Blueberries, blackberries and red wine oh my! I say they are purple but their names beg to differ. Anthocyanins are flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables that render them vivid red to blue to purple. To date, there have been more than 635 anthocyanins identified in nature. Dietary consumption of anthocyanins is high compared to other flavonoids, due to their availability in fruits and vegetables. Over the past few years there has been an increasing interest in eating purple foods.

Purple foods contain anthocyanins which have shown a positive relationship to brain and immune health plus have the ability to reduce inflammation. Here are three popular purple foods – blueberries, Concord grapes and purple potatoes and their related health benefits.

Blueberries and Brain Health

  • You know blueberries are one of my favourite foods! I eat them on cereal, in yogurt and as an ingredient in smoothies. I love the taste and all of their health benefits.
  • A small study looked at the relationship between blueberry consumption and memory. The participants had experienced age-related memory decline such as forgetfulness and prospective memory lapses. The experiment consisted of one group drinking the blueberry juice and the other group drinking a placebo juice daily for 12 weeks, and taking memory tests at the beginning and end of the experiment. The results showed that the group who consumed the blueberry juice improved significantly on one of the tests. The researchers concluded that anthocyanins, found in blueberries, may contribute to improved neurocognitive function (1).
  • More studies with a larger number of participants are needed in this area.

Concord Grapes and Immune Health 

  • Now – let’s talk about the health benefits of the Concord grape in the form of juice (and not wine!)
  • Eighty-five individuals participated in a study, where 46 drank a Concord grape juice and 39 drank a placebo beverage daily for nine weeks. The results showed that those who consumed the Concord grape juice had significantly greater number of circulating helper immune cells compared to the placebo group. The researchers stated these helper immune cells increased protection in the epithelial linings of the intestine, lung, and genitourinary tract. They play a major role in protecting us against bad bacteria (including pathogens), as well as preventing chronic inflammation (2).
  • Do you remember the early Canadian wine industry that was based on grape varieties like the Concord?…Probably not a good memory! Thank goodness the past 25 years have seen an amazing evolution of the local wine industry. This can be directly attributed to the switch in acreage from Concords to higher-valued viniferas, which are better wine making grapes. The majority of new plantings in Canada have been with vinifera varieties. Stay tuned for my upcoming blog The Health Benefits of Red Wine in December.

Purple Potatoes and Inflammation

  • A study published in 2011 evaluated the consumption of pigmented potatoes and inflammation among healthy men between the ages of 18 and 40 years of age. Three groups of 12 participants
    were assigned to consume white potatoes, yellow potatoes, or purple potatoes. Both the yellow and purple potatoes decreased inflammation compared to the white potato. Even though this is a small study, the researchers concluded that the decreases in inflammation may be attributed to phenolic acid, carotenoid or anthocyanin content in the pigmented potatoes (3).
  • More studies are being conducted on purple potatoes, carrots and cauliflower. In fact, the University of Guelph is studying the effects of purple carrots and potatoes on human health with the research end date sometime in 2014. Stay tuned!

So that’s the deal! Enjoy a purple food at your next meal!

Try these simple potato wedges from MyRecipes.com

References

  1. Krikorian R et al. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry. 2010; 58(7):3996-4000.
  2. Rowe CA et al. Regular consumption of Concord grape juice benefits human immunity. Journal of Medicinal Food. 2011; 14(1-2):69-78.
  3. Kaspar KL et al. Pigmented potato consumption alters oxidative stress and inflammatory damage in men. The Journal of Nutrition. 2011; (141):108-111.