Maintaining a healthy diet often involves consuming foods that encompass a wide range of colors resembling the spectrum of the rainbow.
In addition to the recommendation of consuming five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, it is essential to vary their colors, as different colors indicate the presence of specific substances that are vital for our bodies.
One such group of substances is anthocyanins, which are responsible for certain foods’ blue, purple, or red hues.
What are Anthocyanins?
Anthocyanins are natural pigments found in various parts of plants, including fruits, seeds, shoots, flowers, and leaves. They belong to a larger category of plant-derived chemicals known as flavonoids.
Anthocyanins are known for their antioxidant properties and ability to repair cellular damage caused by harmful free radicals. They give foods their red, purple, and blue colors due to the presence of a pH-sensitive chemical group.
Types of Anthocyanins
Among the thousands of known flavonoids, six main types of anthocyanins have been identified:
Sources of Anthocyanins
Fruits, vegetables, and grains that display red, purple, blue, or black colors are rich in anthocyanins. Some notable sources include:
- Berries: Elderberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries
- Other fruits: Black plums, blood oranges, red apples, cherries, and pomegranates
- Red wine: Concentrated in the skins of red and black grapes
- Vegetables: Red cabbage, red onions, red radishes, purple cauliflower, purple corn, purple eggplant, and black beans
Health Benefits of Anthocyanins
Anthocyanin-rich foods offer numerous health benefits, including:
- Reduced risk of heart disease: Anthocyanins lower blood pressure and heart rate, reducing the risk of heart disease;
- Improved brain function: Anthocyanins enhance blood flow, activating brain areas responsible for memory, language, and attention;
- Stimulated immune system response: Anthocyanins stimulate the immune system, aiding in its response against pathogens;
- Counteracted oxidative stress and cellular aging: Anthocyanins help prevent cellular aging by counteracting oxidative stress;
- Decreased cancer risk: Anthocyanins’ antioxidant properties reduce the risk of cancer by combating oxidative stress and inflammation;
- Support for vein and capillary health: Anthocyanins protect against capillary fragility and assist in combating issues related to suboptimal microcirculation, such as varicose veins, cellulite, and water retention.
Anthocyanins as Colorants
Anthocyanins are used in the food industry as natural food additives for their red coloring properties. They are commonly found in jams, yogurt, and popsicles.
Daily Anthocyanins Intake
There is no absolute recommended amount of anthocyanins. Still, the important thing is to consult a specialist who can create an ad hoc, varied, and balanced diet that contains the right amount of anthocyanins for the patient.