Color Your Diet to Stave Off Aging

The Power of Antioxidants in Your Food

The principal theory of aging proposes that oxygen free radicals disrupt cellular metabolism and are the root cause of chronic disease. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are rogue molecules generated as a natural by-product of energy production within cells. We aren’t entirely unprotected against ROS assault because nature provided us with an internal antioxidant system to neutralize them. But as a person ages, the level of free radicals increases beyond what the internal antioxidant system can neutralize, which leads to oxidative stress. Here’s where antioxidants from your diet are needed to boost antioxidant defenses.

There are distinct classes of antioxidants, each with a unique way to protect the body. Attempting to isolate a single antioxidant in the prevention or reversal of disease has eluded scientists because antioxidants work within a kind of "buddy system."

Studies have consistently shown that the beneficial effect of fruits and vegetables may be due to the synergistic effects of their components (pigmented phytochemicals) in their natural food matrix. Fruits and vegetables of a similar color contain the same phytochemicals. Might certain color groups make up a "designer" diet plan to prevent a particular disease? Read about the benefits associated with different colors below and look for foods that may address your specific needs.

The Color Green

Broccoli sprouts are a good source of sulforaphane, a health-promoting compound. This phytonutrient activates the internal antioxidant network to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation; hallmarks of Type 2 diabetes. In a recent study, 81 people with Type 2 diabetes consumed a broccoli sprout extract powder for four weeks. The group was divided into thirds with one-third consuming 10 grams (g) a day of broccoli powder. Another third received 5 g a day, and the rest were given a placebo. Blood samples taken at the beginning of the trial and after four weeks showed a significant reduction in biomarkers of oxidative stress and inflammation among those taking the broccoli sprout powder.

  • Cabbages

    Brussel sprouts, broccoli, green cabbages

  • Dark, Leafy Green Veggies

    Kale and spinach

  • Lettuces

    Endive and other lettuces

  • Other Fruits and Veggies

    French beans, green sweet pepper, honeydew melon, kiwi

The Color Orange/Yellow

Fruits and veggies of these hues are loaded with carotenoids with powerful anticancer and antiaging benefits. These fat-soluble compounds protect plants from sun and environmental damage. In humans, carotenoids perform similar functions, altering harmful metabolic processes including inflammation, cancer cell growth, and other degenerative processes.

  • Citrus Fruits

    Citrus fruit juices, grapefruit, orange, tangerine

  • Deep Orange Fruits and Veggies

    Cantaloupe, carrot, carrot juice, peach, apricot

The Color Purple/Red

Resveratrol is a phytonutrient found in purple grapes, grape juice, and red wine. It has been linked with reduced cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and peripheral vascular risk, as well as reduced risk of cancer. The Cardiovascular Research Team at the University of Connecticut found that resveratrol, red wine, grapes, and certain compounds in white wine activate longevity genes.

Pomegranate juice is rich in certain flavonoids that are potent antioxidants. A recent pilot study of eight rheumatoid arthritis patients revealed striking benefits from drinking 10 milliliters of POM pomegranate extract juice daily for 12 weeks. A 62 percent reduction in the number of tender joints were reported.

  • Berries

    Cherries, grapes, grape and berry juice, strawberries

  • Red Veggies

    red beet, red beet juice, red cabbage, red sweet pepper, tomato, tomato juice and sauce

The Color White

A recent Dutch study reported that those who ate the most white fruits (like pears and apples) and vegetables (such as cauliflower, cucumbers, and mushrooms) had the lowest incidence of stroke. Each 25 gram a day increase in white fruit and vegetable consumption was associated with a 9 percent lower risk of stroke. (A single apple is about 120 grams.)

  • Allium Family Bulbs

    garlic, leek, onion

  • Hard Fruits

    Apples, pears, apple juice and sauce

  • Other White Fruits and Veggies

    Banana, cauliflower, cucumber, mushroom


"Apples, Pears May Reduce Stroke Risk" by Bill Hendrick,, 9/15/11

"Broccoli Sprouts Reduce Oxidative Stress in Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized Double-Blind Clinical Trial" by Z. Bahadoran et al., Eur J Clin Nutr, 8/11

"Colors of Fruit and Vegetables and 10-Year Incidence of Stroke" by L. M. Oude Griep et al., Stroke, 9/15/11

"Consumption of Pomegranate Decreases Serum Oxidative Stress and Reduces Disease Activity in Patients with Active Rheumatoid Arthritis: A Pilot Study" by A. Balbir-Gurman et al., Isr Med Assoc J, 8/11

"Longevity Nutrients Resveratrol, Wines, and Grapes" by I. Lekli et al., Genes Nutr, 3/10

"Taking a ‘Good’ Look at Free Radicals in the Aging Process" by S. Hekimi et al., Trends in Cell Biology, 8/11


Marcia Zimmerman

Marcia Zimmerman, M.Ed., CN, is one of the natural product industry’s foremost authorities on nutrition, wellness and human health. Over the span of her thirty-year career, Marcia has worked as an educator, product formulator, chemist and Stanford University Medical School researcher. She’s also authored 7 books, including The Anti-Aging Solution, Eat Your Colors, The A.D.D. Solution and 7-Color Cuisine. She lives with her husband, Jon, in Chico, California.

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