Color Dietetics – With a Poster to Hang on the Wall

by John Voigt

Diets rich in a variety of colors and different fruits and vegetables are good for your heart and brain healthand may decrease stroke risk. American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

Eat a variety of types and colors of vegetables and fruits to give your body the mix of nutrients it needs. Try dark leafy greens; brightly colored red, yellow and orange vegetables and fruits; and cooked tomatoes. A diet rich in produce can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar which can help keep appetite in check. Harvard School of Public Health.  

Introduction

For thousands of years, Chinese thinkers have known that within nature there is a complete code for health, harmony, and wellbeing. There have been many explanations and commentaries about each individual being made up of five ever-changing interacting universal vortexes of energy (qi), physicalness (e.g., bodily organs), and conscious sensation (the mind and emotions). Each of these five energies has a separate color.

Cut Out and print this chart and put it on a wall in your kitchen. The link to the printable PDF is below. :)

The Color of Foods Poster : Chinese Medicine Living

The Color of Foods Poster : Chinese Medicine Living

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The Color of Foods

Goal: Eat Daily From Each of These Groups. Aim for a Total of Five to Ten Servings

GREEN

Cruciferous – Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, turnip greens, watercress. (Go for one to two daily servings from this very important group.)

 Leafy Greens  – Spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, chicory, Swiss chard; also artichokes, asparagus.

RED

Apples (w skin), beets, cherries, cranberries, Chinese wolfberry (Gǒuqǐ),  guava,  pink grapefruit, pomegranates, radishes, raspberries, red grapes, strawberries, tomatoes (especially cooked, tomato juice, pasta sauce, tomato soup, tomato paste), and watermelon.

YELLOW-ORANGE

Apricots, avocados, butternut squash, cantaloupe, carrots, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, curcumin [in turmeric].

WHITE

Garlic (raw and freshly cut, mashed, or chewed. Onions, leeks.

BLUE-PURPLE

Blueberries, blackberries, eggplant, plums or prunes.

Other important produce: almonds, bananas, beans, cacao, flax, ginger, green or black tea, mushrooms, olive oil, soy (tofu, soy milk, edamame, etc.), sunflower seeds, walnuts, whole grains. Possibly (and in moderation) coffee, red wine.

Eat the rainbow : Chinese Medicine Livingthis delicious image from organicandhappy.tumblr.com

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Western Medical Science on a Color Produce Diet

Green Cruciferous. May induce detoxification of carcinogens, block tumor growth and work as antioxidants. American Institute for Cancer Research.

Leafy Greens. Some laboratory research has found that the carotenoids in dark green leafy vegetables can inhibit the growth of certain types of breast cancer cells, skin cancer cells, lung cancer and stomach cancer. Rio Grande Cancer Foundation.

People who ate one to two servings of green leafy vegetables a day were cognitively 11 years younger than those who ate fewer greens. Blueberries may have the best cognitive perks. AARP.

Red – Fruits, Vegetables, [also beans].

Diets rich in these nutrients are being studied for their ability to fight heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s Disease as well as skin, breast and prostate cancers. fns.usda.gov.

Red – Tomatoes.

Epidemiological studies have associated tomato consumption with a decreased risk of prostate cancer. Annual Review Food Science Technology.  

Tomatoes may be considered a valuable component of a cardioprotective diet. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.

Yellow – Orange

[Some possible benefits:] Research shows that these nutrients reduce the risk for cancer and heart attacks, boost immunity, help maintain good vision and strong bones/teeth/skin. fns.usda.gov. 

White. Garlic and other foods in the onion family may be included in the variety of vegetables that are recommended for lowering cancer risk. American Cancer Society.

Blue/Purple.

help your body defend against cancer, reduce the risk of age-related memory loss, help control high blood pressure and reduce the risk of diabetes complications and heart attacks. fns.usda.gov.

Rainbow Bowl : Chinese Medicine Livingthis delicious image from sheknows.com

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Additional Notes

Serving sizes are approximately one cup for leafy greens, berries, melon chunks, 100% juice or fresh juice. Approximately half a cup for other fruits and vegetables. American Heart Association recommends nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day, about 4.5 cups.

One clove of garlic is often suggested as a serving size, but pragmatically with it (and onions) odor must be considered.

Frozen produce is often better than fresh.

Vegetables are best eaten lightly cooked (steamed, or lightly stir-fried or sautéed in vegetable oil).

As a suggestion from the author, shop with all your senses. Learn to sense the qi (the vital life energy) in your foods. Look at the qi of the colors: is it natural (no dyes), full, rich, vibrant? Is the Smell fresh, clean, invigorating? (people often do this with cantaloupes). Touch (maybe even squeeze those tomatoes). Shake it, tap it and Listen.  If possible Taste—perhaps you will even feel a tingle of the healing qi on the tip of your tongue.

