“So, what can I eat?” It’s one of the biggest questions that I get as a Holistic Nutritionist. Rather than whirling off a list of foods they can eat, I’ve found one effective way to get clients eating more variety and out of their comfort zone is to simply ask if they eat their colors. Real colors. Nothing from a factory. It’s surprising the number of clients that eat a very brown or white diet–or a very artificially colored diet. We need a rainbow of colors in nutrition–the deep oranges of yams and pumpkin, the lovely purples of berries and plums, and the rich reds of peppers and tomatoes and here’s why.
Colors are nature’s guardian for our bodies. A food rich in color (pigment) means it is packed with antioxidants that protect against free-radical damage and disease. Which diseases? All of them. It is true that certain foods do treat specific disharmonies and benefit certain areas of the body, yet without getting into too much minutia (which often drives away joy in eating) adding in a variety of vibrant foods will give your body the opportunity to become stronger. Each season also have colors that naturally dominate the foods available during the season–bringing with them that season’s blessings. Let’s play with some colors.
Green–Almost a perfect DNA match for our blood, chlorophyll is the ‘go to’ color for purifying the blood and treating anemia. The greener the plant the better. In Chinese medicine green corresponds with the season Spring and the GallBladder and Liver, and the Spring is– and is all about clearing out toxins, improving digestion and reducing stagnation. Enjoy dark leafy greens like kale, collards, dandelion and arugula. Micro and macro algae like kelp and kombu are rich in chlorophyll along with your superfoods like barley and wheatgrass. Read more on chlorophyll.
Red–Apples, cherries, berries, cranberries, tomatoes, beets, strawberries and peppers. Red foods are filled with antioxidants like lycopene and anthocyanins that curb free radicals and protect the body from diseases and cancers. The reds all benefit the heart and blood vessels. Cranberries, in particular have been shown to kill cancer cells and H Pylori, and are particularly beneficial to the Bladder. In Chinese medicine red belongs to the Summer season and the fire organs of Heart, Pericardium, Triple Burner and Small Intestines. Think of your relationships and connections to others. More on Apples?
Purple/Blues–Luscious deep purple foods contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin–another strong protector against free radicals and cancers. Flavonoids protect the heart and cardiovascular system. In Chinese medicine terms, the purple color will help break through patterns of stagnation that might appear as a purple hue on the tongue, lips and the nails. The purple foods help fight off depression and aid skin repair too. Find purple in grapes, blackberries, blueberries, black raspberries, beets, boysenberries, purple cabbage, purple basil, plums, figs, lavender--anything with a purple hue will do!
Orange–Orange fruits and vegetables are bursting with beta-carotene, Vitamin A & C which are great for your eyes, heart, skin and reducing risk of cancers. They also boost the immune system strongly. Oranges fall mostly under the rule of the Earth element in Chinese medicine, benefitting the Spleen and Stomach, helping to build a strong foundation. Find orange in carrots, pumpkins, yams, lentils, winter squash and oranges.
Yellow & Gold–The color of sunshine! Yellow fleshed foods are packed with bioflavonoids and carotenoids–more antioxidants. They are also abundant in vitamin C and nutrients essential for digestion, immunity, vision, healing, bones and teeth, skin and heart health. Yellow is the color of the Earth element in Chinese medicine, benefiting the Spleen and Stomach. These foods strengthen the core and body overall. Find yellow in squash, squash blossoms, pineapple, mangoes, gold lentils, yellow peppers, yellow plums, plantains, bananas, golden berries and dandelions
Black–Black foods are richer in isoflavonoids and minerals than most other foods. Belonging to the Water element, black foods benefit the Bladder and the Kidneys and the winter season. They benefit the bones, teeth, knees, back and the libido. Try out black sesame seeds, black fungus, blackberries, black raspberries, dark cherries, plums and black rice, black beans.
White–White foods represent the Metal element, the season of Autumn and the Lungs and Colon. Most are easy to digest and nourish Yin. Turnips, radishes and onions all help purge phlegm and mucus out of the Lungs and digestive tract. Look for foods with a white flesh–like the insides of apples and your whole grain white rices. No–processed and refined breads don’t count.
Enjoy the rainbow on your plate!