Color Your Diet with Anti-aging Superfoods
The power of color has been explored over the ages by
artists, psychologists, and spiritualists. More recently, doctors and
nutritionists have developed eating plans based on color. By incorporating foods in a variety of colors
- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and even brown - into our diets, we can
give our bodies the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients they need to fight the
free-radicals and inflammation that damage cells and cause premature aging.
By choosing foods from all of the colors in the spectrum, healthy dietary choices are made easier - and more fun. And don't be afraid to color outside the lines: many anti-aging foods that nourish us from the inside can be beneficial when applied to the outside - such as an avocado mask or a papaya peel.
Have you ever wondered what gives tomatoes, watermelon, guava, and pink grapefruit their brilliant red hues? The natural pigment responsible for producing the ruby reds and luscious pinks of some of our favorite fruits is called lycopene. A member of the carotenoid family - which also includes beta-carotene and lutein - lycopene exhibits strong antioxidant activity.
Featured Food: Rosehips
Recently, a German study named another lovely red fruit as good source of lycopene: rosehips. The rosehip, the fruit of the rose plant (Rosa canina), has long been touted as an excellent source of vitamin C. In fact, according to Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, rosehips contain more vitamin C, ounce for ounce, than oranges.
Orange You Glad?
In chromotherapy, the practice of using colors to heal, orange is considered an energy booster. Studies have also shown that orange can stimulate the appetite. So, the same color that draws us to that bag of crunchy cheese puffs can also attract us to a wide selection of nutritious fruits and vegetables, including oranges, carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and apricots. In fact, the pigment that produces the varying shades of orange in these and other healthy foods is partially what makes them so healthful. Part of the carotenoid family, of which lutein and lycopene are also members, beta-carotene is a phytonutrient that functions as a powerful antioxidant.
Featured Food: Pumpkins
An excellent source of beta-carotene, as well as potassium, magnesium, and vitamin C, the pumpkin is a low calorie food that is high in fiber. In addition to keeping the digestive system functioning properly, fiber can help control blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
There is no color more confused than poor little yellow. Associated with sunshine and happiness, yellow has also been used to represent treasury and cowardliness. When discussing food, however, it seems to me that "yellow-bellied" should be an endearing term for someone who incorporates butternut squash, mangos, peaches, sweet corn, and other nutritious yellow foods into his or her diet on a regular basis.
Featured Food: Pineapple
In addition to being an excellent source of vitamin C, pineapple contains bromelain. This enzyme not only aids in digestion, but helps to decrease inflammation. Implicated in a number of diseases, including arthritis, inflammation is also responsible for sagging skin, wrinkles, and the loss of muscle mass according to Dr. Nicholas Perricone.
In the famous song "Bein' Green," Kermit the Frog sings the blues about being green. He laments the fact that "it seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things." Kermit was not - I hope - referring to green "super foods" like sea greens, chlorella, spirulina, aloe vera, broccoli, or wheat grass when he recorded this tune. I'm sure he would be proud to share his characteristic hue with these powerful anti-aging foods.
Featured Food: Chlorella
Chlorella is a rich source of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, and lipoic acid. One of the most intriguing aspects of chlorella, however, is what is known as the Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF). In a study conducted at the Inje University, scientists found that CGF may promote the production of new keratinocytes, skin cells responsible for manufacturing keratin. A major building block of skin, hair, and nails, keratin helps to protect the skin.
Singin' About the Blues
While studies have shown that the color blue can be an appetite suppressant, there are a number of delicious blue foods that have nutritional benefits that are truly tempting. In addition to blueberries, our roster of blue foods includes blue corn, blue plums, blue grapes, and blue potatoes.
Featured Food: Blueberries
In a study conducted by the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center, researchers discovered that mice that were fed blueberries performed better in motor skills and memory tests than mice who were not allowed to indulge in the juicy blue fruit. It seems that the compound that gives blueberries their characteristic blue hue, anthocyanin, is also a powerful antioxidant that protects neurons, cells in the brain and nervous system that are responsible for communicating important information to other cells of the body.
Brown Is Beautiful
Winston Churchill once said, "I cannot pretend to feel impartial about colors. I rejoice with the brilliant ones and am genuinely sorry for the poor browns." Obviously, Mr. Churchill wasn't thinking about the rich brown hues that characterize some nutritional wonders, including walnuts, beans, oatmeal, whole grain bread, and spices cinnamon and nutmeg.
Featured Food: Cinnamon
Cinnamon was in ancient and medieval times thought more precious than gold. In The Perricone Promise, Dr. Perricone praises cinnamon for its ability to help regulate blood glucose levels by stimulating insulin receptors. According to Dr. Perricone, high insulin levels create inflammation, which is a major factor in premature aging as well as diseases such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, cancer, and arthritis.
A Clear Winner
All right, so "clear" is not a color. However, one of the best things you can put into your body is, in fact, colorless. Water, says renowned dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad, is not to be underestimated. Its ability to help keep our bodies healthy and our skin youthful has been well-documented. To underline water's inexorable connection to youth he points out that while the body weight of a baby is 75 percent water, the body weight of an adult is only 50 percent water.
Shades of Grey
While it is important to eat a variety of whole, natural - and, yes, colorful - foods, it is important to note that all foods do not work well for all people. For instance, while walnuts are an excellent source of omega 3 fatty acids, they also can trigger allergies in people that are allergic to tree nuts. Dr. Joseph Mercola believes that there is no one perfect diet that will suit everyone. It is important, then, to listen to your body in order to select the foods that will best benefit you.
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