What about your sixth sense? Become like an East Asian shaman and use your imagination and intuition. Have fun with this: Pick up that plant and playfully psych out if it will be good or not for you. As in, feel its vibe. Doubters and skeptics are invited to experiment and see what happens. The more you do these things the easier it gets, and for some it really does work.

More practically, as my daughters so lovingly taught me, make Smoothies, but go for more vegetables and fruits (in different colors of course) and less, if any, dairy and sweeteners. Smoothies are such a convenient way to “Eat Five A Day.”

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Why and How the Five Colors Work

In thousands of studies, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables promotes health. Western nutritionists say such produce contains important vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients (aka phytochemicals).  Phyto means “plant” and especially interesting they often give produce its color. But what is difficult for western scientific investigators is there may be as many as 25,000 phytochemicals and they are in (analogous to TCM) constant holistic interactions. When pharmaceutical companies isolate one chemical out of food and process it into pills, the pills seldom work as efficiently as does the whole food itself.  [EN wiki]

Chinese cultural thought offers different theoretical explanations why choosing and eating fruits and vegetables by their colors enables wellbeing. What follows is an all too abbreviated explanation of how everything works in the universe.

From the Daodejing chapter 42 (excerpt) – Genesis

(Before the beginning was) Dao from which is born One (an unmanifested primordial energy called Qi).  This One gives birth to Two (the static polarities of Yin and Yang). Then Three—a dynamic Qi appears opening Yin and Yang into a harmony of infinite interactions.

And from Three, creation [in time and space] unfolds and all things are born… By blending the qi they achieve harmony. http://qi-encyclopedia.com/index.asp?article=Qi-in-the-Daodejing

Yin is negative passive energy; yang is positive active energy. Their continuous interactions produce cycling patterns of five; this is the basis of all existence in nature, man and the universe. These Five Element Energies in constant unfolding changes are called Wuxing. Wuxing is understood as Wood-Fire-Earth-Metal-Water, and in the body as the Five Organs: Liver-Heart-Spleen-Lung-Kidney. For our purposes Wuxing defines the colors of fruits and vegetables. [Endnote wuxing]

The reader with even a small amount of knowledge of TCM will notice familiar key terms. In TCM illness appears when qi and/or yin-yang are out of harmony and improperly effect the Five Element Organs.

There is more, but it is not often discussed in TCM.  Certain Confucian scholars suggested that deep within the confines of the Dao there was something even more deeply and profoundly hidden. They called it Li which is now defined as “form or pattern” but originally meant “markings in jade, grain in wood, fiber in muscle.”  In Chinese philosophy, in its merging of science, poetry, metaphysics and practicality, Li is considered to be the matrix of the proper order of all things in man and nature. Another very early meaning of Li was “cutting things according to their natural grain or divisions.”  When one lives in accordance with the Li—the natural laws of nature—one gains wellbeing. For example, in practicing a dietetics based on the colors of the wuxing one could gain health. The person is “cutting things according to their natural grain or divisions.”  If they eat too large quantities of processed meat and sweets and become obese they are not, they are working against the Li. [more about Li at https://liology.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/nature%E2%80%99s-organizing-principles-the-li/

Eat the rainbow : Chinese Medicine Livingthis yummy image from exploregram.com

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Endnotes

[EN wiki ]According to the American Cancer Society, “Available scientific evidence does not support claims that taking phytochemical supplements is as good for long-term health as consuming the fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains from which they are taken.” “Phytochemical.” Wikipedia.

[EN-wuxing]

Wuxing (wǔ xíng – 五行, literally “five movements”). Pronounced “woo” [low tone] “shin” [rising tone].

Xing originally meant the place where roads intersect; therefore a strong implication of motion, along with subtle implications of someone walking the path (of the Dao). It is often too simplistically defined as the “Five Elements.” A better definition is the Five Universal Movements of Change.  More at Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

And  New World Encyclopedia.  

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Disclaimer: This article is offered for educational purposes. It is not meant to take the place of professional medical services. If you are or may be sick see a doctor. However, fruits and vegetables consumed in the normal amounts of a healthy diet by healthy people should prove to be helpful and unlikely to cause any serious problems.

However, if you are taking any medications talk to a health care provider about any potential risks. Certain medications may harmfully interact with certain foods: for example ACE inhibitors with bananas; or grapefruit and pomegranate juices with certain cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Eat the Rainbow : Chinese Medicine Livingthis lovely image by atastylovestory.com

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For more information about the health benefits of color dietetics from western perspectives click the link below

Color Dietetics Additional Info

To learn more about author and contributor  John Voigt, read his bio.