Cover photo, Gurumantra Khalsa.
Taken at the Riverside Food Systems Alliance (RFSA) “Dinner In The Kitchen”.
Hosted by the Riverside Unified School District Central Kitchen where 35,500 meals per day feature local, organic produce.
Whole, Fresh, & Lively!
Purple, Red, Orange, Yellow, And Green….
- How Do Colorful Foods Affect Your Health?
- Why Does An Apple A Day Keep The Doctor Away?
- What’s Healthy About Red Wine, Chocolate, And Coffee?
- Why Is Eating Produce So Important?
“Eat Your Fruits And Vegetables, People!
How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You?”
One of the most harmful things we can do is drink sodas.
One 12-ounce can of cola is so acid it needs to be diluted with 100 times as much water just to bring it to a level that is safe for the kidneys to excrete it.
If you do not get enough minerals from “vegetables” to make the liquid safe, the body pulls the minerals it needs from your bones.
Antioxidants — From The Ground Up!
In this issue of Nutrition News, we discuss the powerful antioxidant effects of fruits and vegetables and their derivatives.
To be whole, fresh, and lively, eat whole, fresh, and lively foods. Colorful foods are the key to a healthy diet. In addition, colorful meals are more appealing and tasty as well as more nutritious.
Purple, Red, Orange, Yellow, And Green
Phyto means plant. Phytonutrients are pigments that give plants their bright colors.
Pigments keep the plants healthy by protecting them from stressful conditions. When we eat the plants, we get those benefits.
Plants of similar colors have related health-giving properties. When we eat a colorful diet, we receive a rainbow of goodness.
One of the greatest benefits of a plant-based diet is that it keeps our blood in the correct acid-alkaline balance, called pH.1
This is a slightly alkaline state of 7.4, about the same as sea water. Although fruits and vegetables range in their alkalinity, the alkaline minerals they contain (such as calcium and magnesium) buffer the acids we absorb from animal-based foods, grains, beans, and fats.
When our diet is primarily foods from animal sources (flesh foods, eggs, and dairy products), highly processed foods, those high in sugar and fat, or we drink a lot of sodas, our bodies are in a state of chronic acidosis.
The acidic blood then draws alkalinizing minerals from our bones. Without the life giving buffering agents from fruits and veggies, we develop the classic symptoms of overly acid systems…
fatigue, loss of motivation, irritability, nervousness, insomnia, headaches, gastric distress, bowel problems, rectal burning, edema, runny nose, sinusitis, chronic colds, thin brittle nails, leg cramps, muscle spasms, joint pain, stiff neck, poor circulation, and various forms of inflammation and infection.
Eventually, chronic acidosis develops into serious health problems, such as osteoporosis. (See Nutrition News “Bone Building”.)
Incidentally, stress (including from excessive exercise) also encourages acid blood. It isn’t difficult to understand how acidity which is a stressor, poor eating habits (eating on-the-go and eating less than nutritious foods), and just life’s ongoing events can add up to a big stress bomb. An easy solution to much of this is adding colorful fruits and vegetables to the diet.
If this is a big change for you and you’re not sure how to go about it, Nutrition News recommends 7-Color Cuisine: Making healthy, colorful foods a lifestyle for nutrition and good eating by Marcia Zimmerman, MS, CN.
Much of the information in this issue comes directly from Marcia’s book. We have taken her lead in categorizing fruits and vegetables by their colors.
Antioxidants — From The Ground Up!
1 The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, most acid to most alkaline. The pH stands for the power of H (hydrogen), and has to do with hydrogen ions. A pH of 7 means it is a neutral solution. Pure water has a pH of 7. See Nutrition News “Acid-Alkaline Balance”.
Eat Your Colors
In this section, we discuss the antioxidant benefits of the various fruits and vegetables based on their most obvious color (pigment).
For example, although the inside is white, eggplant is purple; ditto with red apples. Thus, eggplant is in the purples while red apples are in with the reds. However, the dominant pigments may not be the only pigments. Like a rainbow, the colors/chemicals overlap.
Again, consider the red apple. The red puts the apple into a category dominated by carotenes (okay, carotenoids).
