Did you know that different colors of foods can affect your health in different areas of your body?
New research is showing that different color pigments in food correlate with different areas in the body and can affect the health and function of those areas. We have known for years that eating a variety of colors is the way to go, and this new science doesn’t change that recommendation.
The red color in food comes from anthocyanins that have been shown to help reduce inflammation and help support immunity. We have talked a lot about inflammation in other posts on the blog and how it is the foundation for many injuries and disease processes. Most people could benefit from more anti-inflammatory foods. Here are just a few red ones to try:
- Beets – Beets contain nitrates, which can help promote nitric oxide production in the body. Nitric oxide can help to dilate the blood vessels. This is a good thing for reducing blood pressure and also improved endurance
- Pomegranates – Look for a deep red color in the skin and add the arils to salads, smoothies or as a snack
- Cherries – There are studies that show that tart cherries and their juice can help to reduce inflammation and improve recovery after exercise
Orange foods are full of carotenoids like beta-carotene and other antioxidants that have been linked to hormones and fertility. Some of these carotenoids (like beta-carotene) are fat soluble, so it helps to have some healthy fat with these foods in order to help absorb them:
- Carrots – These are a great source of beta-carotene and have been linked to better eye health, as well as lower cholesterol levels.
- Pumpkin – Pumpkin is high in both beta-carotene and vitamin C. Both of these nutrients have been shown to help improve the health of your skin. Beta carotene and other carotenoids might act as a natural sunblock in your skin. Vitamin C can help to promote the production of collagen, which can help keep your skin strong and healthy.
- Papaya – Some studies have shown that papaya might help to reduce the risk for cancer, especially breast cancer.
Many yellow foods contain enzymes that can aid in digestion and help improve digestive health. Other yellow foods are high in prebiotics, or fiber that can help to feed your good gut bacteria and promote a health microbiome. Try these yellow foods:
- Ginger – Ginger contains over 400 different compounds that have been shown to help aid in digestion and alleviate nausea. This zesty root can be added to flavor many different dishes.
- Bananas – These are a great source of potassium, as well as indigestible fiber. Green, or barely ripe, bananas in particular contain resistant starch, which can help to promote a healthy microbiome by feeding beneficial bacteria.
- Pineapple – This tropical fruit contains a compound called bromelain, a digestive enzyme that breaks down protein from your food.
Green foods have been shown to help improve the health of the heart and cardiovascular system. Think of all of the veins you see in leafy greens and it will help remind you that these foods are good for your cardiovascular system. Studies suggest that cardiovascular disease risk might be reduced by around 16% by including green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables in your diet almost every day. Here are some to get you started:
- Spinach – This green leafy vegetable might help to reduce blood pressure and improve circulation. It also improves exercise performance by supporting oxygen delivery to the muscles.
- Broccoli – Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are high in vitamin K, which can help reduce calcification in the blood vessels. This decreases the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Green tea – Not all colored food are ones you need to eat! Green tea supports endothelial cell health, which form the tissues that line the cardiovascular system and gut.
These colors of foods have been linked to the health of the nervous system. They are high in antioxidants and polyphenols that have positive effects on the brain. Any of these colors of foods are great, but the darker ones contain even more of the beneficial compounds:
- Blackberries – Blackberries and other berries have been shown to reduce age related memory loss. They can also help to reduce inflammation.
- Figs – Some research suggests that figs can help to improve memory and learning. They are full of potassium, vitamin B6 and manganese, all of which aid in brain health.
- Purple grapes – These have been shown to help improve cognitive function and mood. Research also suggests that grape seed extracts and polyphenols in grapes might help to slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.
It may not seem like a color, but white foods have unique benefits. Many white foods contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Check these ones out:
- Onions – They contain organosulfur compounds that upregulate expression of enzymes for detoxification. They are also a good source of vitamin C.
- Garlic – Garlic is a prebiotic that also has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties, and liver detoxifying enzymes. These compounds get released when the whole garlic cloves are crushed.
- Cauliflower – This cruciferous vegetable has been shown to improve heart health, brain function, hormone balance, immune support and a reduced cancer risk.
Brown is the color of dirt and foods of this color can help with grounding and connecting us with the earth. They can also help with digestion and specifically elimination
- Shiitake mushrooms – They have been used traditionally for medicinal purposes to support immune function. Antibiotic, anti-carcinogenic and antiviral compounds have been isolated from shiitake mushrooms.
- Flaxseed – Flax is a great addition to many meals. Flaxseed is high in omega-3 fats which can help reduce inflammation. It’s also a good way to get some extra fiber on board. Make sure to grind them for full benefit.
- Chocolate – Cocoa and cacao are very high in antioxidants. They contain anti-inflammatory compounds and can help support heart and immune health.
What is your favorite color of food or which one do you want to try to get more of? Get in touch and let us know!
Julie Cornelius, MS has an extensive background in nutrition. She graduated from the University of Arizona in Tucson, AZ with both her Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science in Nutrition. Her emphasis and research focus during her Masters program was in nutrition for active individuals and sports nutrition. She has worked in fitness studios helping clients achieve their nutrition goals, spent two years teaching college nutrition courses, and was the founder of Julie Bar, an organic energy bar company. Julie is a long time cyclist and mountain biker who loves being outdoors. Her home base is Moab, UT, but she enjoys traveling and mountain biking around the world. Julie also runs a non-profit called World Ride with the mission of empowering women globally through mountain biking. In addition to being the Boost Nutrition Coach, Julie is also the office manager.