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Hate The Color Yellow? You're Probably Stressed, Says A Functional Nutritionist

Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor
By Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor
Jamie Schneider is the Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen, covering beauty and wellness. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Image by Martí Sans / Stocksy
February 12, 2021

Take a look at your wardrobe. When you grab a T-shirt or sweater off the hanger, what color do you choose today? Is it a bright, cherry-red, or vermilion? Or do you choose a calming blue? A slate gray or vampy purple? 

Bear with us: As Deanna Minich, Ph.D., IFMCP, a functional nutritionist who studies plant-based pigments, told us on the mindbodygreen podcast, the colors you're drawn to (and, consequently, the ones you consistently steer clear of), can clue you in on some aspects of your well-being. For example, if you glance over at a sunny yellow separate and think, Yuck, why did I even buy that? there may be a perfectly good reason for your sudden aversion. 

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According to Minich, you're probably stressed. 

The connection between the color yellow and your mood. 

You probably already know that a sunny yellow hue is, generally, associated with happiness and joy. But science backs it up, too: "There was a study in Manchester, England, some years ago in which they asked people what their favorite colors were, and then they assess their mood state," Minich recounts (it's called the Manchester Color Wheel Study, in case you're curious). "And what they found was that yellow, the typical, bright, happy-faced yellow, was actually connected with happiness. People that chose yellow tended to be less depressed or anxious, and they tended to have a healthy mood." 

But here's the thing about a bright, sunny color: Venture too close to the sun, and you'll get scorched. Meaning, if you feel the urge to avoid the color altogether, you might have what Minich calls "excessive yellow"—which she says can manifest as stress and anxiety. "Whenever people shy away from yellow, I'm thinking, 'Ah, it's been too bright.'" You're quite literally burnt out.

On the nutrition side of things, the link between "excessive yellow" and stress makes sense, too: "[Many people are] eating a lot of yellow foods these days," Minich explains—not the whole, nutrient-rich variety (like, say, squash, lemon, and ginger), but highly processed, corn-based foods. These refined yellow foods can ramp up your blood sugar, which, studies have shown, is associated with the stress hormone cortisol.

Of course, this color association is certainly not the be-all and end-all. Maybe a mustard hue just clashes with your undertones, and that's totally fine! But if you have a sudden aversion to yellow or you simply prefer other colors at the moment, Minich says it's worth it to check your stress levels.

Better yet, she notes, try filling your plate with cooling, blue-purple foods (like blueberries, Concord grapes, or purple potatoes). In fact, the blue-purple pigments, called proanthocyanidins, are superb for balancing mood: One study found that a diet full of this type of polyphenol was associated with a 39% lower risk of depression

The takeaway.

There's still much to learn about the science of color and how it affects your health. But according to Minich, there's a research-backed reason yellow is associated with bright, bubbly happiness—and if you shy away from the hue, you might be feeling stressed at the moment. 

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Jamie Schneider
Jamie Schneider
mbg Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor

Jamie Schneider is the Associate Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.