Updated: May 19, 2020
Are you one of those people who likes eat the same foods over and over again and do not bother to try the many colors and flavors that nature provides. You may not be a compulsive eaters, but if you regularly choose what’s quick and easily available instead of stopping to notice the colors, shapes, sizes and flavors of different foods available at farmers’ markets or your local food store, you may miss out on their health benefits as well.
These foods are there for you and me, if we choose to stop, taste and enjoy them. We often eat highly processed foods that our grandmothers would not even consider as foods in their pantries. And perhaps we too would question the integrity some of the foods in our pantry or shopping cart, if we stopped and looked closely for what's in them. But often, we don’t. In the process, we hurt ourselves. We feel bloated, we suffer from indigestion, we hold onto excess weight, often in the wrong places such as around the belly. Yet, nature is still kind to us. We still can stop and notice the same colors and flavors, perhaps not with the same intensity as in the years past but still, choices are there and we can enjoy them. I invite you to add a different color food in your shopping cart next time you go food shopping, and then onto your menu. As you eat it, raw or cooked, thank yourself for the favor and flavor you are giving your body that will reap health benefits. And as you do that, can you record, in your head or your journal, what comes up? Do you like the color combinations of the foods on your plate? Do you enjoy the food better? Are you inspired to eat it more often? If you are not, that’s ok. Try a different food with another color or flavor. Choices abound!
Eating these unprocessed foods, when they are grown locally, not only benefit you and the local farmers, but they benefit the environment in unquestionable ways. When you combine eating whole foods and eating foods from all the different colors, you enhance their impact on your body. Each color has its own range of vitamins, minerals, different amounts of fiber and plant chemicals that help you maintain a healthier balance and a stronger immune system. For starters, here are some of the benefits of each of the natural colors in foods:
Green: This color in plants comes from chlorophyll, a pigment that carries magnesium – a mineral that performs more than 300 functions in the body. Dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach, and arugula are also one of the best sources of calcium to support strong bones and healthy teeth. These and other greens including romaine lettuce, asparagus, parsley and limes help also detoxify the liver from harmful substances, and are good sources of potassium which supports the heart!
Orange or deep yellow: What comes to mind are some of my favorite foods – carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, pumpkin, lemons, and papaya. These are great sources of carotenoids, bioflavonoids, vitamin A and C that help maintain a strong immune system, good eyesight and that keep your skin healthy. They protect against the degeneration of the eye structure that tends to occur with aging. They neutralize the free radicals that "roam around your body and damage your cells," says nutrition expert, Donna Gates. They are good at "supporting intracellular communication" according to a 2002 article by the New York that references a book by Dr David Heber with dietitian Susan Bowerman, in their book, The Color Code.
Black or dark red: These are great sources of calcium and iron. They are antioxidants that promote not only good heart health, but they also keep your memory sharp and they are good for urinary tract health as well. Fruits and vegetables in this category include: cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, raspberries, red peppers, red onions, and tomatoes. They include also legumes such as black and kidney beans.
Blue and dark purple: Foods in this group have anti-cancer properties. They are powerful antioxidants also linked to improved memory function, urinary tract health, and healthy aging, helping to fight "the damage that daily living does to your cells," adds Gates. Foods in this category include: blueberries, blackberries, black olives, purple grapes, plums, purple cabbage, raisins, eggplants, purple potatoes, and black beans. Many of these act like the fountain of youth.
Brown and white: These colors may not seem so attractive in foods, but whole, unprocessed brown and white foods still provide many health benefits such as maintaining a healthy immune system and protecting against heart disease. Some of the foods in this group such as onions and unripe bananas are good prebiotics that feed the good bacteria in the gut. This group includes other foods such as: dates, brown pears, ginger, mushrooms, cauliflower, potatoes, garlic, brown lentils, lima beans, and white beans.
There are many food choices that, when in season, tend to be more affordable than processed alternatives. Even more importantly, whole unprocessed foods are healthier. And eating a wide variety of foods from different color groups will provide greater health benefits with the synergies between them. According to Dr David Heber, in an interview with the New York Times and included in a May 14, 2002 article by Jane E. Brody, Dr David Heber says that fruits and vegetables have unique effects on the body. He states, ''They have unique properties that provide combinations of substances with unique effects on human biology. Therefore, simply eating five servings a day of fruits and vegetables will not guarantee that you are eating enough of the different substances needed to stimulate the metabolic pathways of genes in the different organs where fruits and vegetables have their beneficial effects.'' Processed foods often have added ingredients such as artificial colors, flavors and preservatives that turn your healthy, single ingredient food, into a food that has little to no nutritional value. So, why not start turning your plate into a food mosaic that looks good, tastes great, and makes you feel good and healthy!
As Donna Gates, author of the Body Ecology Diet puts it, "if you incorporate a rainbow array of colored fruits and vegetables in your diet, then you'll be well on your way to a well-rounded and nutritious diet". If you’re able to cook, the next step is to learn how to be creative in your kitchen. Nothing will go wrong. And so long as you try, you can always improve and before you know it, you may become the ultimate chef in your community! In my kitchen, the foods that color my plate include, lettuce, red cabbage sauerkraut, red pepper, black beans, and shredded coconut, blueberries, raspberries, avocado slices, and walnuts. I eat meat and fish too and I do enjoy working with food. If you feel inspired, feel free to share a picture or two of your own food mosaic! Looking forward to it!
To your health and wellness!
Rose Kadende-Kaiser, Ph.D. Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
"Nutrients in Food Colors" on Dr Sears Website at: www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/family-nutrition/food-colors-nutritious
"The Five Colors You Need to Eat Routinely ... and Why" at: www.bodyecology.com/articles/five_colors_eat_routinely.php
"Personal Health; The Color of Nutrition: Fruits and Vegetables" at: www.nytimes.com/2002/05/14/health/personal-health-the-color-of-nutrition-fruits-and-vegetables.html
The Color Code by Dr David Heber with Susan Bowerman.