If you were offered a secret weapon for good health, would you take it?
Would you want the ability to “fill in the gaps” in your health created by bad food choices?
Our “youthful” energy does not just fade with age – It can also be destroyed by unhealthy lifestyle.
What is your relationship with food? Are you knowledgeable enough to make good food decisions?
Do you have any desire to improve your quality of life?
Chances are if you are over 40 you realize that being and feeling healthy is not only a gift, but a privilege. If you follow good nutrition, consistent exercise, adequate sleep, and control your emotions, you may think that those are great tools to fight against declining health. Is that enough?
Anthocyanins are a secret weapon we can use in this fight.
By now, we’re all aware of the incredible health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. However, many people don’t realize exactly why these fresh foods are so amazing.
While they boast an array of health benefits – including vitamins, minerals and fiber – fruits and vegetables also contain some special compounds that can help protect us from an ever-growing list of diseases. One group of such of compounds is the anthocyanins.
What are Anthocyanins and what benefits do they offer?
In a nutshell, anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid, a family of powerful antioxidants that fight the effects of aging and oxidative stress, but also anthocyanins offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer benefits.
In addition, anthocyanins have been reported as having the capacity to lower blood pressure, improve visual acuity, reduce cancer cell proliferation, inhibit tumor formation, prevent diabetes, lower the risk of CVD (Cardio Vascular Disease) modulate cognitive and motor function. Furthermore, anthocyanins improve cholesterol levels and blood sugar metabolism.
Where are anthocyanins found?
Anthocyanins are found naturally in a number of foods, they are the pigments that give red, purple, and blue plants their rich coloring.
Anthocyanins protect purple vegetables from sunlight damage, cold temperatures, and other stressors. And they attract pollinators, like bees and butterflies.
Due to their diverse physiological activities, the consumption of anthocyanins plays a significant role in preventing lifestyle-related diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular and neurological diseases.
What foods contain Anthocyanins?
Foods Highest in Anthocyanins
- Black raspberries.
- Black currants.
- Red cabbage.
- Black plums.
- Red radish.
- Red raspberries
- Black beans
- Tart cherries
- Purple onions
- Purple sweet potatoes
- Black rice
Several Reasons to Eat More Purple Foods
Anthocyanins have a wide range of health-promoting benefits.
Science is showing that they are:
Anti-Inflammatory — Anthocyanins have consistently shown to reduce inflammation. Why is this important? Because chronic inflammation is one of the underlying causes of many diseases of our times. Including Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, heart disease, allergies, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and joint disease, depression, some types of cancer, and obesity.
Heart Healthy — A study of 93,600 participants, carried out over 18 years and published in 2013, found that a high anthocyanin intake is associated with a reduced risk of heart attack in young and middle-aged women. Researchers found that the most advantages (a 32% reduction in risk) were gained by those women who ate three or more servings a week.
Other research has found that these antioxidants protect the heart by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, while improving capillary strength.
Another way anthocyanins can contribute to a healthy heart is through the reduction of blood pressure – a significant contributor to cardiovascular disease.
Anti-Cancer — Anthocyanins are associated with cancer prevention.
Colorectal Cancer – a 2013 study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research suggests that purple sweet potato may protect against Colorectal cancer — the third most common cancer.
Breast Cancer – a 2010 study published in Phytotherapy Research found that, in test-tube experiments, anthocyanins extracted from blueberries helped inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells. A 2014 study has also indicated that black rice anthocyanins have the potential to stop tumor metastasis in breast cancer cells.
Prostate Cancer – a study on the effects of blueberry proanthocyanidins found that they may help eliminate free radicals and block tumor cells from forming in cases of prostate cancer.
Colon Cancer – tests show that these compounds can fight colon cancer, although some sources (like purple corn and bilberry) were more effective than others (such as radish and elderberry).
Oral Cancer – in 2008, a gel based on freeze-dried black raspberries was found to prevent pre-cancerous mouth tumors from becoming malignant.
Tumor Metastasis – the journal Chemico-Biological Interactions published a study which looked at the ability of black rice anthocyanins to stop tumor metastasis (the spread of cancer to other parts of the body) – a significant source of cancer death. In this particular study, the anthocyanins showed a ‘marked inhibition’ on the spread of certain cancer cells.
