We’ve all heard our parents tell us to eat our vegetables. The phrase “after you eat your vegetables” probably played on loop inside your head as a child. But we weren’t forced to pretend our broccoli was little trees just for fun– our parents had good reasoning behind that sly trick.
We know that plants provide us with vitamins, minerals, and fiber that help our bodies function at an optimal state. But what a lot of us don’t know is that plants also provide our bodies with powerful plant chemicals called phytonutrients. Phytonutrients determine the color of a fruit or vegetable.
Phytonutrients weren’t discovered until the mid-1990s. Up until then, we ranked fruit based on their vitamins, minerals, and glycemic index. Which is totally a bummer because plants have a lot more going on for them than that.
Though only 8,000 phytonutrients have been identified, scientists predict that there are more than 20,000 in existence. The cool part about phytonutrients is that they switch on genes that work to decrease cellular inflammation and increase our bodies’ ability to eliminate toxins (1).
Phytonutrients Magical Colorful Powers
- Switch on genes that decrease cellular inflammation and increase the body’s ability to eliminate toxins
- Align our physical and energetic bodies
- Slow aging process
- Trigger the release of gut incretins–gut hormones that:
- Improve insulin signaling to decrease fat storage
- Promote secretion of leptin (satiety hormone produced by fat cells)
A plant’s color gives us insight into its phytonutrient content and function. In general, the more intense the color, the higher phytonutrient content. Certain colors provide different phytonutrients that target our bodies in different ways. By knowing a color’s specific phytonutrients we can then determine what plants are best for targeting.
Besides color helping us determine phytonutrient content and function, color also has an impact on our physical (visible) and energetic (invisible) body. You might remember from high school that each color in the visible light spectrum is associated with different wavelengths and frequencies. This means that phytonutrients affect our biochemistry and their color frequency affects our energetic body allowing us to strategize and use certain colored plants to support our physical and emotional needs (1). The more colors we eat, the more aligned our physical and energetic bodies will be!
So let’s dive into specific colors and their phytonutrient content and functions:
You’re going on your annual girls trip to the beach and are totally psyched to get sunkissed and clock in some much-needed girl time. Last year, your skin turned a shade similar to Elmo’s and you want to avoid repeating that painful and unsightly experience at all costs. The problem is you’ve been reading up on all the terrible toxins inside conventional sunscreens.
Luckily, you’ve finally found a “good for you” sunscreen but are looking for a little extra protection. To make the most out of your girls trip (itinerary: spend hours on the beach in deep conversation) here’s how eating red plants can help:
For starters, the color red is associated with the root chakra which represents stability and protection. If your red chakra is out of balance you might feel isolated and uncertain. For a deeper connection to your environment and friends, consumption of intense red plants will help balance your energetic body!
For your physical body, red plants phytonutrients like lycopene and ellagic acid work to protect your skin from sun damage and your bones from oxidative stress.
A study that removed lycopene from postmenopausal women’s diets for four weeks showed a significant change in bone density concluding that a diet without lycopene-rich foods can place women at an increase for osteoporosis (1).
Maybe you and your girlfriends are known to get a little wild on your annual vacation: you dance a ton, swim a bunch, and maybe show off a couple of cartwheels. To keep your bones strong, toss up a juicy tomato salad and munch on red apples.
Another study found that women who ate a tablespoon of tomato paste every day for 12 weeks before being exposed to UV light had lower levels of sun damage than those who didn’t consume tomato paste (1).
To protect your skin against UV light damage, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and oxidative stress that causes aging – blend up a raspberry smoothie, drink watermelon juice, and pack poolside strawberries.
- Red Bell peppers
Recently, you’ve found yourself a little jealous of the other moms at your kid’s soccer practice and a lot more judgmental of yourself. You feel like your self-esteem is at an all-time low so you’ve begun to restrict yourself from pleasure or overindulge in it. Knock it off! Instead, boost your self-confidence and get clarity. Orange plants can support you along the way.
The color orange is associated with the second chakra which symbolizes the center of beauty and clarity. If you’re not consuming enough orange-pigmented plants, you may feel jealous, critical, and judgmental. Increasing your intake of orange colored plants will boost your mental clarity and enhance self-esteem. Whether you’re going to your kid’s soccer practice or on a first date– boost your self-confidence with a mango smoothie(1).
