DR MAXWELL ADEYEMI
On being advised on healthy diet and proper eating habits, we are usually told what not to eat but we are seldom told what we should eat.
It is not enough to know which diet to ditch; we also need to know which one to adopt for healthy living. Mao Shing Ni, a doctor of Chinese medicine and an authority in anti-aging medicine, contends that human beings can find longevity at the end of the rainbow. By this, he means eating naturally colourful foods as opposed to those laced with artificial food colourings leads to good health – a precursor of sound aging.
Indeed, the new dietary guidelines from the American Dietetic Association encourage people to literally colour their plates with a rainbow of foods, especially to ward off health and beauty problems, from heart disease to wrinkles.
Eastern wisdom believes that health and longevity depend on a balance of the five elemental energies represented by five colours: red, orange/yellow, green, white and blue/purple. Some has ascribed the eating habits of the Asians to be the reason for them having longer life expectancy.
Nutritionists say both Western nutritional science and Eastern wisdom agree that when you eat foods that contain all the colours, you are working far more disease-combating nutrients and vitamins into your meal. Vegetables, fruits, beans and legumes, nuts and grains all contain these colours in varying degrees, and are therefore worthy of the table.
Psychologists say the colour red, as in the case in fashion world, seems to have dominance with regard to actual food products as well. Experts say this is probably because red is the colour that induces hunger, as it instantly attracts attention. Nutritionists say it also makes people excited, energetic, and increases the heart rate. The fragments that impart the red colouring to many foods are known as anthocyanins, flavonoid compounds that fight free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to cells. The antioxidant, lycopene, which is found in pink grapefruits, tomatoes and watermelons has been shown to reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Other foods containing this are strawberries, apples, red bell pepper, and kidney beans. But tomatoes take the lead here, as it as a terrific source of vitamin C with a touch of vitamin A, potassium and fibre. Tomatoes fight skin ageing and may be beneficial against cancer and heart disease.
Foods with yellow and orange colours help the eyes and skin. The carotenoids that are responsible for the bright colours take care of free radicals, improve the eyesight and bolster the immune system. Orange/yellow foods include oranges, tangerines, plums, pineapples, mangoes, corn, melons, sweet potatoes, carrots, paw paw, cashews, millet, and grapefruits. 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. Oranges, tangerines, and grapes are good sources of limonene, a phytochemical that helps keep lungs healthy and may prevent cancer.
The average vegetable is green in colour. This green pigment in plants, called chlorophyll, increases blood-cell production, increases blood count, and improves oxygenation, detoxification and circulation. Green foods also contain lutein, a phyto-chemical that helps reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Green foods include broccoli, spinach, dasheen bush, leafy greens, avocados, apples, grapes, limes, lettuce, cucumbers, cabbage, ochros, runner beans, peas, and green bell pepper, among others.
Blue, purple and dark
Generally, blue food is a rare occurrence in nature, as there are no leafy blue vegetables or meats. Of course we have the blueberries and, in this age of globalisation, we sometimes come across exotic foods that may be blue in colour and imported from remote places. Nutritionists note that blue just doesn’t exist in any significant quantity as a natural food colour. Again, colour psychologists describe blue as an appetite suppressant. As such, it helps a great deal to have blue-coloured foods around you if you are watching your weight. They even suggest serving your food on a blue plate for this purpose, to encourage weight loss.
Like other foods, blue-coloured foods derive their colouring from phytonutrient flavonoids. These phytonutrients keep blood vessels healthy, benefiting the cardiovascular system and lowering the risk of heart disease.
Flavonoids also help reverse short-term memory loss that comes with aging and may help prevent cancer. Foods in this category include black mushrooms, purple cabbage, blueberries, blackberries, purple potatoes, walnuts, black beans and eggplants.
The anthoxanthins in white foods can help lower the blood pressure and cholesterol. For instance, white onion is rich in quercetin, a flavonoid known for its anti-inflammatory properties and cardiovascular health benefits. Other white foods to help ward off disease include garlic, potatoes, mushrooms, soya beans, white beans, rice, fish, and banana.
While this article is not exhaustive with regards to dietary advice, you can seek further guidance from your nutritionist or dietician to further shed more light on what your healthy plate should be like.
“Eat your foods and vegetables as medicine now so that you won’t have to eat medicines as food later.”
Contact Dr Maxwell on 363-1807 or 757-5411.