Color Me Healthy

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When was the last time you gave some thought to color? Maybe it was when you were trying to choose paint for, say, your living room. Or maybe you were trying to decide if that pink blouse goes with that orange skirt. Most of us are drawn to certain colors. Some people prefer bright, sunny colors, like yellow, while others find calm and comfort in forest greens or browns. There’s more to color than just decorating or assembling an outfit, however. The choice of color can affect your health and your mood.

Color and mood
Linking certain colors to aspects of health and healing is nothing new. The ancient Egyptians practiced “chromotherapy,” or the use of colors to help heal, and some alternative medicine practitioners still use this technique today. For example, the color red was thought to stimulate the mind and increase circulation. Orange was used to heal the lungs and provide energy. And blue was used to soothe, calm, and treat pain.

While there isn’t a lot of research to support these beliefs, it IS known that color can affect your mood and your mindset. Here are some examples:

Red. Associated with love, warmth and, excitement (think of a fire engine rushing down the street). It’s also linked with feelings of anger.

Blue. Associated with calmness, peace, and serenity. Blue is also linked with sadness. People are supposedly more productive when working in a room that’s painted blue.

Yellow. Associated with warmth and cheeriness (like the sun). But yellow can also evoke feelings of frustration and anger, and it can be tiring on the eyes.

Pink. Associated with love and romance. Pink can initially create a sense of calm but may eventually lead to agitation.

Black. Long associated with death and mourning. Black is also a symbol of power and, sometimes, evil.

White. Associated with cleanliness and innocence. White can also be perceived as being cold and sterile.

Green. Associated with nature, health, and luck. Green is thought of as being a “healing” color. But green is also a symbol of jealousy.

Do you notice how colors have both positive and negative qualities? There’s a whole psychology behind color. You don’t need a PhD in psychology, however, to learn how to use color to your advantage. And while you might not be able to control the color scheme at your office or at school, you can choose colors at home to help calm, energize, or destress, for example. Even if you don’t end up repainting your room, you may be able to change your mood by putting on a yellow sweater or gazing at an object, such as a painting. Why bother, you ask? Constant stress, worry, and anxiety can have a big impact on your health which, in turn, can affect your blood sugar levels, your blood pressure, your weight, how well you sleep, and your heart health.

Color and food
I was recently in my local supermarket and saw a new line of cake mixes that are Day-Glo. Can you imagine eating a bright blue cupcake topped with neon-green frosting? Food doesn’t naturally come in colors like this. While I see the appeal for kids (and what kid doesn’t like cupcakes?), it’s hard to imagine swallowing something that practically glows in the dark.

Color can affect your food choices and how you eat in several ways:

• Restaurants like to use red and orange in their decor to help stimulate your appetite. Result? You eat more.

• The same holds true of food that’s red or yellow in color — it helps trigger your appetite and you may eat more of it compared to food of another color. (Ever wonder why McDonald’s French fries come in a red-and-yellow container?)

• Blue has a tendency to suppress your appetite. Apparently, it’s a good idea to put a blue light in your fridge to help stop those late night snack attacks.

• We’re more likely to keep eating or picking at white foods (think bread, saltines, popcorn), maybe because they don’t stand out, so we think their calories don’t count so much.

• Brian Wansink, a researcher at Cornell, found that people eat more when food is the same color as (or a low contrast to) the plate — for example, serving pasta with butter and cheese on a white plate. Aim for more contrast between your food and your dinnerware and you’ll have better control of your portions.

• We’re less likely to eat food that’s not “naturally” colored — for example, bagels that are dyed green on St. Patrick’s Day.

Do you need to change the color of your rooms, your dinner plates, or even the food that you eat? Not necessarily. But at the very least, be aware of how color makes you feel and how it might play a role in what or how much you eat. And if you notice that you really do eat more when you eat in your red dining room, consider changing it to a Wedgewood blue!

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