Eat the rainbow
Different foods offer different nutrients for our physical wellbeing, but they also affect our mood and our energetic system in distinct ways. Here, we learn how each colour of the rainbow can influence how we feel.
We all know it’s important to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, but the connection between food and health is far more profound than basic nutrition. The well-known health mantra ‘eat a rainbow everyday’ is an easy way of ensuring you consume a broad spectrum of nutrients and antioxidants – one of the keys to that healthy glow associated with a wholefood, plant-based diet.
However, the food we eat has a deeper impact than simply nourishing our cells or ensuring clear skin. Our diet can also influence our emotional health – and not just in the way a chocolate binge can bring a temporary stress reprieve. The colour and type of food we ingest can either uplift or depress us, much like our social diet of people, media, and music.
Whether it’s a colourful salad to accompany a joyous feast, a green juice after a big weekend, or a purple smoothie bowl for a hearty start to the day, the colour of the food we eat reaches beyond our physical health.
Microbial mood makers
Our gut microbes are responsible for producing a large proportion of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin (the happiness hormone), dopamine (the pleasure hormone), and GABA (which controls fear and anxiety). So, it makes sense that what we put into our bellies affects the production of these mood-balancing chemicals.
Psychology experts and researchers now refer to the gut as a ‘second brain’, such is its importance in mood regulation. Several studies support this, showing that a fibre-rich variety of plant foods may help to reduce depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders.
As well as producing important neurotransmitters, our gut needs a careful balance of nutrients to ensure we can respond effectively to stress and danger. For example, complex carbohydrates fuel the body’s cells, breaking down into glucose for optimal brain function. The B complex vitamins support our nervous system and energy levels, zinc balances our mood, and Vitamin C helps with the adrenal glands – our body’s primary response to stress.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in these nutrients, while heavily processed foods and sugary treats tend to deplete us of these things. It’s one of the reasons those chocolate binges feel so good at the time, and so bad afterwards. The sugar might give you instant relief and energy, but the comedown means you’ve reduced your supply of stress-relieving nutrients. It also explains why people who consistently eat a wide variety of plant-based foods tend to have fewer cravings and more stable moods.
Some of us already know that too much sugar one day will be followed by a depressive episode the following day, while others have no idea that their need for hot salty chips can be related to acute stress. Many of us eat our emotions, using food as a means of comfort. But what you eat directly affects the health of your gut, which in turn affects your physical and emotional health. We really are what we eat, right down to how we respond to stress, joy, anger and boredom.
Colour me happy
The colours of fruits and vegetables can also affect your mood in different ways. On a physical level, nutrients that are unique to each colour food group work on different areas of the body so that you can experience optimal health.
- Red foods help to fight cancer, support healthy cardiac function, and reduce the risk of stroke.
- Yellow and orange foods help with immune function, cell growth, and healthy vision.
- Green foods boost the nervous system, improve the immune system, and support natural detoxification.
- Blue or purple foods are rich in antioxidants that help reduce inflammation.
- White and brown foods are excellent for digestion, and can also help to inhibit certain cancers.
Some experts believe that there is even more to food colour than the nutrients on offer. Dr Deanna Minich is an internationally known scientist and nutritionist who explains that the colour of fruits and vegetables can also impact our energetic system. By combining traditional knowledge of the chakra system with modern nutritional science, Deanna describes a system of health that supports our spiritual needs alongside the physical.
The food rainbow just happens to align with the colours of the chakra system, and the density of certain foods complements the levels of the chakras.
For instance, the red root chakra is associated with a grounding energy, and is connected with blood, muscle, immunity, and DNA. Energetically, the root chakra relates to safety, survival, and a sense our foundations in life. Foods that support this include root vegetables such as the richly red beetroot as well as ginger, sweet potato, and radish.
Green with envy, can’t have what your heart desires, or even broken hearted? Maybe you don’t eat enough spinach (or similar) and are putting your heart at greater risk of disease. Green vegetables and sprouts are excellent for protecting the heart both physically and emotionally. The colour green is traditionally related to nature and growth. It’s often used in hospitals to induce a feeling of calm, so it’s no surprise that ingesting green foods can help to reduce blood pressure, protect the nervous system, and boost brain function.
The energetics of eating
Naturopath Robyn Chuter observes, “highly sensitive temperaments may be more susceptible to gut problems, autoimmune diseases, and chronic pain syndromes”. Her theory is in line with many energetic medicine practitioners; that suppressed feelings will manifest physically.
This idea was best popularised by self-help pioneer Louise Hay, who detailed the emotional causes behind physical illness. She believed that by altering thought patterns and beliefs, it is possible to heal disease at its base level. The concept of energetic eating complements this, which is why Chuter prescribes wholefood, plant-based diets for her clients, alongside other techniques to assist with emotional challenges.
When you eat a wholefood, unprocessed diet that’s rich in colour, you are nourishing your physical and spiritual wellbeing. You can balance your mood and energy levels with plant nutrition that’s in alignment with your body. It’s all connected, and your emotional health can benefit just as much as your physical body. It’s even more of a reason to eat the rainbow.
With so many delicious, colourful options available, how could you possibly deprive yourself of such joyous food?