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    Can a Colorful Plate Really Help You Live Longer?

      |  Feb 12, 2024

    There are endless ways to organize your diet. You could use the food pyramid, abide by Whole 30, or divide every plate in your cabinet into perfect portions. But the most effective tool for measuring the quality of your diet might be ROYGBIV. Otherwise known as the rainbow, this spectrum of colors should be found across your meals and daily diet, and when it’s considered in your food choices, it could extend your lifespan.

    Why does a colorful plate increase health?

    Fruits and vegetables, the items that most often bring color to our meals, are rich in phytonutrients. These compounds not only give plants their beautiful colors, but contribute to their tastes, aromas, and natural health benefits for humans. Phytonutrients in plants contain antioxidants and amino acids that protect our bodies from chronic diseases and other illnesses like cancer and heart disease. For example, carotenoids are the phytonutrients that give plants their bright colors. They act as antioxidants in the human body, and some can even be converted into vitamin A. Other types of phytonutrients include flavonoids, resveratrol, and ellagic acid.

    While most commonly found in fruits and vegetables, phytonutrients can also be found across food groups in a balanced diet, including whole grains, nuts, tea, and spices. “Eating the rainbow” by consuming a wide variety of phytonutrient foods gives your body the best chance to absorb the many benefits of phytonutrients.

    The benefits of the color wheel

    Each whole food and vegetable has their own unique properties and health benefits, but many of them can be grouped by their coloring. 

    Red: Red foods tend to be rich in the carotenoid lycopene. This phytonutrient hunts down gene-damaging free radicals and has been shown to protect against prostate cancer, lung disease, and cardiovascular conditions. Red foods include beets, cherries, apples, and strawberries.

    Orange and yellow: Orange and yellow foods like pineapples, squash, corn, and of course, oranges, are rich in phytonutrients including beta cryptothanxin and naringenin. Naringenin has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and works hand in hand with vitamin C (which is abundant in citrus fruit) to protect cell membranes. 

    Green: Whole, leafy greens like kale, spinach, and arugula are nutrient dense and rich in antioxidants. A serving of kale, for example, contains 98 mcg of vitamin K and 23mg of vitamin C. Vitamin K is essential for bone health, while vitamin C improves immune function and protects your cells from free radicals, among other benefits. Other green foods with powerful longevity effects include asparagus, brussel sprouts, and avocados. 

    Blue and violet (purple): Foods that are blue and purple are known for containing powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins. These antioxidants are believed to protect against cellular aging (or delay it) and block the formation of blood clots. delay cellular aging and help the heart by blocking the formation of blood clots. Blue foods also contain vital minerals including copper and iron, B-12 and fiber. For your daily dose of blue and purple foods, look to blueberries, eggplants, plums, and prunes.

    How to make a colorful meal

    Doctors recommend 4 ½ cups of colorful fruits and vegetables a day, with ½ cup of fruit or vegetables equaling 1 serving. There are some exceptions: a serving of leafy greens, like kale or spinach, is 1 cup. If that sounds like a lot to you, don’t panic: these colors can be spread out over meals and snacks, too. 

    Here are a few examples of what colorful meals might look like:

    • Sweet potatoes, baked tofu, and a side of spinach

    • A veggie sandwich with tomatoes, sprouts, red onions, and carrots on whole wheat bread

    • A leafy green salad with corn, roasted red peppers, and white meat chicken

    Another effective way to eat the rainbow is to follow the Mediterranean diet. This diet has been touted for its connection to longevity, and its anti-inflammatory properties. Consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 rich meats like fish, the Mediterranean diet was first “discovered” by researcher Ancel Keys, who noticed lower rates of cardiovascular disease in countries around the Mediterranean. In recent studies, the diet has been shown to have a number of longevity extending effects, including the lower the risks of cancer and cognitive decline, a healthy blood pressure and cholesterol, and the growth of good gut bacteria in your digestive system.


    Discover what your diet is missing

    Eating the rainbow is one way to optimize your diet for longevity, but without professional guidance, you might still be missing out on adequate amounts of vitamins and nutrients. Modern Age can help. Our Aging Wellness Assessment measures 55 key biomarkers related to aging, including levels of essential vitamins like vitamin D and C, along with metabolic and cognitive health tests. After receiving your results, you’ll review them 1:1 with a licensed clinician, who can help you fill in the gaps of your diet and get your body on track for a longer, stronger healthspan.