However, apples contain an important biochemical from the purple category called ellagic acid. Ellagic acid helps prevent damage to our DNA.
It seems that an apple a day can keep the doctor away. The USDA daily recommendations are 3-5 servings of vegetables and 2-4 servings of fruit.2
Eat Your Colors
2 Veggie servings=1c raw leafy;
3/4c veg juice. (All 3 of those = 3 srvgs.)
Fruit=1 medium fruit; 1/2c cooked or canned; 3/4c 100% fruit juice. (All 3 = 3 srvgs.)
Eat You Colors: Purple, Blue, Black, & Magenta
Think berries, grapes, and raisins, plums and prunes, black cherries, figs, and tea, red wine, and chocolate. Think purple cabbage and dark Swiss chard, eggplant and radicchio. Vanilla and black pepper are here too.
Populations who consume larger quantities of these foods show less obesity and fewer deaths from heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Examples of these populations live in East Asian and Mediterranean countries.
The prevalent biochemicals in this group are phenolics which include polyphenols, flavonoids, and anthocyanins3.
Currently, over 8000 phenolic compounds have been identified. Foods rich in these phytonutrients deliver a wide range of health benefits.
Besides being powerful antioxidants, research reveals antibacterial and antiviral action as well as evidence of anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, and cancer protective properties. They are useful in the management of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, fragile veins, and type 2 diabetes.
These substances are water-soluble antioxidants that protect the plants from harsh conditions. In our bodies, they protect proteins and DNA.
They also protect against heart disease by improving microcirculation and protecting blood cell integrity. They move heavy metals out of the body.
They enhance oral hygiene, facilitate kidney function, insure bladder health (blueberries are as effective as cranberries), and improve the quality of skin and hair.
Bioflavonoids and flavonoids are a subgroup associated with vitamin C (a nonphenolic member) and include quercetin, well known allergy fighter.
Flavonoids are found in both tea and wine. Dutch researchers analyzed flavonoid intake among nearly 5000 men and women, average age 67. They found that those drinking 1-2 cups of tea daily were protected against heart attack.
An important key to the health-giving strength of the purple, blue, black, and magenta plants is the ability to recycle glutathione.
Glutathione is synthesized by our bodies and has been called “the ultimate antioxidant”. High glutathione levels are a marker of longevity.
This may be due to glutathione’s role as a protector of DNA. The liver also requires very large amounts of this antioxidant to detoxify the carcinogens and other toxins which constantly confront us.
Simply increasing our intake of these foods could lead to a longer, more healthy life.
Eat Your Colors
3 Anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid, are the pigments that give red, purple, and blue plants their rich coloring. They were called PCOs.
Eat Your Colors: Red, Orange, & Yellow
Red apples, watermelon, strawberries, cranberries, and pomegranates. Red peppers, radishes, and red potatoes. Cinnamon and chili peppers.
Apricots, oranges, cantaloupe, and papayas. Carrots, pumpkin, yams, and sweet potatoes. Nutmeg and saffron.
Pears, lemons, avocados, bananas, and pineapple. Corn, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, and squash. Ginger, turmeric, mustard, coriander, and fennel.
The major phytonutrient ingredients in these foods are the carotenoids.
Together, they form the A-Z of antioxidants: from astaxanthin to zeaxanthin. Of the over 600 identified, the best known is beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A.
Scientists have found that these potent antioxidants defend against free radicals from physiological stress, air pollution, tobacco smoke, and chemical and ultraviolet exposures.
A key factor in the usefulness of carotenes is that they are fat soluble and have an affinity for protecting lipids (a kind of fat) in the body.
Therefore, they are protective of the brain and nervous system. This affinity draws them to the cell membranes where they help sustain membrane fluidity.
In addition, the carotenes neutralize free radicals inside the cell and protect the tiny organelles there. As well, they keep free radicals outside the cell from attacking it.
This propensity for fats also leads carotenes to prevent the oxidation of cholesterol. (Oxidized cholesterol adheres to artery walls, narrowing them and becoming a heart disease risk.) Carotenes have also been shown to reduce angina.
