and spices. Many, like turmeric and ginger, offer strong anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting benefits, adding both flavor and health benefits to your meals.

  6. Choose whole foods: Where possible, go for whole fruits and vegetables rather than juices or supplements. Whole foods retain more fiber and nutrients, which are often lost in processing.

By following these simple steps, you can easily and deliciously bring a spectrum of nutritional benefits to your plate, making every meal not just a feast for your eyes but a boost for your health.

The Takeaway

During colder weather, your best defense against cold and flu could be your diet. By filling your plate with various colors from fruits and vegetables, you're treating your taste buds and giving your body the tools it needs to stay healthy.

To ensure you're getting the right balance of nutrients, consider using LetsGetChecked's vitamin deficiency test. This convenient test offers a comprehensive assessment of your essential vitamins and minerals, helping you to understand your body’s needs and work with your healthcare provider to adjust your diet accordingly.


1.National Library of Medicine. Tomato lycopene and its role in human health and chronic. Online:
2. Healthline: Bell Peppers 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits. Online.
3. National Center for Biotechnology Information: B-Carotene is an important vitamin A source for humans. Online.
4. National Institutes of Health: Vitamin C. Online.
5. U.S Department of Agriculture: FoodData Central: Raw Spinach. Online.
6. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Chlorophylls as Natural Bioactive Compounds. Online.
7. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Blueberry supplementation effects on neuronal and pathological markers in subjects at risk for Alzheimer’s Disease. Online.
8. Food Insight: Vitamin C and Iron: A Perfect Match. Online.
9. American Heart Foundation: How to eat more fruit and vegetables. Online.