Sitting down to a colorful meal makes the food seem more vibrant, rich and alive. In my experience, beautiful food just tastes better. But beyond the visual satisfaction, did you know that eating different colors could improve your health?
It’s hard to figure out, let alone remember, the health benefits of each individual food. Whole fruits and vegetables contain a staggering amount of various vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, and this can quickly become overwhelming when you’re trying your best to eat a healthier diet. Can you relate?
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated. Just make it colorful.
Nature has done a lot of the work for us. Different foods get their color due to the various phytonutrients (also called phytochemicals) they contain. These phytochemicals not only provide the plant with protection from the sun and the ability to repel insects, but their color give us a hint as to what area of our health they are likely to affect.
Here are some of the most common food colors and what they can do for your body:
Red – Circulation + Heart
Red foods provide beautiful contrast in any dish, and for that, you can thank two very powerful antioxidants: lycopene and anthocyanin. They help build healthy cell walls, which results in improved blood pressure, improved circulation and better organ function. They are associated with reducing the risk of some cancers (especially prostate) and providing protection against heart attacks.
- Red bell peppers
Orange – Senses, Structure + Immune System
Orange foods will not only lighten up your smile, but also make you glow from the inside out. They contain beta-carotene, which is transformed by our bodies into Vitamin A and antioxidants. These powerhouses are essential for vision and immune function, as well as healthy skin and bones. They assist in preventing heart disease, cancer (particularly lung, esophagus and stomach) and a host of infections by supporting our mucous membranes, an essential part of our immune system.
- Sweet potatoes
Yellow – Inflammation + Connective Tissue
Brighten your meal, body and mood with yellow foods. Food rich in Vitamin C—a sworn enemy of free radicals—help prevent allergies, reduce inflammation and maintain healthy and glowing skin. Yellow foods also help you hold yourself together, literally. Citrus bioflavonoids work to strengthen your body’s connective tissues, including your tendons, ligaments, cartilage and skin.
- Yellow Pepper
Green – Detox + Liver
Eating green foods can make you feel as fresh as spring. Plants are experts at filtering out toxins from the air and water, and get their green color from chlorophyll. When you eat your greens (especially the dark leafy ones), that chlorophyll helps purify the blood and remove toxins from the body by supporting the liver and kidneys. They are packed full of micronutrients, minerals and vitamins, most notably iron, zinc and Vitamin K (essential for strong bones and blood clotting).
- Green beans
Blue & Purple – Antioxidant + Overall Health
Superhero powers and purple spandex can’t outshine the benefits of purple foods. Of all the colors of the rainbow, they might be the most powerful in maintaining health and preventing disease. The phytochemical anthocyanin is what makes food purple/blue, and the darker the color, the more antioxidants it contains. This means that they have the greatest effect on your overall health. They help prevent disease, maintain healthy brain function, reduce the risk of cancer and high blood pressure, and raise HDL (the “good”) cholesterol. Power to the purple.
- Purple Cabbage
White – Immune System
No color? No problem. Lack of color doesn’t mean a lack of punch. The largest group of phytochemicals is the flavonoids, which are mostly colorless yet incredibly powerful antioxidants. White foods contain a host of beneficial nutrients including sulfur, quercetin, and anthoxanthins. They have strong effects on the immune system due to their anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Daikon radish
Have fun painting your plate with colorful meals that use diverse ingredients, and you’re well on your way to a healthier you.
Let the culinary artist inside you go wild.