Researchers have determined that carotenes have the ability to regulate cell-to-cell communication. This relates to their many anti-cancer and immune enhancing effects. Further, carotenes are protective against UV rays and are anti-inflammatory.
Luckily, many of the carotene foods are available year round. Eat them and they’ll give you their special protective qualities.
Eat Your Colors: Green & White
Honeydew melon, green plums, ripe green pears, kiwis, and limes. Artichokes, green beans, kale and other bitter greens, sea vegetables, peas, sprouts, broccoli, and daikon radish. All fresh and dried herbs, such as parsley, dill, basil, rosemary, and thyme.
As mentioned, green foods are alkalinizing. Although the antioxidant properties of chlorophyll for humans are only now being explored, greens are traditionally used in cleansing diets.
On the other hand, the pungent sulfur-bearing plants in this group are famous for their free radical scavenging ability.
When eaten they encourage the body to produce powerful enzymes known as “phase 2 detoxifiers”. These include glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase (SOD).
Harvard researchers have isolated a substance in cruciferous vegetables that inhibits some cancers: colorectal, bladder, lung, mouth, throat, stomach, and breast cancers. The cruciferous veggies include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. They also protect DNA. Along with garlic and the onions (Allium family), these veggies release their sulfur when they are bruised, mashed, or cooked.
FYI: Light steaming of dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, removes the oxalic acid that would otherwise bind with the minerals in the food making them unavailable to the body.
Garlic is the king of sulfur-containing healers. Its therapeutic applications are legion. Among these are antibiotic and antiparasitic properties. Plus, garlic aids in the prevention of some cancers, heart disease, and stroke. It strengthens blood vessels and it is a powerful detoxifier.
We are just scratching the surface of the many gifts of garlic and all the other wonderful, health-bringing plants.
Upping Your Antioxidants
Many of the powerful antioxidant components found in fruits and vegetables are available as supplements. After all, a person can only eat so many blueberries.
Astaxanthin is a deep red carotene from sea algae. It is the substance that makes salmon pink. One of the most powerful antioxidants known, it is thought that astaxanthin relieves the stress of swimming upstream. Dose is 10 mg daily.
Beta carotene, the precursor of vitamin A, boosts immune function. It is the basis for carrots and other orange foods. Supplement with natural source Dunaliella salina algae, 15 mg/d.
Bilberry extract, from the European blueberry, brings support to the eyes, including preventing night blindness and protecting against cataract and macular degeneration. Like blueberries, it supports the production glutathione.4 Dose of standardized extract, 80 mg.
Curcumin/Turmeric called Indian gold, curcumin is the main active ingredient of turmeric. Look for products which feature curcuminoids.5 Take 3-4 caps of a combination formula every night. After a hard workout, I add a couple ibuprofen. (I don’t believe in hurting.)
Elderberry extract, best known for its antiviral properties, helps circulation, enhances immune function, and soothes the respiratory tract. Provided as liquid. Follow label instructions.
Grapeseed anthocyanin protects against DNA fragmentation. Among other benefits, it strengthens blood vessels, improves skin, and aids circulation. 100 mg.
Green tea extract is loaded with compounds that have powerful effects on the body, including improved brain function, fat loss, a lower risk of cancer, and other incredible benefits. Dose, 3-5 cups of tea daily. (Over steeping yields a bitter brew.)
Lutein, a carotene found in leafy greens such as spinach, is actually a yellow pigment. Commercial supplements are made from marigolds. It is especially recommended for eye health. Dose, 6-30 mg with meals.
Lycopene, the famous carotene from tomatoes, helps to promote prostate health. The body only derives lycopene from cooked tomatoes. Hence, the healing power of pizza! Dose, 10-30 mg with meals.
Quercetin, a well known flavonoid, is particularly useful for soothing allergic reactions. Doses vary.
Resveratrol is a compound found in red wine. Its antioxidant properties protect the body against conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Reputed to have life extension properties. Dose, 25 mg.
Turmeric, See Curcumin above.
Zeaxanthin, a carotene found mainly in leafy greens, is also good for the eyes. Because all carotenes are fat soluble, the supplements are best taken with foods that contain fats or in combination with omega oil supplements. Dose, 2 mg/d.
