While we know fruits and vegetables are good for us, have you ever wondered what truly makes some of them so great?
All About Anthocyanins
Researchers estimate that there are over 4,000 phytonutrients (plant substances believed to be beneficial to human health), and anthocyanins are one of the most studied in this group. Purple fruits, vegetables, and flowers contain anthocyanins, which are water-soluble plant pigments in the colors of red, purple, blue, and black. These pigments not only make foods colorful and pretty to look at, they also sustain well-being in the body.
What are anthocyanins?
Anthocyanins are flavonoids, meaning they are plant-based nutrients that belong to a large class of pigments. These pigments act as antioxidants that help protect the body from free radical damage that occurs from food, the environment, and other lifestyle factors. These pigments are also beneficial to the plants from which they originate. For example, many plants and flowers use anthocyanins to protect their leaves from cold temperatures or ultraviolet light. Anthocyanin protect plant and human cells from stress.
Anthocyanins in plants and food
The color variety of fruits, vegetables, and flowers that contain anthocyanins is determined by the type of pigment in the plant. Because they are water-soluble, pigmentation levels can fluctuate, resulting in the different shades we see in one plant species. Some of the plants and foods that are rich in anthocyanins include:
Berries: Blueberries, blackberries, acai berries, strawberries, hawthorn berries, bilberries, and cranberries.
Eggplants: Aubergine eggplant, Rosa Bianco eggplant, Japanese eggplant
Grapes: Red grapes and purple grapes
Carrots: Purple and black carrots
Edible herbs: Lavender, purple mint, purple sage
Other sources of anthocyanins include cherries, plums, purple asparagus, prunes, red cabbage, purple corn, and blood oranges. Of these foods, blueberries are one of the top performers when it comes to delivering antioxidant benefits from anthocyanins.*
Anthocyanins in the body
When consumed, anthocyanins have many nutritional benefits, the biggest being the antioxidant protection they provide to the body.* Anthocyanins also may assist endurance athletes in muscle recovery.* Anthocyanins are also a component of bilberries, which contribute to vision clarity and eye health.* Do you want to begin consuming more of these nutritious plant pigments? Foods that contain anthocyanins are easy to recognize due to their vibrant colors. Simply pick your favorites and begin incorporating them into your favorite meals or snacks (like frozen grapes!).