You’ve heard that you should ‘eat the rainbow’ – but is there any truth to this age-old saying? In short: yes, eating a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables is super beneficial for your health.

Why is it important?

Fruits and vegetables are brimming with ‘phytochemicals’ (disease-fighting antioxidants found in plants that protect your body’s cells from damage). The colour of fruit and veg is dependent on the unique types of phytochemicals they contain. So, eat a range of fruit and veg and you’re getting a range of different phytochemicals.

To give you a little more insight, here’s the specific health benefits of each different colour:

  • Red fruit and veg like tomato, capsicum and watermelon – these contain ‘lycopene’, which is responsible for that vibrant red colour. They are key for a healthy heart and are protective against cancer.
  • Orange fruit and veg like carrots, pumpkin and mangoes – you’ve probably heard of the carotenoid ‘beta-carotene’ before, and this is where it fits in. Orange and yellow fruit and veg are rich in a range of carotenoids that support healthy eyes and immunity.
  • Green fruit and veg like broccoli, cucumber and kiwi fruits – these contain a variety of antioxidants that are essential for eye and lung health. They’re also important for wound healing and they fight cancer.
  • Blue and purple fruit and veg like eggplant, beetroot and blueberries – ‘anthocyanin’ is the antioxidant that gives these fruits and veg their colour. They support healthy ageing, are good for your heart and brain and are also protective against dementia and cancer.
  • White fruit and veg like onions, cauliflower and white peaches – are important for the health of your bones and circulatory system. They also protect against heart disease and cancer.

But fruit and veg are far more than just the antioxidants they contain. For one, fruit and veg are brimming with fibre to support a healthy digestive system. But you should throw away your veggie peeler, because there’s much more fibre in the skin.

They are also rich in a range of micronutrients that keep your body working it’s best. Some examples are immunity-boosting Vitamin C, folate for the production of DNA and potassium which is key for heart and muscle function.

And just to add to the raft of health benefits of eating enough fruit and veg – the World Health Organisation actually estimated that in 2017, almost four million (yes, 4 000 000!) deaths across the globe were attributed to insufficient intake of fruit and veg.

So, why 30 different types of plants?

Not only is eating fruits and vegetables important for your overall health, making sure you get a diverse range of these is also vital – why? Studies have shown those who consume 30 different types of plants or more each week have much more diverse microbiomes (a good thing – hello, gut-brain axis!) than those who consume only 10 or fewer types of plants each week.

I know that might sound like a lot, but it can add up quickly with different coloured vegetables and fruits counting as different ‘types’.

So why not try writing down all the different types of plants you eat this week? Then next week, add a few more – trust me, your body will thank you for it!

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.

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