In The Rainbow Explained, I provided a quick overview of the nutritional benefits of different colored fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Now it’s time to dig a little deeper into each color of the natural food rainbow!
In this article, I’ll focus on the incredible powers of natural foods in the brown, tan, and white areas of the spectrum. Let’s dive into the treasure trove of healing, nourishing, and detoxifying nutrients that exist in these whole, plant-based foods.
A deeper dive into brown, tan, and white fruits, vegetables, and legumes
Brown, tan, and white foods fight cancer, stabilize blood sugar, strengthen bones, and boost fiber. In addition to fruits and vegetables, this category also includes nuts, legumes, and seeds that are beneficial to your health. These foods have anticancer and anti-inflammatory activity, and like the green foods, contain compounds that can assist with liver and hormone health.
Women who consume white foods like onions, garlic and mushrooms every day have better chances against breast and cervical cancers.
Brown/tan/white vegetables include cauliflower, garlic, jicama, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, shallots, sauerkraut, and turnips.
Brown/tan/white fruits are fairly sparse on this list, but they include bananas, coconuts, dates, lychees, white nectarines, and white peaches.
Brown/tan/white legumes include cannellini beans, chickpeas, lentils, navy beans, pinto beans, and soybeans.
Brown/tan/white seeds include chia seeds, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.
Brown/tan/white nuts include almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts.
The healthy nutrients and elements in brown, tan, and white fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, and nuts:
B Vitamins (B-Complex Vitamins): The B vitamins are like a little army of troops that provide multiple benefits to your brain, cellular health, cardiovascular system, digestive system, eyesight, muscles, and nervous system. There are eight B vitamins in all, and some or all of them can be found in a range of earthy colored foods. Cauliflower, chickpeas, flaxseeds, lentils, mushrooms, pinto beans, soybeans, and sunflower seeds are great sources for B Vitamins.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a huge immunity booster and an antioxidant that helps our bodies fight against free radicals that can damage our cells, organs, and tissues. It has been linked to protection against cancer, heart disease, and other ailments. Vitamin C plays an important role in the natural healing process, and it is a building block for your blood vessels, bones, cartilage, and muscles. Cauliflower, jicama, lychees, and potatoes are loaded with Vitamin C.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that protects our cells, organs, and tissues from free radicals. It also plays an important role in cardiovascular health, healthy vision, healthy skin, the reproductive system, cellular health, and immunity. Vitamin E is a building block for red blood vessels and acts as a blood thinner, which can reduce clotting. Vitamin E is fat-soluble, so it’s best to consume Vitamin E foods with a bit of healthy fat for optimal absorption. Many Vitamin E-rich foods, such as nuts, seeds, and avocados, have the healthy fats built right in. Others, such as leafy greens and broccoli, should be combined with healthy fats to aid absorption by the body. Almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios, and sunflower seeds are rich in Vitamin E.
Allicin: Allicin is an antioxidant medicinal component of garlic that has been linked to several health benefits, including anticancer and blood pressure-lowering effects. Garlic is the source of allicin.
Fiber: Fiber provides a wealth of benefits to your well-being: It famously promotes gastrointestinal health (i.e. “keeps you regular”). It also helps regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol levels, prevent heart disease, and reduce intestinal inflammation. Whole grains, coconuts, jicama, potatoes, cannellini beans, chickpeas, lentils, navy beans, parsnips, pinto beans, soybeans, almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts are good sources of fiber.
Folate: Folate, also known as vitamin B-9 or folic acid, is an important building block for red blood cells and cellular health. Almonds, chickpeas, flaxseeds, lentils, peanuts, pinto beans, soybeans, and sunflower seeds are great sources of folate.
Iron: Iron is synonymous with strength — both inside and outside the body. Your body uses it to create hemoglobin, which delivers oxygenated blood from your lungs to the rest of your body. Iron can increase your energy levels, strengthen your muscles, boost your physical performance, increase brain function, and improve your immune system. The iron found in plants is non-heme iron, which is best absorbed when combined with vitamin C. Most plant foods that contain iron also contain vitamin C, but it doesn’t hurt to add vitamin C-rich foods such as tomatoes, bell peppers, berries, citrus, or greens to aid absorption. Almonds, cashews, chickpeas, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, lentils, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and walnuts are good sources of iron.
