Anthocyanins are the phytonutrients that give fruits and vegetables their deep red blue and purple colors. They are extremely powerful antioxidants. There is evidence to suggest that blue colored fruits and vegetables “possess anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic activity, cardiovascular disease prevention, obesity control, and diabetes alleviation properties, all of which are more or less associated with their potent antioxidant property”.<1> I’ve been aware of the blue pigment in foods since the blue corn craze of the 1990’s. I still love the Garden of Eatin’ Red Hot Blues corn chips. Lately I have been trying to limit those carbs from the corn and get my “blues” from other anthocyanin foods such as dark colored fruits and vegetables. The benefits of eating fruits and vegetables are well known. They provide vitamins and minerals necessary for proper cell function, fiber for intestinal and gut bacteria health, and contain many other phytonutrients that are contribute to overall health and well being. You won’t find many phytonutrients in the processed foods most developed countries consume. But they’re abundant in fruits and vegetables. And anthocyanins are among some of the most promising phytonutrients. Here’s a table from Wikipedia that lists the anthocyanin content of high value fruits and vegetables.
|Food source||Anthocyanin content|
in mg per 100 g
|Queen Garnet plum||277|
|Purple corn (Z. mays L.)||1,642|
|Purple corn leaves||10x more than in kernels|
As you can see from the table, grapes contain high levels of anthocyanin. Because of this, the anthocyanins in wine made from such grapes can help contribute to the overall health effects of enjoying that glass of wine with dinner.
Purple fruits are great, but as I had stated earlier, I’m trying to lower my carb intake, and fruits are pretty much straight fructose with a little fiber. So its a trade off for me between the health positives of the phytonutrients vs the drawbacks of consuming those extra carbs. Nowadays I don’t really worry too much about eating fruit since my overall daily intake of carbohydrates is much lower than before. But there is a quick workaround in the form of new blue and purple vegetables. These vegetables obviously contain far lower levels of sugar. Universities and growers have been introducing heirloom and hybrid vegetables high in anthocyanin for several years now. Some of these like the blue potato, you might find in your local health food store. But if you like to grow your own vegetables or have a grower’s market near you, you can enjoy purple corn, carrots, radishes, tomatoes and cauliflower, beans, asparagus, and many more unique blue colored vegetables. I just pulled a few of my purple carrots for this post:
These are the Purple Haze carrots that I purchased through Territorial Seeds. I also have some seeds for their Purple of Sicily cauliflower and Bora King radish. In addition to the carrots, I also grew purple beans this year. Gardening is great hobby/pastime that pays in beautiful, organic food that will help you achieve and maintain good health and well being.