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Color Your Plate With A Rainbow of Food: Dr. Mao’s Wellness Central

Find longevity at the end of the rainbow! Eat your way to longevity by consuming the five-color spectrum every day in each food category.

Interestingly, eating a rainbow of colors corresponds to an age-old Eastern philosophy. Eastern wisdom believes that health and longevity depend on a balance of the five elemental energies; in this case the elements are represented by the colors red, orange/yellow, green, white, and blue/purple in our food. Eating each of these colors benefits your health in different ways.

For instance, red foods usually include cancer-fighting lycopene, and green foods usually contain chlorophyll, an antioxidant that may protect genes from damage. When you eat all the colors daily, you are including disease-combating nutrients and vitamins in your diet. Try to eat each of these colors every day in the following food categories: vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes, nuts, and grains.

Red

Celebrate the color of passion by eating more delicious red foods. The pigments responsible for the red coloring of many fruits, vegetables, and cereal grains are known as “anthocyanins.” These flavonoid compounds not only impart a beautiful hue to succulent strawberries and ruby red apples, they also fight free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to cells. The antioxidant lycopene found in pink grapefruits, tomatoes, and watermelons has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Whether you prefer the scorching heat of a red chili or the sweet crunch of a red bell pepper, you can be sure to get the heart-healthy benefits of Mother Nature’s beautiful bounty. Add red to your cuisine by tossing a handful of raspberries, strawberries, goji berries, or pomegranate seeds into your salad or cereal, slicing roasted beets into a salad, or adding cooked red adzuki or kidney beans to a rice dish. Pecans could pass for nuts in the red category and buckwheat and amaranth grains will bring you health gains.

Orange/Yellow

Thanks to the carotenoid pigments in orange vegetables such as sweet potatoes and pumpkins, we can brush free radicals away, improve eyesight and bolster our immune systems. Beta-carotene, which is the precursor to vitamin A, can help reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease, while the vitamin C and folate in citrus fruits can peel away free radicals and boost immunity. So, go ahead, enjoy some creamy, roasted butternut squash or the burst of a fresh tangerine. Orangey yellow colors in other food categories include almonds, cashews, corn, millet, chickpeas, and butter beans.

Green

The green pigment in plants, called chlorophyll, resembles the structure of the iron-containing hemoglobin in the human body. Chlorophyll increases blood cell production, improves oxygenation, detoxification, and circulation. Greens also contain lutein, a phytochemical that helps reduce risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Broccoli, kale, spinach, and bok choy are but a few examples of the myriad of greens that benefit your health. To color your health green, enjoy an avocado half with a squeeze of lime and cilantro as a snack. If you prefer a crunch, toss a tablespoon or two of mixed pistachios and pumpkin seeds into your mixed salad greens and top with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Other green cuisine choices include kiwifruit, asparagus, lentils, mung beans, and rye.

For a delicious dose of antioxidants, try Liquid Whole Food Vitamins, a blend of organic veggie, fruit, vitamin, amino acid, antioxidant and minerals. It is a highly bio-absorbable liquid vitamin formula made with organic ingredients and is a perfect vegetarian dietary supplement for you and your kids; stir it into juice or your morning smoothie. It’s available at the Wellness Living Store.

Blue/Purple/Dark

Like red berries, blueberries and blackberries receive their coloring from phytonutrient flavonoids. The phytonutrients found in blue and purple foods keep blood vessels healthy, which benefits your cardiovascular system and lowers your risk of heart disease. Flavonoids also help reverse the short-term memory loss that comes with aging and may help prevent cancer. Boost your blue and purple intake by sprinkling raisins, chopped dried plums, black mushrooms, or shredded purple cabbage in your salads, mixing blueberries and blackberries into your morning cereal, and roasting purple potatoes or eggplant for a side dish. Don’t forget your nuts, grains, and beans: flaxseeds, walnuts, chestnuts, black beans, navy beans, quinoa, black wild rice, and seaweed, too.

White

Whether you prefer a crispy daikon radish, pine nuts, or a luscious sweet pear, the anthoxanthins in white foods can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. If you love the crunch and spice of a white onion, then you will be happy to know that these tearjerkers are chockfull of the flavonoid quercetin. Quercetin is known to have anti-inflammatory properties and cardiovascular health benefits. Other white foods to help ward off disease include garlic, potatoes, turnips, mushrooms, and cauliflower. Try roasting any of these white vegetables with your favorite spices for tasty health benefits. Soy beans and white beans, rice and barley are other tasty white food choices to work into your meals.

May you live long, live strong, and live happy!

Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao, is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine and board certified anti-aging expert. He practices acupuncture, nutrition and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica, a Wellness Medicine group that won the “L.A.’s Best” Award. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni founded Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica over 25 years ago. In addition, he is the cofounder and Chancellor of Yo San University in Venice/Marina del Rey. To subscribe to a free newsletter please visit www.taoofwellness.com To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment please call 310.917.2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at contact@taoofwellness.com

in Opinion
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