Sunday, March 5, 2017

Missing Colour In Your Health?

Eat Your Colors for Optimal Health

Many of us love the idea of a diverse, colorful salad because it is visually appealing. But beyond creating a vibrant plate, did you know varying your colors is good for your health?

Identifying the multitude of health benefits for each individual food can be a challenge, even for a savvy Health Coach. There’s just so many of them! But while whole foods like vegetables and fruit contain enough complex sources of nourishment to make your head spin if you tried to learn them all, they are generally categorized into a limited number of colors.

Thanks to the same phytonutrients (also known as phytochemicals) that offer plants protection from ultraviolet radiation and pests, all natural foods have a unique color, flavor, and smell. Simply looking at their color can give you great insight as to what element of health various foods are likely to support.

Most importantly, eating a wide array of colors every day is the best approach to getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Here are the most common food colors and their beneficial attributes:

White natural foods have a wide range of beneficial nutrients, such as anthoxanthins, sulfur, and quercetin. These substances boost the immune system because they are anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory, which helps the body fight infections.

Examples of white foods include garlic, onions, cauliflower, and daikon radish.

Green foods get their color from chlorophyll, a natural blood purifier that supports the liver and kidneys in the elimination of toxins. Among many other nutrients, green foods also contain high amounts of Vitamin K, which is necessary for blood clotting and building strong bones.

Examples of green foods include kale, broccoli, spinach, green beans, and celery.

Yellow foods are rich in Vitamin C, which helps reduce inflammation, prevent allergies, and maintain healthy skin, due to its’ ability to combat free radicals. Yellow foods also contain citrus bioflavanoids, which strengthens the collagen in your skin, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.

Examples of yellow foods include lemons, pineapples, yellow peppers, and grapefruit.

Orange foods are high in beta-carotene, which our bodies transform into Vitamin A and antioxidants. These nutrients aid in the prevention of cancer, heart disease, and infections by supporting an important part of the immune system: our mucous membranes. Beta-carotene also helps maintain healthy eyes and skin.

Examples of orange foods include carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, squash, and oranges.

Red foods are rich in the phytonutrients lycopene and anthocyanin, which greatly benefits the circulatory system by helping build healthy cell walls. This improves blood pressure, organ function, and circulation. Red foods also offer sun protection from harmful UV damage.

Examples of red foods include tomatoes, watermelon, beets, and red bell peppers.

Purple foods contain the most antioxidants of all the colors and therefore contribute to overall health, disease prevention, and longevity. They also raise HDL (the “good”) cholesterol, and help maintain a healthy brain.

Examples of purple/blue foods include blueberries, blackberries, eggplant, and purple cabbage.

What are your favorite colorful, healthy recipes?

Look around your grocery store’s produce aisle or farmers market and you’ll notice a rainbow of colors. Besides being beautiful to look at, all of those vibrant colors have a host of nutritional benefits as well. Nature is amazing that way!

You might remember learning about Roy G. Biv—red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet—the acronym for the colors of the rainbow. In the world of food, we can also add in pink, white, tan, dark brown, and black to that rainbow of colors.

Red and Pink Foods
Red and pink foods contain the antioxidants lycopene, beta-carotene (both carotenoids), as well as vitamin C.

Lycopene is a power-house antioxidant that helps to rid the body of free radicals that can cause cellular damage. Lycopene may be effective in preventing blood clotting and strokes, and some evidence has shown it to be very beneficial in preventing heart disease and prostate cancer.

Beta-carotene is a antioxidant that the body converts into vitamin A. Vitamin A is beneficial to eye health, as well as healthy skin and muscles.

Vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin and antioxidant, is essential to the repair and growth of all tissues, including wound healing, scar tissue formation, bone and teeth repair, and maintaining cartilage. As a water-soluble vitamin, it is not stored in the body and must be replenished on a daily basis.
Red foods that are high in lycopene, beta-carotene, and vitamin C include: tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries, currants, red peppers, red apples, radishes, red chard, beets, red potatoes, red grapes, kidney beans, cranberries, pomegranates, and red quinoa.

Pink foods include: grapefruits, guava, watermelon, and salmon.

Orange and Yellow Foods
Orange and yellow foods are also high in beta-carotene and vitamin C. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, beta-carotene contributes about 50 percent of the vitamin A in a typical American diet. Beta-carotene has been used to help treat everything from exercise-related asthma, AIDS, heart disease, and macular degeneration to alcoholism, epilepsy, psoriasis, and Parkinson’s disease.

