What Color Is Your Diet

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on April 23, 2023
4 min read

Author David Heber, MD, says Americans don’t get enough fruits and vegetables in their diets. His category system of colors makes it easier to fill in the nutrient gaps. By eating a wide range of fruits and vegetables, you’ll improve your overall health and lose weight.

On the plan, you’ll likely eat a lot more fruits and vegetables.

You'll be eating one serving (1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw) a day from each of the diet’s seven color categories:

Red: Lycopene-rich tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon

Red/purple: Anthocyanin-rich grapes, berries, prunes, red apples

Orange: Alpha- and beta-carotene-rich carrots, mangoes, apricots, cantaloupe, winter squash

Orange/yellow: Carotenoid- and vitamin C-rich oranges, tangerines, peaches, nectarines, papaya

Yellow/green: Lutein- and zeaxanthin-rich spinach; collard, mustard, or turnip greens; corn; peas; avocado; honeydew melon

Green: Sulforaphane-, isothiocyanate- and indoles-rich broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy

White/green: Flavonoid-rich garlic, onion, celery, pears, white wine, endive, chives

The book offers a week of sample menus, and detailed lists of foods in each color group to help create your own. Aside from fruits and vegetables, the diet includes:

  • Lean protein (egg whites, soy, wild-caught fish, seafood, white-meat poultry, nonfat and low-fat dairy)
  • Healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts)
  • Fiber (beans, seeds, air-popped popcorn)
  • Whole grains
  • Herbs and spices

The diet does not include:

  • High-fat red meat
  • Farmed fish
  • Egg yolks
  • Butter, margarine
  • Full-fat baked goods
  • Trans fats
  • Candy or other low-nutrient foods

Limitations: Each day you’ll eat from each of the seven color categories, plus protein at each meal, some soy protein over the course of the day, whole grains, and “taste enhancers,” which provide flavor, crunch, or richness. You won’t eat high-fat or high-sugar snacks.

Cooking and shopping: You’ll cook or eat out as usual, as long as you stick to the color code guidelines. You’ll find recipes as well as tips on dining out and how to navigate social gatherings while following the diet.

Packaged foods or meals: No.

In-person meetings: No.

Exercise: Recommended. Walking 10,000 steps a day is your goal, as well as incorporating some weight training and cardio into your routine.

The diet emphasizes a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, plus lean soy protein and whole grains, with smaller portions of healthy fats. So it satisfies low-fat, low-salt, and vegetarian needs and can be adjusted for vegan and gluten-free needs, too.

Cost: You’ll spend roughly the same amount that you already do on groceries.

Support: You do this diet on your own.

Does It Work?

Any diet that pumps up your plate with colorful veggies and fruits and gets rid of fatty meat, baked goods, trans fats, and butter is almost a sure bet to peel away unwanted pounds.

Though specific research on the virtues of various food colors may be lacking, many studies support the value of adding all types of fruits and vegetables to your diet. It will not only promote weight loss, but will also give you lots of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.

Perhaps placing farm-raised fish on the chopping block may be a little overzealous. It might be better to limit, rather than exclude, this powerful source of omega-3s.

Is It Good for Certain Conditions?

A low fat, high-fiber diet is key to avoiding many health problems, including heart disease and high cholesterol. The foods on this plan can be prepared using little salt, so it is particularly good if you have high blood pressure or have been told to limit the sodium in your diet.

Research has shown that increasing the fiber in your diet can not only help lower your cholesterol but may help prevent some GI problems, including colon cancer.

The weight loss and the exercise that this plan promotes are the key ingredients in preventing diabetes. If you already have diabetes, you will need to talk to your doctor or dietitian to see if you need to make any adjustments in your diabetes treatment plan before starting this or any other new diet.

The Final Word

From a health standpoint, what’s not to love about a diet plan that lets you pick from a large assortment of fruits and vegetables, while cutting out the fat, salt, and empty calories?

The plan itself is simple to follow, once you stock your fridge with the seven colors. There are no steps to struggle through and no punishing cleansing phases to deal with.

Chances are you will need to be more adventurous with your diet and be open to trying new things, especially if you favor meat-and-potatoes meals. You might also have to sharpen up your kitchen skills and your knives.

If you introduce too much fiber and whole grains into your diet at once, your digestive system might rebel, so you might want to take it slowly at first.

And always check with your doctor before starting any major lifestyle change, especially if you are out of shape or have any medical problems.