Dietitans for Seniors Hyannis MA
West Barnstable, MA
Jamaica Plain, MA
The Anti-Aging Food Rainbow
It's even better than finding the proverbial pot of gold—discovering the key to a
By Lisa James
A lonely Kermit the Frog once sang about finding the rainbow connection to a world outside his isolated pond, a desire that led him to seek adventure on the open road. The yearning to fight the ravages of age also entails a rainbow connection—the rainbow of colors found in fresh produce. From ravishing reds to gorgeous greens to bodacious blues, enjoying Nature’s full palette of flavorful food plants can help in your adventurous quest to overcome aging.
Exactly how do fruits and vegetables affect aging? One answer says that the nutrients in plants affect genes, those little information packets tucked away in DNA; every minute of every day, the zillions of genes in your body’s cells switch on and off in a meticulously calibrated code of life. “You must have adequate intake of vitamins B3, B6 and folic acid to make DNA,” says Jack Challem, veteran health writer and author of Feed Your Genes Right (Wiley). “If you cannot make new DNA, you will be left with only damaged, old or malfunctioning DNA—giving your cells the wrong instructions.” Other nutrients also help genes do their signaling thing.
Fresh produce is packed with gene-fortifying vitamins and minerals, nutrients that you lose the ability to process with age. For example, your body produces only 40% of the vitamin D at age 70 that it did when you were a child, and your need for B vitamins and calcium goes up as well. (What’s more, plant foods have less of the stuff you don’t need, like sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol.) A lot of these nutrients—like the vitamin C in oranges—are antioxidants, important warriors in the antiaging fight. Part of produce’s health-promoting power resides in phytonutrients, substances that interact with DNA even as they give plants those eye-catching colors. And if all that wasn’t enough, these foods abound in natural enzymes that aid digestion.
Vegetables and fruits can be grouped by where they fall on the color spectrum.
Code Red for Health
Red, the color of heartfelt passion, is also the color of hearty health. Lycopene, the red stuff in tomatoes, watermelon and pink grapefruit, has been linked to a lower risk of heart disease among women; among men, eating lycopene-rich tomatoes appears to protect aging prostates against cancer. According to Jack Challem, lycopene acts as both an antioxidant (free-radical fighter) and a regulator of genetic activity. (To extract the most lycopene from your tomatoes, cook them in a little oil, or use tomato paste.)
Lycopene is just one member of the carotenoid family, which lends its reddish-orange hues to nearly all the foods at this end of the spectrum. The best-known carotenoid is beta-carotene, found in carrots, pumpkin and sw...