the mood of my food

By Brenda Tadych
Woman Newspapers

Have you ever wondered why you crave certain foods when you’re in certain moods? And have you noticed how you crave the same foods when you’re in those moods?  

According to Mary Jo Briggs, an integrative nutrition expert, this craving has to do with the spirituality of food, based not only on how it grows, but on it’s color. After attending one of Briggs’s seminars, I was able to connect the dots between my own moods and food cravings and I wanted to explore the color connection further.

Actually, color therapy dates back thousands of years and there is a modern alternative medicine called chromotherapy that uses colored lights for treatments of a myriad of conditions, including sleep and mood disorders. With the popularity of adult coloring books, I’d say there’s definitely a color awakening happening. And why wouldn’t it apply to food?

In her book, “Spirituality of Food,” Briggs explains the process of how food breaks down in the digestive tract and enters the blood stream, creating behavior changes in neurotransmitters, impacting our mood. Clearly, the old saying that, “we are what we eat” still has merit today; we have the power to change our mood by changing our food.

Here’s the rundown of colors and their significance:
Red represents energy, physical strength and determination.
Orange is stimulating and is associated with creativity.
Yellow as mentioned is about joy and happiness.
Green shows growth and harmony, fresh like a stand at a farmers market.
Blue is the color of tranquility and stability, a calm color.
White is good for inner strength, emotional strength.

So, how does color figure in our diets? Take, for instance, my own tendencies when I get a case of winter blues. On a dark, cold, depressing day, I want macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes and corn. Notice all of those foods are yellow? Yellow is a natural mood enhancer, the color of sunshine, so it makes perfect sense that I’m drawn to yellow foods to improve my depressed mood.

In addition to its color significance, the way a food grows also determines how it affects us. For example, root veggies like beets and potatoes that grow close to the ground are good for grounding and they boost energy levels. No wonder I whip me up some taters in the dead of winter when I’m huddled under a blanket and craving outdoor warmth.

Here’s another example that I’m sure many can relate to: After a long, stressful day at work, who feels like cooking? I’m more likely to grab a salad or nibble on some crunchy celery. Greens grow up and out toward the sun, and foods of a green color rejuvenate the body. And by the way, the darker the veggie, the more vitamins and minerals, so propping up my feet accompanied by munching on a leafy green salad is doing my stressed-out body a big favor. All the enzymes, chlorophyll and oxygen in greens promote optimal nutrient delivery and help melt the stress away.  

Need something to snap you out of a lazy spell?  Munch on some cherry tomatoes or berries. Red foods are good for increasing energy. Strawberries, raspberries, beets - they’ll help kick that slothful mood aside.  

For the ‘Lord, give me strength’ days when you’re at your wit’s end, white foods do the trick. Add some mushrooms, onions, garlic or ginger to your food, drink a coconut beverage, and watch your inner strength soar.

Those are examples of food mood do’s. According to Briggs, here are some don’ts: If you’re feeling nervous or anxious, you don’t want more stimulation, so steer clear of oranges and cantaloupes.

If you’re down in the dumps or downright depressed, avoid concord grapes and blueberries. Go for a brighter color to offset that somber mood. Grill some yellow squash or eat a banana.  

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates’ claim from thousands of years ago still rings true. I’ve learned quite a bit about putting the right kind of food in my body. I need not accept a bad mood as unchangeable, and I have the knowledge to alter a simple thing like the color of my food to get my mood back on course to a better day.