The Color of Food: Why it matters

December 13, 2021


You’ve probably heard that the more colorful your plate is, the better. While the colors you consume are important, what exactly do they signify?

Foods with rich colors are often reflective of the rich nutrients they carry. Not only do the colors help benefit the body, but they can also stimulate the brain³! Color is a powerful mechanism that can influence  physiological reactions. While color associations are not universal, here is what we know about the different ways we internalize the colors we see:

  • Green often symbolizes nature which can provoke a sense of tranquility and ease. Even more so, green is associated with energy and creativity!
  • Red is known to stimulate the body and increase circulation!
  • Yellow is energizing and evokes feelings of happiness, and has been found to increase metabolism!
  • Orange is often seen as a symbol of spirituality, happiness, and uplifting energy!

How does this relate to what you put on your plate? An array of colors in fruits and vegetables can cause positive physiological effects and reflect diverse nutrients. Partnered with The Mayo Clinic, the Winneshiek Health Center released an article² to map out the importance of having a colorful plate: 

Red Fruits and Veggies have been shown to reduce the risk of stroke and promote heart health. Along with these great benefits, they often boast antioxidants and support urinary tract health!

Red Fruits to try: cherries, strawberries, watermelon, pomegranates, cranberries, raspberries

Red Veggies to try: beets, radishes, tomatoes, red cabbage

Orange & Yellow Fruits and Veggies are dense with the nutrients shown to assist in the prevention of heart disease, decrease inflammation, protect the nervous system, and promote eye health. On top of that, they can help boost the immune system and contribute to maintaining skin health⁵!

Orange and Yellow Fruits to try: oranges, pineapples, yellow apples, mangoes, pears

Orange and Yellow Vegetables to try: carrots, yellow peppers, pumpkin, yellow tomatoes

Green Fruits and Veggies can protect from high cholesterol levels, support digestion, protect eye health, and prevent macular degeneration. They also have been found to have properties that may help prevent blood clots and keep our bones, teeth, and nails healthy⁵!

Green Fruits to try: lime, green apples, kiwi, avocado

Green Vegetables to try: cucumbers, zucchini, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, green beans

Blue & Purple fruits and veggies have been found to support memory, reduce blood pressure, and promote healthy aging! These rich fruits and veggies may also lower the risk of heart disease and stroke¹.

Blue and Purple Fruits to try: blackberries, aronia berries, blueberries, figs, grapes

Blue and Purple Vegetables to try: purple potatoes, eggplant, purple cabbage

Foods that contain rich colors often fall under the category of Flavonoids. Flavonoids are a natural compound found in a variety of fruits and vegetables and contain a high level of antioxidants. The way these flavonoids work in the body is by fighting off free radicals to reduce internal stressors and help the body function smoothly by decreasing inflammation⁴. In fact, research¹ found that those who consume more flavonoids have lower levels of dementia and cognitive decay! 

There are plenty of ways to diversify your dietary color palette. It can be very flexible to your lifestyle whether that means making a beautiful salad with a variety of fruits and vegetables, grilling a vegetable medley, or adding veggies to your existing favorite dishes. Whether the colors of the rainbow are frozen, canned, fresh, or juiced you can still benefit from varieties of produce. 

 

 

 

 

Sources
(1) Brown, J. (2021, September 20).Why eating colourful food is good for you. BBC Future. Retrieved December 8, 2021, fromhttps://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210917-why-eating-colourful-food-is-good-for-you.

(2) The importance of a colorful diet. Winneshiek Medical Center. (2020). Retrieved December 8, 2021, fromhttps://www.winmedical.org/our-services/clinics/family-medicine/healthy-eating/the-importance-of-a-colorful-diet/.

(3) Spence, C. (2015, April 22).On the psychological impact of food colour - flavour. BioMed Central. Retrieved December 8, 2021, fromhttps://flavourjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13411-015-0031-3.

(4) Watson, K. (2019, October 23).Everything you need to know about flavonoids. Healthline. Retrieved December 8, 2021, fromhttps://www.healthline.com/health/what-are-flavonoids-everything-you-need-to-know#function

(5) Benefits of Eating the Rainbow https://www.columbus.gov/