The power of purple: Where it comes from and why you should eat it!
Anthocyanins are highly pigmented phytonutrients that are found only in plants. They’re known to be powerful antioxidants - and lucky for us, it’s pretty easy to tell whether you’re incorporating them in your diet … Simply take note of the brilliant purple, red and blue colors in some of your favorite foods.
We’re talking cherries, strawberries, purple potatoes, pomegranates, eggplant, blueberries, raspberries, plums, black currant, olives, figs, radishes, red cabbage, black beans, black rice, kidney beans, beets, red-fleshed peaches ...
In addition to fighting free radicals, anthocyanin-rich plants may offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer benefits - they have long been revered in herbal medicine for their ability to treat a number of conditions, including high blood pressure, colds and urinary tract infections (think cranberry juice!).
Several studies found a link between the consumption of anthocyanin-rich foods and protection from cardiovascular disease. Notably, eating strawberries and blueberries just once a week decreased the risk of heart attack in women - and those who ate them three or more times a week saw a 34% lower risk than the first group! Anthocyanins are believed to decrease blood pressure, prevent arterial stiffness and fight oxidative stress - all major risk factors for heart disease.
These compounds also appear to improve cholesterol levels and blood sugar metabolism - factors that also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. One study found that incorporating anthocyanin-rich foods into your diet reduced LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) by 13.6% while increasing HDL cholesterol (the good kind!) by 13.7%.
Research points to possible obesity prevention, too. It’s not surprising that a diet high in fruits and veggies encourages a healthy weight - but beyond that, one study found that mice fed an anthocyanin-rich diet didn’t gain as much weight as mice fed the same diet without the anthocyanin.
As a powerful antioxidant, anthocyanin is a great way to keep your noggin young and your memory sharp! One study found that women over the age of 70 staved off brain degeneration by 2.5 years when they incorporated anthocyanin-rich foods into their diets. And for younger women, the same diet was found to enhance learning and boost overall cognitive function.
Cold and flu remedy
Elderberry, a fruit high in anthocyanins, is a tried-and-true remedy for cold and flu symptoms ... There’s a reason it’s sometimes referred to as 'Nature’s Tamiflu'!
There is promising data that - thanks to their significant anti-inflammatory effects - anthocyanins may have anti-cancer properties. Preliminary studies found that consuming berries and other anthocyanin-rich foods helped prevent the development of breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and oral cancer.