Eat A Rainbow, Part 4: Health Benefits Of Blue/Purple Foods

Friday, December 15, 2006 - 10:12am

By Heidi Reichenberger McIndoo, MS, RD

The final color of the rainbow is just as powerful as the first 3. You may be thinking “There are no purple foods.” But you’re wrong. Just look at the list below and you’ll see a few yummy ways to include this pretty color in your diet.

Choose natural colored food

In this articles series, we’ve explored the health benefits associated with the colors in foods. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that these benefits only exist when they’re natural. In other words, artificially-colored foods and drinks do not offer the same health benefits found in real, natural fruits and vegetables.

What’s in the blue/purple foods?

Blue/purple fruits and veggies are rich in flavonoids. Flavonoids are the most abundant and powerful of all the phytochemicals contained in the foods we eat. There are many categories of flavonoids. One group of flavonoids helps make our blood vessels healthier. This translates into a healthier cardiovascular system and therefore a lower risk of heart disease. Flavonoids are also very beneficial in reversing the short-term memory loss associated with aging. In addition, they help improve our motor skills, which we rely on to perform large movements like walking and sitting, as well as more delicate movements using our hands, wrists, fingers, and toes.

Flavonoids may play a big role in cancer prevention and in slowing the first stages of cancer development. Moreover, one group of flavonoids called proanthocyanidins helps prevent bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract. If bacteria can’t stick anywhere it can’t multiply and cause an infection. As a result, eating foods like blueberries and cranberries may be one step in helping to prevent urinary tract infections.

Blue/purple foods to eat

  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Dried plums/prunes
  • Raisins
  • Purple cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Purple potatoes

Ways to boost your blue/purple food intake

  • Mix frozen blueberries into oatmeal as it cooks.
  • Roast cubed, unpeeled potatoes for a side dish.
  • Sprinkle raisins on top of a salad.

For more information on food colors and health see the following article from TheDietChannel: Prevent Cancer & Heart Disease with Phytochemicals.