History of Five Color Food Combining

Part 1: Origins
Part 2: Eat a Rainbow for Heart Health

Part 1: Origins

Capturing the five colors is the heart of Chinese,
Japanese and Korean food.

“Vegetables are indispensable at every meal”
Sun Simiao 孙思邈 (581-682 CE)

Five color food combining originated with the foundations of Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisine between the 6th and 10th centuries, when diets were plant based. Chefs in all three countries developed techniques and recipes to combine a wide variety of vegetables and fruit according to five colors and five corresponding flavors, for vegetarian banquets, main dishes and side dishes.

The traditional five colors of food are Green, Red, Orange-Yellow-Caramel, White, and  Blue-Purple-Black.

By focusing on which combinations balanced the five colors rather than how many vegetables and fruit were consumed, these chefs solved the problem of eating a sufficient amount of daily vegetables and fruit.

Their great discovery was that as few as 8 or 9 vegetables and fruit of five colors can provide the full range of nutrients found in fresh produce. In Western terms, just find the best team players.

Five color food combining techniques and recipes have been passed down and modified to the present day. Our own Take5Colors Instant Vegetable Drink Mix© and 5 Color Longevity Formula© are formulated according to traditional Asian combining methods.

Part 2: Eat a Rainbow for Heart Health

“…heart disease and stroke are eminently preventable….”
World Health Organization, Media centre. WHO publishes definitive atlas on global heart disease and
stroke epidemic. Geneva: WHO; 2004.

Over the past decade there has been an expansion of research showing that eating fruits and vegetables reduces both risk of stroke and dying from heart disease, the number one cause of death globally. Research Link

At the same time, organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA), Canada’s Cardiac Health Foundation and the American Dietetic Association (ADA) have been promoting the five color groups as a first line of defense to prevent heart disease and stroke.

LINK “Eat More Color” (AHA)      LINK “DID YOU KNOW?” (Canada)

LINK “Eat Right with Color” (ADA)

LINK “Do You Eat Right with Color?” (Texas Health Heart)

Eat a Rainbow Nutrition Programs

Eat a Rainbow programs teach children dietary variety by showing clever, easy and fun ways to get five colors of fruit and vegetables every day.

They put into practice the guidelines laid out by the AHA, ADA and Cardiac Health Foundation.

As the next generation moves forward, these programs lead the way to a lifestyle without the crippling burden of preventable dietary related disease, including CVD and stroke.

Here are three of our favorite Eat a Rainbow programs, with notes on key features of each one. At the end is a link to our recommended five color guide for beginners of any age.

Note to reader: Vegetables and fruit that are white- green (anthoxanthin-chlorophyll) are usually classified as green, but can be included in recipes as white, providing both color groups at the same time.

These include celery, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, pear and zucchini. When onion is shown in the green category, it means green onions or scallions. They also do double duty as green and white.

LINK Today I Ate a Rainbow

“Today I ate a Rainbow” is an award winning simple and fun game that gets kids excited about eating 5 colors of fruits and vegetables every day.

Put a Rainbow on Your Plate

LINK Primary Grades      LINK Intermediate Grades

Put a Rainbow on Your Plate activities are for Primary through Intermediate grades, requiring increased learning skills as the program progresses.

The result is that a qualified Intermediate grade student who has completed both activities may be able to assist younger students (and parents!) in putting a rainbow on their plates.

LINK Eat a rainbow resources      LINK Eat a Rainbow poster

SA Health (Government of South Australia) offers the widest range of resources for teachers, children and families of any Eat a Rainbow curriculum.

These resources are a powerful, unique model for States, Provinces or Countries looking to implement programs that reduce the incidences and costs of CVD and stroke, and promote overall health.

Here’s our recommended five color guide for beginners of any age.

Fill in additional vegetables and fruit from

LINK Eat More Color


LINK How many colors can you eat today?