Lignans: Lignans are fiber-related phytonutrients that act as antioxidants and phytoestrogens (plant compounds with weak estrogen activity). Lignans are anti-inflammatory, promote healthy blood vessels, and act as anticancer agents, especially hormone-related cancers like breast and prostate cancers. Lignans may be helpful in reducing cancer by triggering the release of enzymes in the liver that are responsible for deactivating toxins in the body. Flaxseeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, and peanuts are good sources of lignans.
Magnesium: Magnesium is an element that plays an important role in hundreds of chemical reactions throughout your nervous system, cardiovascular system, immune system, and muscular system. Almonds, bananas, cashews, flaxseeds, lentils, parsnips, peanuts, and potatoes are good sources of magnesium.
Manganese: Manganese is a mineral with antioxidant properties that plays an important role in the health of your brain, your bones, your reproductive system, and your nervous system. Manganese is a building block for connective tissue and blood clots, and it also helps regulate blood sugar and optimize your metabolism. Chickpeas, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, lentils, navy beans, pecans, pine nuts, and white beans are great sources of manganese.
Omega-3 fatty acids: There are fats that are healthy for you, and Omega-3 is essential: For basic survival, we all need about 2-3% of our total calories to come from essential fats such as omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids also help protect your heart, your brain, and your joints. They have anti-inflammatory effects and are linked to a lower risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, attention-deficit disorder, and dementia. Flaxseeds and walnuts are extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids. Brazil nuts, cashews, chia seeds, hazelnuts, and peanuts are decent sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Phytosterols: Phytosterols are plant-based compounds that can help balance your cholesterol and boost your immunity. Almonds, bananas, cashews, flaxseeds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts are good sources of phytosterols.
Potassium: Potassium is a mineral that helps optimize your heart health, and it also acts as an electrolyte that regulates your blood pressure and strengthens your muscles. Most people think about bananas when they think about potassium, but there are many other foods that are potassium-rich. Bananas, cauliflower, dates, lentils, mushrooms, and potatoes are particularly high in potassium.
Quercetin: Quercetin is a flavonoid with antioxidant effects, and it has been linked to anti-inflammatory benefits and protection against cancer, reduced risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Onions, shallots, almonds, and pistachios are good sources of quercetin.
Resveratrol: Resveratrol is a phytonutrient that promotes healthy aging processes by reducing inflammation and blood sugar. It is also beneficial for the cardiovascular system. Peanuts and pistachios are good sources of resveratrol.
Zinc: Zinc is a mineral that is a building block for healthy DNA. It also helps your metabolism and digestive system, and it’s essential to your cellular health, your immune system, and your nervous system. Almonds, Brazil nuts, cannellini beans, cashews, chia seeds, chickpeas, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, lentils, navy beans, pecans, pine nuts, pinto beans, sesame seeds, and soybeans are good sources of zinc.
Special tips for getting the most nutrition out of brown, tan, and white foods
Don’t forget your grains: There are several brown, tan, and white whole grains. Around 17 million Americans suffer from sensitivities and allergies to gluten, which is a group of proteins found in wheat, rye, and barley. If you’re looking to avoid or move beyond wheat, you’ll be happy to know that there is a wide selection of gluten-free grain convenience products now on the market. Alternative, non-gluten grains include brown and black rice, amaranth, millet, teff, and quinoa. Please note that “gluten-free” on a label does not necessarily mean “healthy,” as processed foods typically contain low amounts of phytonutrients and greater amounts of sugar and fat. That’s why it’s important to avoid processed foods whenever possible, whether they’re gluten-free or not!
Boil that cauliflower: To get the highest nutritional value from cauliflower, it’s best to boil it for three minutes. Studies show that three minutes of boiling cauliflower retains its nutrients better than ten minutes of steaming it.