Some studies have shown that taking supplement forms of beta-carotene has actually increased the incidence of lung cancer in smokers and those who’ve been exposed to asbestos. It’s recommended that you get your beta-carotene from bright-colored fruits and vegetables rather than supplements.

Orange foods that are high in beta-carotene and vitamin C include: pumpkins, oranges, carrots, papayas, orange peppers, mangos, orange beets, sweet potatoes, turmeric, orange tomatoes, peaches, nectarines, and cantaloupe.

Yellow foods include: summer squash, lemons, corn, pineapple, star fruit, yellow tomatoes, garbanzo beans, and egg yolks.

Green Foods
Most green foods contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin—both carotenoids that have been shown to protect eye health and fight some cancers.

Lutein has been shown to protect the eyes from damaging blue light as well as help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts.
Zeaxanthin is also crucial to eye health, especially as we age. Zeaxanthin has also been shown to block blue light from the eyes, and aid in the prevention of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
The body can’t synthesize all of the lutein and zeaxanthin that it needs, so it’s important to eat lots of dark leafy greens and egg yolks, which both contain high amounts of these antioxidants.

Dark leafy greens also contain folate, a B-vitamin and form of folic acid.

Folate can help you concentrate, keep your energy level up, and prevent depression.
Dark green veggies also contain calcium, potassium, fiber, vitamin E, and vitamin C.

Green foods that are high in lutein and zeaxanthin include: avocados, artichokes, all dark leafy greens (also high in folate), spinach, green peppers, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, green apples, parsley, lettuce, green grapes, honeydew melons, lima beans, edamame, scallions, green tea, and kiwi.

Blue and Purple Foods
Blue and purple foods contain vitamin C and the flavonoid anthocyanin, as well as antioxidants, ellagic acid and polyphenols.

Anthocyanin is a type of antioxidant that can cross the blood-brain barrier and has been shown to have positive effects on memory and learning. Anthocyanins may also offer anti-inflammatory and anti-viral benefits, and research shows that they may protect against heart disease, obesity, and breast cancer..
Ellagic acid is another type of antioxidant that has been shown to inhibit tumor growth in laboratory mice.
Blue foods that contain anthocyanin, ellagic acid, and vitamin C include: blueberries, blue potatoes, and blue corn.

Purple foods include: blackberries, boysenberries, plums, eggplant, concord grapes, red wine, cherries, and purple cabbages.

White Foods
This is not processed white food such as white bread, white rice, or white sugar. These are natural white foods in the form of fruits and vegetables. White fruits and veggies are packed with the flavonoid quercetin.

Quercetin is a natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory. It has also been shown to help decrease blood pressure and may help prevent heart disease.
White foods that contain quercetin include: bananas, jicama, onions, fennel, garlic, potatoes, mushrooms, hearts of palm, coconut, cauliflower, white navy beans, fava beans, turnips, rutabagas, and parsnips.

Tan Foods
Tan foods, though not as colorful as others, can still provide valuable health benefits. Tan foods are high in fiber, which helps to protect the digestive tract, prevent colon cancer, and possibly protect against heart disease.

Tan foods include: most whole grains such as wheat, brown rice, quinoa and oats, as well as nuts and nut butters.

Dark-Brown Foods
Dark-brown foods are high in polyphenols, a robust type of antioxidant that has been shown to protect the body from cancers, diabetes, heart diseases, and osteoporosis.

Dark brown foods include: coffee, some teas, and dark chocolate.

Black Foods
Black foods are rich in minerals, including iron and calcium, and anthocyanins.

Iron helps red blood cells to deliver oxygen to other cells.
Calcium is essential to maintaining strong bones and teeth, as well as helping the heart and nervous system to function properly. There is more calcium in our bodies than any other mineral.
Black foods include: black beans, black olives, black quinoa, black rice, black sesame seeds, black pepper, black lentils, and black tea.

As a general rule, the darker the color (dark reds, blues, purples, and blacks) the more antioxidants they contain. Make it a habit of eating a rainbow of foods every day, and you’ll quickly be amazed by the benefits. Adding three colors of veggies to your dinner every night will total over 500 servings of veggies in just six months.

Lycopene-rich tomatoes linked to lower stroke risk

They are heaven on a burger and superstars in a sauce. But succulent tomatoes are far more than just a delicious fruit. Eating tomatoes may also help lower your risk of stroke, likely due to the lycopene they contain.

Lycopene is a carotenoid—a family of pigments that give fruits and vegetables their brilliant red, orange, and yellow coloring. Lycopene is also a powerful antioxidant that eliminates dangerous free radicals that can damage DNA and other fragile cell structures.

