Penny Brohn UK

Help change life with cancer. For good

How to eat the rainbow

Eat your Greens! Do you remember hearing this as a child? Or maybe you said it to your own children? It is a familiar phrase for many of us, but in recent years, this take home healthy eating message has changed.  Now, we talk less about ‘eating your greens’ and more about ‘eating the rainbow’.  Yes, greens are still important but we need to talk about all the other colours, too!

You may well have already come across the phrase ‘Eat the Rainbow’ but do you know why it is so important? And do you know how to do it? 

When we talk about rainbows here at Penny Brohn, we’re referring to the beautiful array of colours found in vegetables and fruits.  Yes, they also contain health promoting vitamins, minerals and fibre but the colour is what makes them truly special.  Polyphenols, anthocyanidins, carotenoids and a host of other tiny compounds known collectively as phyto (plant) nutrients, give fruit and vegetable their colour, flavour and disease resistance.  But this isn’t all they do.  Phytonutrients also act as powerful antioxidants in our bodies, protecting our cells from harmful substances known as free radicals.  Diets rich in phytonutrients have been linked with lower risks of chronic illness, including dementia, heart disease and many different cancers.

There are over 25,000 phytonutrients in the plant kingdom, which can feel a little overwhelming!  The best way to ensure you are consuming a wide variety is to keep in simple!

  • Aim for 8-10 portions of vegetables and fruit per day. If you’re not used to eating this many portions, increase your intake gradually.
  • Aim for two thirds of your intake as vegetables and one third as fruit.
  • Include as many different varieties of vegetables and fruit as possible.
  • Include 1-2 portions of each colour, every day, as different colours contain different phytonutrients.

You may wish to print the table below, and pin it to your fridge as a reminder and to help you when meal planning.


If you’re struggling with the idea of squeezing in this many portions of fruit and vegetables to your diet, you may need to tweak the balance of your meals.  For example, you may find you can reduce your carbohydrate (bread, potatoes, pasta) portion to make room for more vegetables!  Our Healthy Eating Plate will give you an idea of how much of each type of food to eat at any given meal. And remember, you can also drink the rainbow – soups, smoothies and juices are great ways to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Blended and/or cooked vegetables are easier to digest than whole raw vegetables so soups and smoothies are particularly good options for those of you who feel your digestion is below par. Check out our delicious green smoothie recipe, here.

In addition to fruit and vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds and tea (especially green tea) all contain phytonutrients be sure to include these uplifting and nourishing foods in your diet.

And finally, as always, we encourage you to eat your rainbow, mindfully!  Make your dining area pleasurable.  Pause to relax for a moment before you eat.  Breathe.  chew slowly, savour your food and eat for enjoyment.

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