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Eat the Rainbow: White, Tan, and Brown Foods

The term phytonutrient is a broad term for natural compounds found in fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, seeds, and legumes that are responsible for giving plants their distinct color, taste, and smell. Each phytonutrient performs specific activities and modifies different physiological functions in the human body, including supporting digestive health and heart health. 

More than 25,000 phytonutrients are found in nature, and they come in all different colors, including white, tan, and brown. If we eat the same foods over and over again, we may be missing out on a wide range of important phytonutrients! It’s important to eat the recommended 9 – 13 servings of fruits and veggies a day, including 1 – 2 servings of white, tan, or brown foods.

White, Tan, and Brown Food Health Benefits

White, tan, and brown foods are rich in phytonutrients that offer many health benefits:

  • Anti-cancer
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Blood vessel health
  • Bone health
  • Brain health
  • Cell protection
  • Digestive health 
  • Heart health 
  • Immune health
  • Metabolic health

Ideas for Incorporating More White, Tan, and Brown Foods Into Your Diet

  1. Substitute a cup of black tea for a soda⁠⁠
  2. Use brown spices like cinnamon, clove, and allspice to your cooking or baking
  3. Add an onions and mushrooms to a salad, stir fry, or soup⁠⁠
  4. Dip vegetables into humus or ground chickpea dip⁠⁠
  5. Add mushrooms soups and broths
  6. Sprinkle sesame seeds on a vegetable stir fry
  7. Use dates as an artificial sweetener replacement to sweeten a dish⁠⁠
  8. Spread almond or cashew butter on apple or pear slices for a delicious snack⁠⁠

White, Tan, and Brown Fruits

  • Apples
  • Cherimoya 
  • Coconut
  • Dates
  • Jicama
  • Lychee 
  • Pear
  • Pitaya / Dragon Fruit⁠⁠

White, Tan, and Brown Vegetables

  • Cauliflower 
  • Jerusalem artichokes 
  • Mushrooms 
  • Onions 
  • Sauerkraut 
  • Shallots 
  • Turnips 

White, Tan, and Brown Legumes, Nuts, and Seeds

  • Almonds
  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Cashews
  • Chickpeas
  • Dried beans
  • Dried peas
  • Hummus
  • Lentils
  • Peanuts
  • Pecans
  • Quinoa
  • Refried beans/ low-fat
  • Rye
  • Sesame seeds
  • Spelt
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Teff
  • Walnuts
  • Wheat⁠⁠

White, Tan, and Brown Herbs and Spices

  • Allspice
  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Cloves
  • Coriander Seed
  • Garlic
  • Nutmeg
  • Onion Powder

White, Tan, and Brown Beverages

  • Black tea
  • Coffee
  • White tea

When thinking about white, tan, or brown foods, highly processed foods (bagels, breads, cakes, cookies, or pasta) often spring to mind. These processed foods may be tasty, but it’s important to choose whole, natural foods if you’re looking for the health benefits this food color category has to offer.


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