“The shape of the lycopene molecule makes it very effective in being able to quench free radicals,” says Dr. Edward Giovannucci, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health. “We don’t really understand it entirely yet, but lycopene may have specific properties that protect the cell in a way other antioxidants may not.”

Past research, some of it done by Dr. Giovannucci, has shown that a diet rich in lycopene-containing foods may help lower the risk of prostate and other cancers. Now, in a report just published in the journal Neurology, a team of Finnish researchers has linked lycopene levels in the blood to stroke protection. They made this connection after following more than a thousand middle-aged men for 12 years. Men with the greatest amounts of lycopene in their blood had a 55% lower chance of having any kind of stroke. The lycopene connection was even stronger (59%) when it came to protecting against strokes due to blood clots (the most common kind).

The finding came as a surprise—the researchers initially wanted to know if other antioxidants affected strokes, such as alpha carotene, beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E. But they didn’t.

Lycopene-stroke connection

The researchers suggested that lycopene, in addition to its ability to attack free radicals, may also reduce inflammation and cholesterol, improve immune function, and prevent blood from clotting. All of these may help reduce ischemic strokes, which are caused by clot-caused blockages in blood flow to the brain.

Most of that is plausible, says Dr. Giovannucci. But we still need larger studies to confirm the findings and to figure out if the stroke protection is due to lycopene or healthy lifestyle habits. “Remember, a high lycopene consumer is likely to eat more vegetables and not be a smoker,” says Dr. Giovannucci. Still, he says the benefits of lycopene for both cancer and stroke protection are very promising.

Personally, this makes me want to increase my tomato intake. Slice of tomato on my turkey sandwich? So yesterday. Hello, glass of tomato juice at every meal.

But hold that order. Overdoing it on lycopene isn’t necessary, says Dr. Giovannucci.

He recommends at least 10,000 micrograms of lycopene per day—from food. That sounds staggering, but it’s actually easier to get than you might think, especially since lycopene is found in other foods than tomatoes. Tomato-based products do, of course, give you the most bang for your buck.

Keep in mind that lycopene is better absorbed in the body when it’s combined with some fat, points out Dr. Giovannucci. “That’s because lycopene is fat soluble,” he explains, “and oil in tomato sauce, for example, makes it ideal for absorbing lycopene.”

But don’t go eating fatty foods with tomatoes because you want the lycopene absorption. Dr. Giovannucci says it’s better to eat a variety of healthy foods and shoot for the daily intake recommendation.

He also cautions that you don’t try to beat the system by popping a lycopene supplement. “Supplements may give you a purified form of lycopene, but you’re not sure you’re getting what you get from food. You may be getting the wrong form of lycopene in a supplement. There are also a lot of compounds in food that aren’t lycopene but that are similar, and some of those molecules may be part of what makes lycopene so beneficial,” says Dr. Giovannucci.

So stick to a diet that includes some lycopene-rich foods. It’s cost effective, it’s easy, and it’s not dangerous if you overdo it. There’s no evidence of lycopene toxicity from diet. Best of all, lycopene is likely in many of your favorite foods. And that makes the succulent tomato far more than a food; that makes it almost a nutraceutical.

Top lycopene-containing foods

[Micrograms of lycopene]

½ cup canned tomato puree

1 cup canned tomato juice

1 wedge of raw watermelon

½ cup ready-to-serve marinara sauce

1 tablespoon canned tomato paste

1 tablespoon catsup

½ pink or red grapefruit

1 tablespoon salsa

One sun-dried tomato

One slice of raw tomato

One cherry tomato


Beta-carotene is a red-orange pigment found in plants and fruits, especially carrots and colorful vegetables.

The name beta-carotene comes from the Greek "beta" and Latin "carota" (carrot). It is the yellow/orange pigment that gives vegetables and fruits their rich colors. H. Wachenroder crystallized beta-carotene from carrot roots in 1831, and came up with the name "carotene".

Beta-carotene's chemical formula - C40H56 - was discovered in 1907.

The human body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A (retinol) - beta-carotene is a precursor of vitamin A. We need vitamin A for healthy skin and mucus membranes, our immune system, and good eye health and vision.

Beta-carotene in itself is not an essential nutrient, but vitamin A is.