Bring on the funk: Cauliflower belongs to the cruciferous family of plants mentioned in the green foods section, while other white foods like garlic, onion, and shallots are part of another family of plants called Alliums. This group is similarly rich in sulfur compounds (hence their funky odors!), and these foods have health effects such as protecting against cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammation.
Crush or chop that garlic: It’s best to consume garlic raw to optimize the medicinal benefits of allicin. Allicin is a compound that has been linked to anticancer and blood pressure-lowering effects, and it may also be antibacterial and antiviral. To maximize production of allicin, crush or chop the garlic before eating, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before cooking it or adding it to anything.
Have some fungi: Mushrooms (shiitake, portabella, crimini, chanterelle, white button) have major medicinal benefits due to their ability to boost the immune system. Some research indicates that women who eat onions, garlic, and mushrooms every day may lower their risk of breast and cervical cancer.
Regulate blood sugar with beans: Some doctors suggest that diabetic patients start each day off with a cup of beans to help regulate blood sugar, and researchers have found that men who eat beans several times a week are less likely to develop heart disease.
Healthy tips for canned legumes: Legumes can be prepared from scratch or bought in cans or as premade dips. Metal cans are often lined with a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA), so be sure to look for cans labeled as “BPA-free,” and always rinse canned legumes before eating. Also, you should check labels for the addition of lard or high amounts of salt in legumes such as prepared refried beans. Cooking dried legumes can take some time, but you can make extra servings for other meals.
Make sure those nuts are unsalted and unroasted: Nuts and seeds have beneficial phytonutrients and are a strong mix of healthy fats, fiber, minerals, and vitamins. Unsalted, unroasted nuts are very healthy for the heart. If you have digestive problems, you may want to soak your raw nuts before consuming them. Nut butters are wonderful complements to fruits — try a layer of almond butter on an apple slice or cashew nut butter on a sliver of pear. Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds.
The health benefits of lignans: Lignans are fiber-related phytonutrients that act as antioxidants and phytoestrogens. (Lignans are not to be confused with another phytonutrient class called lignins, which are related to fiber.) The food that has the highest amounts of lignans is flaxseeds, which have about seven times as much as the runner-up, sesame seeds. Sunflower seeds, cashew nuts, and peanuts are other good lignan sources. Lignans are anti-inflammatory, promote healthy blood vessels, and act as anticancer agents, especially hormone-related cancers like breast and prostate cancers. One of the ways that lignans may be helpful in reducing cancer is by triggering the release of certain enzymes in the liver that are responsible for deactivating toxins in the body.
Embrace the spice of life: Brown, tan, and white foods are incredibly versatile, and they’re often a perfect addition to the other colors of the rainbow. Add brown spices such as cinnamon, clove, and allspice to your cooking and gluten-free baking. Use dates instead of refined sweeteners to sweeten dishes. Drizzle warm tahini (sesame seed paste) over vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. Dip vegetables into hummus (ground chickpea dip) or bean dip. Add mushrooms to broths and soups for more flavor and medicinal impact. Sprinkle sesame seeds on a vegetable stir-fry. There are so many delicious ways to unleash the power of these earthy, healthy foods.
Explore the other colors of the food rainbow
By consuming every color in the natural food rainbow, you will be flooding your body, systems, organs, cells, and DNA with so many nourishing, healing, and restorative nutrients. Your food will become medicine! Learn how each color in the rainbow can help you experience improvements in joint pain, sleep patterns, energy levels, mood, bloating, headaches, digestive issues, weight, and other conditions.
Red Foods: Dive Deeper Into the Rainbow
Orange Foods: Dive Deeper Into the Rainbow
Yellow Foods: Dive Deeper Into the Rainbow
Green Foods: Dive Deeper Into the Rainbow
Black, Blue, and Purple Foods: Dive Deeper Into the Rainbow
The Rainbow Explained: An Overview of the Benefits of Different Colored Whole Foods