Eating the Rainbow: The Power of a Colorful Diet

By June 18, 2024June 20th, 2024Blog, The Power of Cooking

“My daughter the morning she wanted to fill her lunch box with all the colors of the rainbow”

Written by Tara Gendelman, Board of Directors

When I was introduced to The Sylvia Center, I couldn’t have jumped at the opportunity to support their work faster. Their mission to educate young people and families through culinary programming to promote health and well-being resonated with me profoundly.

At the age of 31, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease. I didn’t have a genetic predisposition to the disease, and thought I was otherwise young and “healthy”, so I was scared and surprised. I immediately–and frantically–dove into researching the potential causes and “cures” for my condition, or rather, ways to manage my symptoms. I was experiencing extreme fatigue and had swollen lymph nodes, among many other symptoms. The word “inflammation” came up a lot in my research, but I wasn’t sure what I should do about it. After reading numerous articles, medical journals, and blog posts, I noticed a prevailing theme: I needed to eat fewer processed foods, and add more fruit and vegetables to my diet. 

While there were aspects of my life I couldn’t change, such as a demanding job that didn’t allow many free hours in a day, what I ate was something I could control. So that’s what I started to do. 

I learned about the importance of a balanced diet, and how to take control of my health. I learned to focus on whole ingredients (fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) rather than “healthy” products marked as low-fat or low-calorie that were still highly processed. Now, the next problem I have to solve is how to fit so much nutritionally dense food into my daily diet – it’s a work in progress.   

Within a couple of years, my autoimmune disease began to go into remission. My fatigue and other symptoms subsided, and although I still need to be consistently monitored, my condition no longer impacts my quality of life. I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I was able to make these dietary changes that so impacted my health, and for that I’m extremely grateful.

Once I had a family, I also realized how much joy healthy cooking can bring to a home. We have a much loved (and worn) rainbow food chart posted in our kitchen, that shows the link between certain foods and their impact on the body: red foods help a strong heart, orange foods help you see in the dark, yellow foods help heal “boo-boos”, green foods fight off sickness, blue foods help build a strong brain, and brown foods give you energy. 

“Our beloved food rainbow chart which is very worn after surviving five apartment moves”

When my daughter and I pack her lunch together in the morning, she will often refer to the chart to see, for example, how her yellow pepper or strawberries might help her body. Seeing her empowered to make informed, healthy food choices on her own makes me very proud. I now view a healthy diet as not just a powerful tool in managing my autoimmune disease, but as something that I can pass on to the ones I love to live healthy and joyful lives. 

The Sylvia Center brings the power of cooking to its students and their families, making healthier food more familiar and accessible. As someone who experienced the healing power of cooking and food firsthand, I think this work is essential to creating healthy communities. Just as I could impact my daughter’s choices with  food, I believe there are no limits on the potential impact TSC’s work can have in improving the health of young people and their families.

Until next month, be powerful in the kitchen!

Tara Gendelman, Board of Directors