The Power of Purple

We’ve all heard about the wonder of beets and blueberries as superfoods, and that maybe red wine is better for you than white, but I was curious what of this is true and what would bestow these foods with such health benefits. In my initial research about anti-inflammatory things, trying to figure out if corn or potatoes or alcohol are ok, and if there are other foods that are good to eat more of or foods that should generally be avoided, I noticed a pattern. Foods that are of dark red/blue/purple coloring kept coming up as being particularly good. Things like blueberries, black currants, beets, blackberries, purple potatoes, blue maize and even red/black/mahogany rice all have in common a phytonutrient family called anthocyanins or anthocyanidins. There are many different specific compounds that make up this family, but they are generally responsible for the vibrant coloring of these foods and also seem to have some pretty healthy properties. Some of the studies are just under the microscope so it can be hard to know the actual impact on health, but it is inferred.

Many of the studies focus on the beneficial effects beets/beetroot juice have on exercise and blood pressure. Some results are mixed, but it does seem that in general, short term intake of beet juice can improve athletic performance as well as improve blood pressure. These effects may be more apparent with fresh beets/beet juice than cooked beets. I think this is at least in part because heat can degrade nutrients. I actually saw this when I made the Valentine Clementine Cake, as the batter was red from the beets, but after it cooked there was only a thin layer of reddish pink on top, so clearly something changed. There are however some nutrients you absorb more readily when foods are cooked (so this goes back to my stance that a mix of cooked and raw foods is important).

Benefits seen in other studies include blueberries protecting brain health, black currants improving night vision, and purple corn and purple sweet potatoes helping to reduce gut inflammation, promote liver health and helping to reduce negative effects of an unhealthy high fat diet. Again, these studies have to be taken with a grain of salt, but overall it is safe to say that these vibrant fruits and veggies are good for you and there is no harm (unless you are allergic) to having them as a regular part of your diet. So when trying to decide how to eat to reduce inflammation and promote health, these vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables should certainly be included.And in the carb realm, purple potatoes and purple/blue corn make the cut as well as black/mahogany rice.

Bottom Line: vibrant or darkly pigmented foods have anthocyanins which are anti-inflammatory. These include blueberries, blackberries, black currants, purple potatoes/sweet potatoes, blue corn, beets, and black/mahogany rice and they are good for you.

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