Wednesday, May 22, 2002

What color is your diet?

In an article in the NY Times, the benefits of various colors of fruits and vegetables are outlined.
"Pigment power" is what it is all about, say the authors of "The Color Code," who divide fruits and vegetables into four broad color groups: red, orange-yellow, green and blue-purple, each with a different set of beneficial phytonutrients. Dr. Heber, who is more of a "splitter," groups them into seven color categories, as follows:

Red, including tomatoes (especially cooked tomato products), pink grapefruit and watermelon, which are rich in the carotenoid lycopene, a potent scavenger of gene-damaging free radicals that seems to protect against prostate cancer as well as heart and lung disease.

Red/purple, including red and blue grapes, blueberries, strawberries, beets, eggplant, red cabbage, red peppers, plums and red apples, which are loaded with powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins believed to delay cellular aging and help the heart by blocking the formation of blood clots. Dr. Heber includes red wine in this category.

Orange, including carrots, mangoes, cantaloupe, winter squash and sweet potatoes, rich in the cancer-fighter alpha carotene, along with beta carotene that protects the skin against free-radical damage and promotes repair of damaged DNA.

Orange/yellow, including oranges, peaches, papaya and nectarines, which provide beta cryptothanxin, which supports intracellular communication and may help prevent heart disease.

Yellow/green, including spinach, collards, corn, green peas, avocado and honeydew, which are sources of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. These are strongly linked to a reduced risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of preventable blindness in developed countries.

Green, including broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale and bok choy. These are rich in cancer-blocking chemicals like sulforaphane, isocyanate and indoles, which inhibit the action of carcinogens.

White/green, including garlic, onions, leeks, celery, asparagus, pears and green grapes. The onion family contains allicin, which has antitumor properties. Other foods in this group contain antioxidant flavonoids like quercetin and kaempferol. Dr. Heber includes white wine in this category.

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