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Eat the Rainbow: Why Color in Your Diet is Essential

colorful vegetables and fruits

Originally published for Diabetic Living by Hope Warshaw, M.S., RD, CDE, BC-ADM

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest not only that we get a certain amount of vegetables each week, but also that we get a variety. The guidelines specifically recommend that people eat a spectrum of vegetables. The reason? Eating a variety of veggies means we get a variety of nutrients—particularly fiber, vitamin A (as carotenoids), vitamin C, potassium and magnesium. Ready to dish up an array of colorful veggies? Here are the key categories to focus on—remember that fresh, frozen and canned varieties all count.

Dark green vegetables

These include leafy greens that can be eaten raw (lettuces, arugula and spinach) or cooked (kale, spinach, chard and collards) as well as nonleafy vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Dark green veggies are high in fiber, vitamins A and C, magnesium, folate and potassium. 

Red/purple vegetables

Tomatoes, tomato juice, red bell peppers, red cabbage, beets, radishes, eggplant and radicchio all fall into this group. These veggies are high in fiber, vitamins A and C, folate and potassium. 

Orange/yellow vegetables

These include carrots, orange and yellow bell peppers, sweet potatoes, winter squash and pumpkin. Turn to these brightly hued foods for fiber, vitamin A and potassium.

Starchy vegetables

These include potatoes, corn and green peas. These vegetables are higher in carbohydrates than other vegetables and are often thought of separately from their colorful counterparts. 

Other vegetables

Most of the vegetables not mentioned above fall into the category of other veggies—which means there’s a lot of variety even within this category! Mushrooms, onions, zucchini, cucumbers, cauliflower and celery all fall into this group.

© Meredith Operations Corporation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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