Purple foods are great allies of health, especially for their anthocyanins. Discover why they cannot be missing from your diet, and go ahead and decorate your dishes with their color to obtain all its benefits.
Did you know that purple foods are purple because they contain a water-soluble pigment called anthocyanin? This flavonoid, in addition to an intense and very striking purple color, gives them healthy properties. Among its many benefits for the body, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumption (NCAGR) highlights the prevention of problems in the cardiovascular system and the digestive system, a protective effect against some types of cancer, an improvement in memory and the functioning of the urinary system, and an aid to slow down the aging process.
A study carried out by members of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom found that taking three or more servings of fruits rich in anthocyanins reduced the risk of myocardial infarction in women by 32%. And anthocyanins also seem to be a good ally against erectile dysfunction because, according to a study by Harvard University, consuming foods rich in this flavonoid, such as purple, reduces the risk of having erection problems by 10%, which that added to the customary practice of exercise could reduce this risk up to 21%.
How to avoid the loss of anthocyanins
Julio Velasco, dietitian and author of the blog Do you know what you eat? Has explained to us that purple foods have a drawback that must be known to enjoy most of their properties. Most of the vitamins they contain, except vitamin K, are thermolabile. That is, they disappear when exposed to high temperatures.
It is recommended not to exceed the cooking time, to steam or grill them, and to add a pinch of bicarbonate or a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar just before the water begins to boil because this will maintain its color and its amount of intact vitamin C. Another good option is to drink or mash the purple vegetables in the cooking broth, where most of the anthocyanins stay.
Six purple foods to include in a healthy diet
The açai is a deep purple berry that has become popular for being an excellent antioxidant, a property directly related to the number of flavonoids containing anthocyanins, representing 44 grams of 100 grams of fruit. It also has a high ORAC value – oxygen-free radical absorption capacity. This natural pigment is sensitive to degradation, so it is essential that once the smoothie is made, or any preparation with this fruit, it is consumed without letting a long time pass. As our mothers would say: the anthocyanins are gone!
Plums are only in season between June and August. They present various shades of colors and, the more intense and darker their purple, the more antioxidant properties they contain. The peculiarity of this fruit is that most of its anthocyanins are found in the skin –20 times more than in the pulp–, so it should be avoided to peel it.
These small, round fruits are rich in vitamin C and vitamin K and contain significant amounts of fiber, manganese, and of course, anthocyanins. These components make blueberries an excellent option to keep memory active since, according to a study, they can directly affect the brain, delaying or preventing neurodegenerative diseases associated with age, such as Alzheimer’s or cognitive decline. Other research also says they could have great potential in the fight against cancer. And a third work points out that their pterostilbene content, a powerful antioxidant, makes them stimulate people’s immune system, protecting them from external agents.
The potatoes dwellings are several potatoes besides contents in vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and fiber, also have two to four times more antioxidants than white potatoes. Also, an American study observed that taking two servings of this cooked food per day minimizes diastolic blood pressure by 4.3% and systolic blood pressure by 3.5%, which they attribute to its phytochemicals. Although its color is very different from that of the conventional potato, the flavor is very similar, with a slight touch reminiscent of walnuts—an exciting option to surprise your family and friends with a garnish full of color and nutritional properties.
The red cabbage or red cabbage stands out for its high fiber content and its satiating power. According to the Food and Drug Division of the Department of Agriculture of North Carolina, it contains 36 different anthocyanins types. A serving provides 20% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A . Dietitian Julia Velasco explains that the cabbage is low in calories and high in sulfur and vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6, B9, and vitamin C . And a recent German study finds that isothiocyanates, a phytochemical substance included in this vegetable, has anti-cancer properties. Also, its potassium level makes it a diuretic food and the right choice for lowering blood pressure and controlling blood glucose.
This vegetable is very recurrent in diets because a large part of its weight is water, and it provides very few calories. The high levels of fiber it contains cleanse the body and reduce blood sugar levels, so it is often recommended for diabetics. Among the properties of aubergines, its contribution of iron, magnesium, and folic acid stands out to help recover from anemia or cover the needs of vitamin B9 during the first months of pregnancy. The Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV)observed in a study that this vegetable had great anti-aging power by providing adequate protection against free radicals. Also, its levels of chlorogenic acid help reduce bad cholesterol (LDL).