Fast facts on beta-carotene
Here are some key points about beta-carotene. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
Beta-carotene is a red/orange pigment found in many fresh fruits and vegetables
Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A, an essential vitamin
Vitamin A is toxic at high levels
Beta-carotene is a carotenoid and an antioxidant
Foods rich in vitamin A include onions, carrots, peas, spinach and squash
One study showed that smokers with high beta-carotene intake might have an increased risk of lung cancer
Some evidence suggests that beta-carotene might slow cognitive decline
Beta-carotene supplements interact with certain drugs, including statins and mineral oil
Beta-carotene might help older people retain their lung strength as they age.
Beta-carotene from food is a safe source of vitamin A
Vitamin A can be sourced from the food we eat, through beta-carotene, for example, or in supplement form. The advantage of dietary beta-carotene is that the body only converts as much as it needs.

Excess vitamin A is toxic. Toxic vitamin A levels can occur if you consume too many supplements.

Beta-carotene is an antioxidant.

Beta-carotene, like all carotenoids, is an antioxidant. An antioxidant is a substance that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules; it protects the body from free radicals.

Free radicals damage cells through oxidation. Eventually, the damage caused by free radicals can cause several chronic illnesses.

Several studies have shown that antioxidants through diet help people's immune systems, protect against free radicals, and lower the risk of developing cancer and heart disease.

Some studies have suggested that those who consume at least four daily servings of beta-carotene rich fruits and/or vegetables have a lower risk of developing cancer or heart disease.

Which foods are rich in beta-carotene?
The following foods are rich in beta-carotene:

Chinese cabbage
Dandelion leaves
Herbs and spices - chilli powder, oregano, paprika, parsley
Many margarines
Sweet potatoes.

If you follow a healthy diet rich in beta-carotene you do not need supplements. As mentioned above, supplements can lead to undesirable excesses in beta-carotene levels - this cannot occur if your source is from the food you eat.

Smokers and beta-carotene lung cancer risk
A French study involving adult females published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (September 2005 issue) found that smokers with high beta-carotene levels had a higher risk of lung cancer and other smoking-related cancers than other smokers. They also found that non-smokers with high beta-carotene intake had a lower risk of lung cancer.

They found that the risk of lung cancer over a ten-year period was:

181.8 per 10,000 women for non-smokers with low beta-carotene intake

81.7 per 10,000 women for non-smokers with high beta-carotene intake

174 per 10,000 women for smokers with low beta-carotene intake
368.3 per 10,000 women for smokers with high beta-carotene intake.

Further research has suggested that the high intake among smokers is nearly always due to supplements, and not food intake.

Beta-carotene may slow down cognitive decline

Men who have been taking beta-carotene supplements for 15 or more years are considerably less likely to experience cognitive decline than other males, researchers from Harvard Medical School reported in Archives of Internal Medicine (November 2007 issue).

Oxidative stress is thought to be a key factor in cognitive decline, the researchers explained. Studies have shown that antioxidant supplements may help prevent the deterioration of cognition.

Their study, involving 4,052 men, compared those on beta-carotene supplements for an average of 18 years to others who were given placebo. Over the short-term, they found no difference in cognitive decline risk between the two groups of men, but in the long-term it was clear that beta-carotene supplements made a significant difference.

The researchers emphasized that there may have been other factors which contributed to the slower decline in cognitive abilities among the men in the beta-carotene group.

Beta-carotene drug interactions
Drug interaction refers to a substance interfering in how a medication works, by either making it less effective, increasing its potency, or changing what it is supposed to do.

The following drugs may be affected by beta-carotene supplements:

Statins - the effectiveness of simvastatin (Zocor) and niacin may be decreased if the patient is taking beta-carotene with selenium and vitamins E and C.
Some cholesterol-lowering drugs - cholestyramine and colestipol can reduce blood levels of dietary beta-carotene by thirty to forty per cent.
Orlistat (Xenical, Alli) - this is a weight control medication. It can undermine the absorption of beta-carotene by up to 30%, resulting in lower blood beta-carotene levels. Those choosing to take a multivitamin while on orlistat should take them at least two hours before having their medication.
Mineral oil - used for the treatment of constipation can lower blood levels of beta-carotene.
Long-term alcohol consumption can interact with beta-carotene, raising the chances of developing liver problems.

Beta-carotene slows down lung power decline as people age
The British Medical Journal published a report in March 2006 which showed that high blood beta-carotene levels compensate for some of the damage to the lungs caused by oxygen free radicals.

They measured the FEV1 of 535 participants and measured their beta-carotene blood levels. FEV1 measures how much air you can breathe out in one go. They found that those with high beta-carotene levels had much slower decline in FEV1 measures.

Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene.

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