You have a very unique and personal relationship with your food – one that’s affected by your childhood, your culture, your environment, your hormones, your emotional experiences, etc. But there are also certain aspects of your food friendship that are basic to all human beings, hard wired into all of our brains and driving our eating instincts in ways that we often aren’t even aware of.
That’s how food researchers explain the interesting connection between color and appetite – several studies have shown that simply seeing particular colors has the power to stimulate hunger, while seeing other colors has the power to shut it off. Color and food appeal have proven to be closely related, as just the sight of food is enough to set off a flurry of signals in your brain and begin the digestion process.
Processed food companies invest thousands of dollars every year in research on how to create food products that will be the most successful in the marketplace. And, hands down, the color that consistently proves to turn people off from eating the most – before they’ve even bothered to taste or smell a food – is the color blue.
I Guess that’s Why They Call It “The Blues”
“The eyes are the first place that must be convinced before a food is even tried,” says Gary Blumenthal from International Food Strategies. “This means that some foods fail in the marketplace not because of bad taste, texture or smell, but because the consumer never got that far. Colors are significant and, almost universally, it is difficult to get consumers to try a blue colored food – though more are being marketed to children these days. Greens, browns, reds and several other colors are more generally acceptable.”
While blue is consistently found to be an appetite suppressant and to calm people down, warmer colors have shown the ability to stimulate the appetite and to increase the speed at which people eat. Red is a powerful color that increases heart rate, blood pressure, feelings of intimacy, passion, energy, sexuality, and also hunger. Yellow is also an appetite-stimulant that increases feelings of energy and happiness. That’s why you’ll often find these colors used in restaurants, kitchens and dining rooms – and perhaps is why McD’s red and golden arches always seem to lure you in.
Color psychology professor Jill Morton explains our strange appetite prejudices with the foraging behaviour of our earliest human ancestors. While green, red, orange, yellow and brown plants often proved to be edible and highly nutritious, blue, purple and black colors often signaled that a food was spoiled or potentially toxic. Without a doubt, there are plenty of natural exceptions to this rule – blue berries, eggplants, plums, purple cabbage and other blue-shaded foods that are delicious and extremely nutritious – but food researchers believe that early humans had to develop a quick and dirty “color warning system” to help them survive in the wild by making it easy to filter out the edible foods from the potentially lethal ones.
Further, color not only seems to persuade us to eat – it also effects the way we taste what we’re eating. University of Washington researchers found that people were able to correctly identify the flavors of various beverages when they could see the color of their drinks, but were less likely to know what they were drinking when the color of the drink was masked. For example, drinkers who saw that they were drinking a purple colored beverage were more likely to correctly identify it as a grape flavored drink. However, when the same drink was poured into a black bottle and the drinkers couldn’t see the liquid’s color, they were more likely to identify the exact same grape beverage as lemon-lime flavored instead. Color causes us to form expectations about how a food should taste and smell, and has a powerful impact on how we experience and enjoy our food.
Use Color Psychology to Help You Lose Weight
Controlling your eating behaviour becomes so much easier when you work with, rather than against, your natural instincts. When trying to boost the appeal of healthy foods and dishes, be sure to adorn your plate with plenty of naturally green, red and yellow plant foods and garnishes to make your food more attractive, enticing and enjoyable.
When eating dessert, or when trying to manage overall appetite control, hunger, cravings and reducing how much you eat, use blue plates, blue place mats and blue table clothes to act as natural appetite suppressants. You can even try inserting a blue light bulb into your fridge or painting the walls of your eating area blue.