It’s a common expression not to judge a book by its cover. This is good advice for much of life, but not when it comes to what you eat.
Science is starting to show that the colors of certain foods can hint at their nutritional benefits… especially foods that are naturally purple.
That’s because putting more purple on your plate can offer some real health benefits.
All About Anthocyanins
In the case of purple food, anthocyanins make the color. And they’re also a power-layer when it comes to your health. Anthocyanins are one of the many natural chemicals found in plant foods. And the darker the fruit or vegetable, the more anthocyanins it’s likely to have.1
When looking for foods with anthocyanins, search for –
- Red and purple grapes
- Acai berries
- Purple asparagus
- Purple carrots
- Purple sweet potatoes
- Purple cabbage2
Of course, eggplant has plenty of anthocyanins as well, but mostly just in the skin. Some even believe that anthocyanins play a role in the perceived health benefits of red wine.3
So, Why Eat Purple?
Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants, protecting against cell damage from free radicals. This is important because cell damage is linked to a variety of health issues. Studies have shown that anthocyanins may have some of the following benefits –
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Blood pressure support
- Liver support
- Eye health support4,5
And these benefits may only be the tip of the iceberg. Antioxidants like anthocyanins are also showing potential to help with some of the most serious conditions out there – even issues related to the heart.6 So you can see that these purple foods are packed with potential.
Purple Up Your Diet
And when it comes to purple foods, it’s not just their antioxidant content that gives them such power, they’re also packed with lots of other helpful nutrients.
For example, eggplant is rich in fiber, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B6 – and all of these nutrients support heart health.7,8
And blueberries are one of the most potent foods in the purple-power category. Just to put things in perspective a bit – one cup of blueberries has the following nutrients –
- 4 grams of fiber
- 24% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C
- 36% of the recommended daily value of vitamin K
- 25% of the recommended daily value of manganese9
This is on top of their antioxidant content as well as the fact that blueberries are 85% water. You can enjoy them fresh or frozen, which makes the blueberry an easy addition to quick snacks like smoothies and oatmeal.
And you know, not every purple food is common knowledge. In fact, if you’re looking to go off the beaten path, there are other purple foods that are worth seeking out for unique health benefits.
For example, purple corn actually exists! It’s been grown in the Peruvian Andes for centuries but is just starting to hit mainstream grocery stores now. Botanically, it’s basically the same as regular corn, but it’s also packed with those valuable anthocyanins. And researchers have discovered that the mean anthocyanin content actually outpaces blueberries.10 Unreal!
There’s also another food staple out there with a purple variant: rice.
Back in the day, black rice (which is actually dark purple) was so rare, tasty, and nutritious that it was dubbed “the forbidden rice.” Only emperors were allowed to eat it. But black rice packs an extra antioxidant-rich punch with anthocyanins. As a result, you can add a nutrient infusion to even the most basic of meals. The only catch is that it is still rare, so you may have trouble finding it in some stores. It’s well worth it, though.11
Purple Foods In Review
It’s clear that experts agree purple foods are worthy of becoming the next big food trend. These foods aren’t only already considered healthy, they’re also easy to identify and have proven their value.12
Note that with any diet, balance is key, for vegans and non-vegans alike. These purple foods can be implemented in a variety of different recipes and combined with some meal favorites.
Scientists are still discovering more about exactly how anthocyanins and other nutrients help you. But for now, know that by making your plates more colorful, you’re stacking the deck in your favor to more balanced and nutritious meals.