Colorful fruits and vegetables, like vibrant fresh herbs, juicy red tomatoes, and bright orange carrots are packed with a variety of compounds, called phytochemicals, that help to keep us healthy everyday. However, for preventing and reversing disease, plants that are deep red, purple, blue, or even black (which is often very dark purple), are real superfoods. Many of these plants derive their color from a special group of compounds called anthocyanins. Studies have repeatedly linked anthocyanins with improved brain health and memory, reduced insulin resistance, and a lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
All of the green, red, orange, yellow, blue and purple vegetables, herbs and fruits you see in the produce section of the supermarket are derived from a large variety of phytochemicals that plants produce, in part, to protect themselves from drought, disease, pests, and even damage from the sun. Luckily for us, these compounds also protect us from everyday stress and chronic disease by acting as powerful antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory agents in our bodies.
One of the least expensive, widely available, anthocyanin-rich foods is purple (or red) cabbage! Like its green cousin, purple cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable that is packed with phytochemicals that have been shown to help fight cancer. The purple color gives the cabbage an extra dose of healthy super powers! Check out this easy Waldorf-inspired salad featuring purple cabbage, apples, and walnuts – perfect for the cooler days of fall and winter.
Many other anthocyanin-rich foods are available in most markets today. Look for purple fingerling potatoes, or even purple sweet potatoes! They taste great and look gorgeous on a plate. Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, purple grapes, and dark red cherries are wonderful choices for fruit. Carrots that are purple throughout are sometimes available at the Prescott Farmers Market and elsewhere. Other foods rich in anthocyanins include eggplant (eat the skin); red leaf lettuce; purple cauliflower; radicchio; black beans and even black rice (or Forbidden rice), both of which are really just very dark purple!
You can find lots of additional recipes and videos featuring colorful fruits, vegetables and herbs at YRMChealthconnect.org. Just scroll down the page and click on Your Healthy Kitchen. You can also follow us on Facebook at YRMC’s Your Healthy Kitchen. Check it out and see what I am making in my kitchen at home, learn how to cook loads of veggies, get new recipes, pick up some gardening tips and get connected with our community as well.
Remember to fill your plate with the colors of a rainbow: including red, green, orange, yellow, purple and blue fruits, vegetables, and grains, throughout the day. Try featuring a different color each night for dinner! Kids love getting into that groove and can help keep the whole family on track eating super healthy meals.