Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Multicolored Diet Is A Healthy Diet

Seven Seas' co-owner Corinna Shen has been on a mission to champion healthy eating habits for many years now. In 2008, she wrote a special column for the Epoch Times on finding balance through a five color diet. She first explains the benefits of a colorful diet from a traditional Chinese viewpoint, then relates it to modern, Western nutrition guidelines.

The traditional Chinese viewpoint:
In Chinese culture, food and medicine are closely related. The practice of traditional Chinese medicine places great emphasis on achieving balance in one's body for the regeneration of the body's systems and organs. This balance is referred to as yin and yang. An important aspect in attaining a balanced yin and yang is a well-rounded nutrition with at least five varieties of colors.

While the principles of yin and yang are relatively unfamiliar to the Western world, the Chinese have been practicing it since the 3rd century. Over 3000 years ago, the Yellow Emperor wrote in his classic book on internal medicine, Huangdineijing, that if people wanted to obtain health and longevity, they should eat food with "five colors, five tastes and five fragrances."
A multicolored diet is especially important in Chinese food and medicine, as it is believed that colors (red, yellow, green, white, and black) are associated with the body's vital organs (heart, spleen, liver, lung, and kidney). Colors are also related to the five main elements (fire, earth, wood, water, and metal) found in nature.

Ming Zhou, a Chinese medical internist, says that in Chinese medicine, not only is it important to reach a balance within oneself, but also to attain harmony with nature. This is why associating colors and organs with elements are so important. According to Dr. Zhou, the color groups provide the following benefits for the corresponding organs:

White (metal) food: White foods give people a clean feeling and purify the lungs. They are good for adjusting visions and calming emotions.

Green (wood) food: Green is the color of life and impacts the liver. It is a fundamental link in the food chain, and green food is the food source of people and animals.

Black (water) food: Black impacts the kidney. The kidney is the fatal organ amongst the five organs and the origin of life.

Red (fire) food: Red impacts the heart. Eating more red colored food can help one's immune system and prevent cold.

Yellow (earth) food: Yellow corresponds to the spleen. The spleen transforms and transports the energy from food and drink throughout the body. Yellow foods also correspond to the stomach.
The modern, Western nutrition guidelines:
The benefits of a color rich diet is also recognized by Western nutritionists. In the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, some of the recommendations include adding the following color rich foods to one's diet: dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat milk products. The guideline was released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Marla Caplon, nutritionist and supervisor for the Division of Food and Nutrition Services for the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, agrees that a diet rich in an array of colors can clearly be a contributor to good health and well-being.

According to Caplon, yellow and orange fruits and vegetables, rich in beta carotene, Vitamin A and Vitamin C contain powerful antioxidants that neutralize free radicals. Green vegetables are rich in phytochemicals and are good sources of iron, calcium, vitamins K, A, and C. Blue and purple fruits and vegetables contain anthocyanins, which are powerful antioxidants that help the prevention of heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer. The red group contains lycopene, an antioxidant that can help protect against cancer. Foods high in lycopene may also help reduce the complications from and control high blood pressure. The white group contains allicin, which has been known to help lower blood sugar and have amazing anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. This group also contains powerful antioxidants which help to protect against cancer and heart disease.
These are clearly two very different ways of looking at nutrition. But the intersecting point is -- food is like a natural medicine, providing a person with essential nutrients that keep you alive and healthy. And don't just choose foods from different color groups, choose wisely.