Good for Your Brain — A 2003 study published in the Archives of Pharmacal Research showed the memory-enhancing effects of eating purple sweet potatoes. Other research points to the ability of anthocyanins to help prevent age-related decline in the nervous system. And anthocyanins are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and localize inside brain regions involved in learning and memory.
Keep Your Liver Healthy
Our liver is one of our biggest organs, and it plays a vital role in our health. Not only does it convert the nutrients from food into materials that the body can use, it also stores and supplies cells with these materials, regulates hormones and plays a vital role in detoxifying the body. Be kind to your liver by eating a wide variety of anthocyanin containing foods.
When a 2010 study looked at the effects of anthocyanin-rich extract from black rice on rats with chronic alcohol-induced liver damage, the results were promising. Rats were divided into two groups and administered alcohol to cause liver damage. However, one group was also given anthocyanin. Those given the antioxidant had lower levels of liver damage induced by the alcohol, pointing to anthocyanin as a possible way to reduce the effects of toxins on the liver.
Reduce High Cholesterol
High blood cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for heart disease, the number one killer in the US. The higher your blood cholesterol level, the greater your risk for developing heart disease or suffering a heart attack.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study in 2009 which found that supplementing with anthocyanin resulted in a 13.7% increase in HDL cholesterol (the beneficial kind of cholesterol) while reducing LDL levels (the bad kind of cholesterol) by 13.6%.
A more recent study evaluated the ability of black rice (an anthocyanin-rich food) to inhibit cholesterol absorption. Researchers came to the conclusion that black rice did lower cholesterol, at least in part thanks to the antioxidant anthocyanins, and so recommend black rice and similar foods for the prevention and treatment of high cholesterol.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports that mice fed an anthocyanin enriched high-fat diet for eight weeks gained less weight than mice fed a high-fat diet without anthocyanins.
While this may or may not have the same effect in humans, one thing we do know is that anthocyanins are found in fresh fruits and vegetables. By filling your plate with a variety of this healthy produce, you will undoubtedly begin to feel and look better!
These fantastic compounds may even protect your eyesight!
In a French study, researchers tested 36 people for their ability to adapt to light and dark both before and after taking bilberry anthocyanins. For several hours after supplementing, they enjoyed significant improvement in vision. However, the effect wore off within 24 hours.
More recent research found that people taking 50mg of blackcurrant anthocyanins adapted better to the dark and had less eye fatigue than those in the placebo group. Those taking just 20mg did not experience these benefits.
Are Purple Vegetables Healthier?
Some purple vegetables have more health benefits compared to the same veggies in other colors — at least for some nutrients.
- Purple potatoes have four times as many antioxidants as Russet potatoes, due to the anthocyanins.
- Compared to orange carrots, purple carrots have two times the amount of alpha and beta-carotene. (The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A — another important antioxidant that improves immunity and is good for eye health.)
- Red cabbage contains 36 different types of antioxidants. And it’s been shown to have six to eight times more vitamin C than green cabbage.
- Red Delicious apples provide more anthocyanins than Fuji apples.
- Black raspberries are a far richer source than red raspberries and
- Concord grapes are a much more concentrated source than red grapes.
Therefore, all our food intake should all be purple? Right?
NO, OF COURSE NOT, we shouldn’t switch to only eating purple foods. Let’s Eat The Rainbow. A Rainbow dish is always our best option.
When it comes to healthy eating, you have probably heard this advice. That’s because munching on a variety of colorful produce will give you lots of different phytonutrients. There are thousands of these compounds in plants. And they’re not just pretty to look at — they may also fight disease, especially when they work synergeticly together.
Therefore, wellness is about living healthy and strengthening ourselves so we can enjoy the things we love most — family, friends, hobbies, work. To achieve our health care goals, we need to make long term commitments to our own health and in acknowledging ourself as a whole person. Practicing healthy behaviors not only improves our health in the short term, but it can lower our risks of illness in the future. Thus, when thinking about how we can maintain or improve our overall health, consider: healthy eating, sleep and restfulness, exercise and activity, work/life balance, socialization, faith, intellectual growth, challenge and consume on a regular basis, many ANTHOCYANINS
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