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The color purple has always signified something special.
In ancient Phoenicia, purple dye could only be derived from a rare sea mollusk; it took 9,000 of them to make one gram of dye!
Later on, Queen Elizabeth made purple a ‘royal color’ when she forbade anyone but the royal family to wear it.
In the world of fruits and vegetables, purple also signifies something special.
Any time you’ve got a purple or dark blue fruit or vegetable on the menu, you’re consuming a healthy dose of a special antioxidant-rich plant pigment known as anthocyanin.
Research shows that a diet rich in this pigment can protect you from life-threatening conditions such as stroke and cancer:
- A 2012 cross-sectional study of 1,898 women ages 18-75, concluded that higher intake of anthocyanins is directly associated with less arterial stiffness.
- A 2008 study published in the international journal Cancer Letters summarized research showing how anthocyanin induces apoptosis (cell death) and prevents angiogenesis (formation of blood vessels that supply cancer cells).
Your purple guardians against disease
Adding a few of these fruits and vegetables to your diet now will pay off for years to come.
The anthocyanins and other flavonoids in these juicy fruits have an anti-inflammatory effect on fat cells, helping to prevent metabolic syndrome and obesity.
Plums also contain the flavonoids caffeic acid and rutin, which help inhibit the deterioration of bone tissue that leads to osteoporosis.
Anthocyanin-rich fruits range in color from dark purple, to blue, to a deep purple-red. This pretty much encompasses all the fruits in the berry family. There are so many choices!
Blueberries are not only rich in anthocyanin but are well-known as a ‘power food’. Besides boosting brain health and preventing cancer, they improve heart health, fight urinary tract infections and contain 14 mg. of vitamin C per cup.
That’s right! Purple-skinned potatoes are more than just a novelty. They have two to three times the antioxidants of white potatoes, including anthocyanin.
4. Red cherries.
Right up there with blueberries for antioxidant power, red cherries protect your mind as well as your body. And the deeper the hue, the better. Did you know you can’t beat tart cherries for lowering blood pressure, naturally?
An Australian study saw significant improvement in long and short-term memory, as well as verbal fluency, in adults with mild to moderate dementia who consumed anthocyanin-rich cherry juice for a 12-week period.
5. Purple cauliflower.
A single gene makes the difference between this unusual form of cauliflower and the white vegetable you already know.
Besides anthocyanin, cauliflower is rich in vitamins C and K. It’s also high in sulforaphane, an antioxidant found to suppress cancer growth in the colon and prostate.
6. Purple carrots.
Who knew that so many common vegetables came in purple? In the case of carrots, there’s an even bigger surprise: carrots were originally purple!
That’s right! The first carrots were grown in Afghanistan. By the 1500s, orange carrots started showing up in Europe, but the purple variety persisted in the Middle East and Asia.
One study found that the beta-carotene content of purple carrots was more than twice that of their orange cousin!
7. Purple cabbage.
Use this attractive cabbage in salads, cook it in stir fries, or ferment it to make sauerkraut or kimchi and boost your gut health with some natural probiotics.
Other choices for a dose of anthocyanin include:
- Elderberries – They also clear up respiratory infections and support immune health.
- Pomegranates –This super food relieves anemia and stomach disorders. It also prevents the formation of enzymes that break down connective tissue, helping to prevent osteoarthritis.
- Purple grapes – Resveratrol, the antioxidant in red wine, protects your heart, brain, and gut.
Doctors recommend a diet of fruits and vegetables that contains all the colors of the rainbow, but purple is certainly a great place to start!
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- Consumption of anthocyanin-rich cherry juice for 12 weeks improves memory and cognition in older adults with mild-to-moderate dementia — European Journal of Nutrition
- Anthocyanins and their role in cancer prevention — Cancer Letters
- Higher anthocyanin intake is associated with lower arterial stiffness and central blood pressure in women — The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
- Purple Power Foods! — WebMD
- The Top 8 Health Benefits of Cauliflower — healthline.com