Orange plants won’t only make you feel more beautiful, they’ll also make you look more beautiful. Orange-pigmented plants contain phytonutrients called carotenoids (beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, zeaxanthin, lutein) that work in favor of a glowing physical body. They increase cell turnover for a clear complexion, boost the immune system, and decrease bacteria and viruses that enter the body by improving mucosal lining in the nose, throat, and GI tract (1).
Our bodies convert beta-carotene to vitamin A which helps keep our mucous membranes and eyes at optimal function. Studies show that lutein (which is stored in the eye) can prevent cataracts and other age-related macular degeneration which sometimes leads to blindness (2). Basically, orange colored plants will help you feel better, faster. Here’s what to shop for:
- Orange bell peppers
You have a huge business presentation next week and your perfectionist tendencies are showing. As the leader of your team, it’s hard to not be controlling and stubborn. And on top of all the stress at home, you feel your resilience dwindling and your mind fogging. To help deal with emotional stressors, fill up on yellow plants.
Yellow foods correspond with the third chakra which represents personal identity. To help keep this chakra in balance and to avoid becoming overly controlling and stubborn, snack on yellow bell peppers and yummy yellow tomatoes. If you eat grapefruit before a big work presentation, you’ll foster self-trust, mental clarity, and resilience.
Phytonutrients found in yellow pigmented plants like zeaxanthin and lutein slow oxidative stress in the body meaning that they will also slow down the aging process and free up cortisol (stress hormone) so that it can be used for other emotional stressors.
Yellow foods will reduce stress, increase mental clarity, enhance eyesight, and boost the immune system. If you’re looking for any of the above benefits, shop for these foods:
- Yellow tomatoes
- Yellow bell peppers
- Sweet corn
- Golden beets
- Cage-free Organic eggs
It’s been super hard for you to open up lately. You may feel like your natural woman tendencies (love, compassion, kindness) are lacking a little. Even worse, you’re feeling controlling and manipulative. What you’re looking for are peace and intimacy. Greens can help this.
Green pigmented plants support the heart chakra. When your heart chakra is out of balance you may feel manipulative and uncomfortable in your closest relationships. Up-ing your green plant intake can help you open up and make you more understanding, kinder, forgiving and resilient!
Phytonutrients found in green plants like glucosinolates, carotenoids, indoles, and saponins. These phytonutrients all have anticancer properties (2). For example, glucosinolates can help balance estrogen and regulate insulin levels. Women with excess estrogen can benefit from eating cruciferous vegetables like swiss chard and kale. Green plants are also important to defend against estrogen-sensitive cancers.
To find compassion while reeling in powerful nutrients shop for these green pigmented foods:
- Brussel sprouts
- Bok choy
- Green apples
You’re a mom. You’re constantly doing things and you’re burnt out- mentally and physically. You’re scattered and spacey and you’re feeling like the worst mom in the whole world. Let me just say first, you are not. You’re a great mom. It’s par for the course to go through times like this. Purple plants can help us overcome these problems.
Purple plants are associated with the sixth and seventh chakras. These chakra centers are for creativity and intuition (a mom’s greatest superpower). When these chakras are out of balance, intuition can be misinterpreted. Which is not good.
These chakras also govern feelings of connectedness. To ground yourself and ditch the spaciness and harness your intuition, eat purple plants.
Purple plants contain phytonutrients quercetin, resveratrol, ellagic acid, and anthocyanins. Anthocyanin has antioxidant properties that protect cell damage and reduce the risk of stroke, cancer, and heart disease (2). These phytonutrients are also best for improving cognitive function. They help support memory and mental agility. A bonus is that they also regulate chronic inflammation in the brain. If you want greater brain power (who doesn’t?) then integrate purple foods into your daily diet.
- Purple cabbage
- Purple carrots
- Black gifs
You’re psyched to go to the mountains but you feel a cold coming on. The last thing you want to be doing on your way up the mountain pre-ski, is to be sniffling! White plants can help fight off bugs and boost your immune system.
The eighth chakra is located above the head, it’s your aura! It is also the body’s first line of defense against illness. To keep your aura happy, so that it reflects a healthy well-being, keep balance with white foods.
White foods contain phytochemicals like glucosinolates and allicin that are antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Glucosinolates can alter inflammatory genes to keep you healthy. You can also regulate estrogen and insulin with white foods- so don’t forget about this color!
Are you already halfway out the door on the way to the grocery store? Don’t forget to bring the shopping lists with you! Let me know which color’s powers you are most excited to harness in the comments below!
- James, Dana, and Mark Hyman. The Archetype Diet: Reclaim Your Self-Worth and Change the Shape of Your Body. Penguin Publishing Group, 2018.