Can the color of the food you eat make a difference in your health?
In Ayurveda, we understand that each color emits electromagnetic radiation in a distinct wavelength. As I discuss in my article, Good Vibrations: Coloring Your World, different colors make us feel differently emotionally and physically. Some may stimulate us and make us feel warmer, like reds, oranges and yellows. Others may make us feel cool and calm, like blue or violet. Certain colors are known to balance specific chakras (the energetic centers), as well as healing the systems of the body related to each chakra.
It is highly recommended that most people consume food from the full color spectrum on a regular basis. For some, however, emphasizing certain dietary color schemes may be beneficial. Let’s take a look at the various chemicals that are found in foods that share the same color schemes. The various chakras they are related to are referenced as they provide insight into the parts of the body that each color group supports.
Red is a source of carotenoid lycopene, which protects the body against cancer and disease and rids the body of free radicals.1 The main benefit of lycopene is the maintenance of prostate health. Red is the color of the 1st or base chakra, which is related to the excretory system and skeletal development. This is the chakra responsible for keeping us feeling grounded and stable. Examples of red foods include apples, pink grapefruit, watermelon, strawberries and tomatoes.2
Orange is a great source of alpha carotene, which protects the body against cancer, free radical damage and converts to Vitamin A to repair DNA damage.1 Vitamin A has many roles within the body: it helps support the function of white blood cells (which is important for a healthy immune system), promotes bone growth, and helps regulate cell growth and division. Vitamin A and two other types of carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, are also important for healthy vision.3 Orange is the color of the 2nd chakra, which governs the reproductive systems. Examples of foods of this color are carrots, mangoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes.2
Orange/Yellow is a source of beta cryptothanxin, which protects the body against heart disease and kills cancer cells.1 Yellow is the color associated with the 3rd chakra, related to the liver, spleen, pancreas, blood and eyes. Examples are oranges, papaya, lemons, peaches.2
Yellow foods are a good source of linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) and linolenic acid (an omega 3-fatty acid). These fats are important for proper growth in children, healthy skin, and to help regulate cholesterol. Fat is also needed for transport and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as carotenoids.3 Examples: butter, ghee, margarine, olive oil, and vegetable oil.
Yellow/Green foods are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect the eyes. Examples of these are collards, corn, green peas and spinach.2
Green is a source of sulforaphane, osocyanate, and indoles and protects the body against cancer, inhibiting carcinogens.1 Dark green vegetables are a powerhouse of nutrition. Included in the long list of nutrients found in these veggies are potassium, dietary fiber, folate, vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin C.3 Green is related to the 4th or Heart Chakra and the heart, circulatory system and the thymus. In Ayurveda, we associate green foods with the cooling, bitter taste, which helps cleanse and purify the blood and the respiratory system. Examples of green foods include bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale.2
Blue is a source of anthocyanins, which destroy free radicals in the body. This color is related to the 5th or throat chakra, which is linked to the thyroid gland, vocal cords and bronchi. Examples include blueberries and plums.
Red/Purple is a great source of antioxidants, which protect the body against heart disease and blood clots and slow aging cells and Alzheimer’s.1 The red correlates to the base chakra. The purple relates more to the 6th chakra, also known as the third eye. The 6th chakra, located between the eyes, governs the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus. Examples include beets, berries, grapes, red cabbage.
White/green is a source of allicin which protects the body with anti-tumor properties and antioxidant flavorno. White is often related to the 6th or 7th chakras, both related to glandular functions in the body. The color white is responsible for purification in the body, and green, as mentioned above, is considered cleansing for the blood and lungs. Examples of white foods include garlic, leeks, onions, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, scallions and asparagus.2
White foods, such as milk, yogurt, and some cheeses are packed with vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus. These vitamins and minerals aid in bone health and may help us maintain a healthy body weight. Yogurt also contain probiotics, which are bacteria that confer a health benefit, like promoting digestive health or supporting immune function.3 While we wouldn’t typically think of dairy as being purifying like other white foods, white is considered the most Sattvic color, and dairy is considered a Sattvic food class.
Brown provides fiber and carcinogen removal, as well as a good source of protein for cellular synthesis. Brown is considered very grounding for the body. Examples: foods from this category run the gamut from whole grains to legumes to meats; the grains provide serotonin support in the digestive tract, and the meats support tonification and grounding. There is no chakra associated with the color brown.
So in answer to the original question, “can the color of the food you eat make a difference in your health?,” the answer is: of course, but it’s really more about what you might be missing if you are NOT getting one of the color groups. All told, eating a variety of colors makes food more visually appealing and therefore more satiating (translate: less desire to overeat!). The more vibrant the colors, the more stimulating to the brain and the body’s natural intelligence system, so the body does a better job of assimilating what we consume. We want to ensure that we are consuming the wide spectrum of chemicals that keeps the body functioning at its optimum, and each color group has a contribution to make.
Match the color chart to your doshic food plan, and select foods of each color that work with your plan. And always remember: variety is the spice of life…and the key to a well-balanced diet.
The sole purpose of this article is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have an acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or email Karen Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.