Eating the Rainbow

This spring, add a little color to your plate or grazing platter and you'll reap numerous health benefits.

Rainbow-colored foods from nature — fruits, vegetables and legumes — are no doubt a healthy alternative for your diet. But the lowly veggie tray or oft-forgotten fruit bowl don’t exactly entice today’s eat-with-your-eyes culinary audience. Thankfully, rainbow-colored foods are getting a makeover in the form of trendy and photo-worthy “grazing boards,” as well as other fruit- and vegetable-centric dishes. Here’s why you’ll want to make a colorful palette your springtime snack or lunch.

Fruit heart

Health Benefits

Lucy Danziger, who is editorial director and chief content officer of The Beet, a guide to plant-based eating, explains that “when we eat the colors of the rainbow, we are actually choosing foods that have a vast array of antioxidants.” It turns out that “the pigments in greens, red peppers, orange squash and purple beets all deliver a rich group of nutrients to your body in the form of plant chemicals or phytochemicals that interact with your body, strengthen your immune system and help your body function at its most optimal.”

And according to Healthline, while most fruits and vegetables are anti-inflammatory and filled with antioxidants, they have different nutrients and health benefits depending on their color:

  • Red foods (like strawberries, tomatoes and watermelons) could help lower your risk of heart disease, certain cancers and sun-related skin damage.
  • Dark-red foods (like radishes and bell peppers) may help support athletic performance through increased oxygen uptake and can help lower the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
  • Yellow and orange foods (like bananas, carrots and oranges) support eye health and can help lower your risk of heart disease and cancer.
  • Green foods — particularly cruciferous veggies like broccoli — may help lower your risk of cancer and heart disease.
  • Blue and purple foods (like blueberries, eggplant and cabbage) have been linked to improving brain function and lowering the risk of heart disease, neurological disorders, Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
  • White and brown foods (like garlic and onions) may lower the risk of heart disease, colon cancer and more.

Eating a variety of fruits and veggies will help your body in numerous ways. Danziger points out that eating a big, colorful salad full of greens, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, avocado or sunflower seeds, for instance, can help eliminate post-meal sleepiness (since these foods are high in fiber and fill you up without making you sleepy) while making your body feel full till dinner, eliminating the need for an afternoon snack.

Putting the Colorful Food Palette Into Play

Grazing boards elevate old-school charcuterie boards by adding fun and colorful options to the standard meat-and-cracker plate. In addition to being delicious, they are also aesthetically pleasing and perfect for a party, a snack or a luncheon.

To create your own colorful spread, creativity is key. For a meal-worthy board, you can work in all five basic food groups: fruits, vegetables, cheese, meats and whole grains. Choose a variety of produce (sweet fruit and savory vegetables do work well together), your favorite cheeses, a variety of crackers or breads, sliced salami or ham and optional dips, like homemade salsa. Simply slice in bite-size pieces, arrange on a plate or board and enjoy. No clue where to begin? There’s plenty of inspiration on social media to get you started.

For pretty and nutritious lunch options that are fruit- and veggie-centric, we talked to Sarah Brazwell, membership sales and marketing director for Santa Rosa Golf & Beach Club in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. This Club is home to the award-winning Vue on 30a, named “Best Fine Dining” by Visit South Walton voters.

“Spring is the time to pare down our cravings, but that does not mean sacrificing a dish that is delicious.”

She suggests the smoked-watermelon salad, which she says is a hit among those who visit this popular Gulf-front dining establishment. This salad combines arugula, spinach, carrots, walnuts, bacon, mozzarella cheese, chia seeds and raspberry-walnut vinaigrette, paired with lightly smoked watermelon that is both “hydrating and nutritious,” according to Brazwell. The smokiness of the watermelon turns it from fruit snack to hearty protein replacement, proving that it’s not just meat that can be smoked. And yes: It’s tasty.

Smoked-watermelon salad at Vue on 30A

“Spring is the time to pare down our cravings, but that does not mean sacrificing a dish that is delicious,” adds Brazwell. Treat yourself to light, rainbow-hued foods this season which are packed with nutrients and bursting with flavor. An ordinary soup or sandwich just doesn’t compare.

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