Do you have a rainbow of colors on your plate each day? We all know the benefits of eating
your greens. Yes, your mother was correct. You really should eat your greens for optimal health.
What about your purples? What do you get from the reds, blues and purples that you aren’t getting with the greens?
Anthocyanins and Flavonoids
Anthocyanins are the chemical pigment compounds responsible for the bright red, blue and purple hues in fruits and vegetables. The parent molecules for anthocyanins are flavonoids. Flavonoids are most commonly thought of as antioxidants. There is a whole movement of interest in flavonoids being used for medicinal purposes in the prevention of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
A finding reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found that very small chemical changes to dietary flavonoids cause very large beneficial effects in tests on the human immune system.
Anthocyanins are pH sensitive, they change colors from the red, blue and purple spectrum depending on the pH of the plant. Appearing pink in acidic environments where pH is less than 7 and purplish in neutral environments (pH of ~7). In an alkaline environment, the color of the pigment is completely reduced, therefore colorless.
Health Benefits of Purple Food
There are many naturally occurring purple colored fruits and vegetables you might include in your diet to help aid your health. Anti-oxidant activity, prevention of cancer, lowering heart disease risk factors, improvement of eyesight, and reducing risk of Parkinson’s disease as well as lowering blood pressure are a few of the benefits of eating deep purple foods. The deeper the color of purple, the higher the concentration of helpful anthocyanins, so look for the deepest hue for the best benefit for your health!
A list of purple whole foods found in your local grocery store include:
Purple sweet potatoes (Stokes Purple® is a Non-GMO sweet potato, grown in North Carolina)
Purple kohlrabi (skin)—eat fresh, shredded in salads
Purple asparagus, originating from plants in Italy and hybridized in New Jersey at Rutgers University. Not a GMO.
Purple carrots. Naturally Purple, no GMOs
Purple kale. Naturally purple.
Purple peppers. Heirloom varieties. Non GMO
Purple potatoes. Naturally Purple, no GMOs
Purple cauliflower. Heirlooms. Non GMO
Purple corn—native to Peru. An heirloom variety
Purple tomatoes. You need to be a detective here. Indigo Rose purple tomatoes were bred without using genetic engineering. Other varieties of purple tomatoes use snapdragon flower genes to create the power of purple in the tomatoes. If you are looking to avoid GMOs, ask the farmer/supermarket attendant for the name of the purple tomato or make sure that it is a GMO-free species.
Making sure that your plate contains plenty of rainbow colors is a great way to ensure that you are getting plenty of healthy plant-based nutrients called anthocyanins. Experiment with some of the purple varieties listed above to increase the rainbow on your plate. Most of the purple vegetables can be cooked exactly as you would treat the green or white varieties. Bon appétit!