Another means of obtaining concentrated amounts of antioxidants is by drinking high ORAC fruit juices. (See top of page 3.)
This trend began a decade ago with Noni (Morinda citrifolia). Noni was followed by pomegranate, mangosteen, and Goji berry juices. The latest is mulberry juice. Delish!
To your health!
Upping Your Antioxidants
4 Our internal antioxidants include superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione peroxidase.
Upping Your Antioxidants
5 This fabulous anti-inflammatory root was introduced for joint pain in the US by Terry Lemerond, founder of Enzymatic Therapy and EuroPharma.
Coffee: America’s #1 Antioxidant!
Drinking five or more cups of coffee a day is healthy! Ain’t that great?! Do we live in an amazing age, or what?
In it we learn that wine, chocolate, and coffee are actually good for us. What do they have in common? High antioxidant content.
These quantities of coffee protect us from diabetes by helping with glucose (blood sugar) regulation. Liver disease risk is also reduced, and the dark liquid may play a role in cancer protection.
The benefits are due to coffee’s phenolic antioxidants and as well as heat-released antioxidants. Through a different pathway, even one cup daily can halve the risk of getting Parkinson’s.
America’s #1 antioxidant has also been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, gallstones, kidney stones, depression, and suicide.
Numerous other studies have shown that coffee increases mental alertness, cognitive function, physical stamina, and wakefulness.
ORAC stands for short for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity and is a test tube analysis that measures the total antioxidant power of foods and other chemical substances.
Eating plenty of high-ORAC foods can raise the antioxidant power of human blood 10 to 25 percent.
Surprisingly, prunes with an ORAC value of nearly 6000 per 100 grams are the highest common food on the list.
In comparison, blueberries are valued at 2400 and eggplant at 390. On the other hand, dark chocolate checks in at 13,200!
Be cautioned that there aren’t ORAC values for every food. The test is not appropriate for substances that are high in carotenoids — the red, orange, yellow, and yellow-green foods.
The Big Benefits Of DARK Chocolate
“Food of the gods”, Theobroma cacao, is the scientific name for the cacao tree. (Goddesses love it too!)
One of the most celebrated foods of all time, chocolate has been dubbed a “superfood”.
However, not all chocolate is created equal. Only dark chocolate cacao delivers the goods, and several sources suggest that even dark chocolate needs to contain 70% cacao.
Highly rich in antioxidants, 100 grams of dark chocolate (nearly a cup) contains 13,200 ORAC. Researchers at UC, Davis, revealed that cacao is replete with phenolics, the same antioxidant compounds found in red wine.
In 1996, JAMA published an article showing the blood pressure lowering effect of dark chocolate on people with mild hypertension.
Since that time, findings have included 20% lower risk of stroke, better heart health (lower LDL cholesterol, less risk of heart disease), and reduced inflammation.
Other benefits are… reduces diabetes risk by increasing insulin sensitivity, offers some UV protection, improves vision, increases blood flow to the brain.
Dark chocolate can also relieve coughing and stress. Likely these results come from theobromine6 and magnesium. (See Nutrition News, “EveryBody Needs Magnesium”.)
These nutrients are known to relax the muscles, helping with the spasms of coughing, the clenching of stress, and easing “the cramps”. (Women, PMS, and chocolate?)
The best chocolate is made using cocoa butter. This “butter” contains a saturated fatty acid called stearic acid. It is converted in the body to oleic acid, also found in olive oil.
Comparing cocoa butter with dairy butter, researchers at Penn State found that dairy butter raised cholesterol significantly while cocoa butter did not.
Truth in eating: Both milk and white chocolate deliver a lot of calories and no known health benefits. In Nature, researchers revealed that only dark chocolate raises antioxidant levels in the body. They state that even drinking a glass of milk with the dark chocolate cancels its antioxidant potential
The idea is not to replace healthy foods with dark chocolate. Rather, switch those occasional sweets for some quality dark chocolate.
Big Benefits of Dark Chocolate
6 Theobromine is a bitter alkaloid also found in black and green tea.