A healthy diet is a colorful diet. Fruits and vegetables come in five main color categories: red, orange/yellow, purple/blue, white, and green. Each one of these colors represents, in general, a specific vitamin, mineral, or antioxidant. For example, green vegetables are high in vitamin K and folate, whereas orange or yellow fruits and veggies are usually high in beta carotene and vitamin C.
Although these aren’t hard fast and rules, grouping fruits and veggies by color and trying to eat as many of each category as possible is a great way to ensure you are getting the nutrition variety your body needs. As a dietitian, one of the first suggestions I make is to always have an array of colors on your plate, your plate should look like a rainbow at every meal.
But, there is one color that can easily be ignored because these foods may not always be front of mind; that color is purple. Here is a list of purple foods you may want to try if you aren’t eating them already. They are really incredible for health.
Purple or blue fruits and veggies are high in several powerful antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that help the body fight against damaging, unstable molecules called free radicals. These molecules are formed during digestion, exercise, stress, and exposure to environmental pollution or chemicals.They must be neutralized quickly because they can cause damage at the cellular level leading to disease and premature aging. Antioxidants from food help neutralize these molecules, helping keep your body healthy.
Purple foods are particularly high in powerful antioxidants. Some of the main ones are flavonoids, polyphenols, and anthocyanin all of which have some incredible health benefits associated with them, including helping manage diabetes, reducing cholesterol levels, lowering inflammation, and helping maintain brain function as we age. Take a look at your diet, are you including any of these purple foods?
The deep color of beets is responsible for their amazing health benefits. Beets are high in several vitamins including A, C, and B6. They are also amazing sources of folate, fiber, zeaxanthin, lutein, and a variety of health-boosting minerals. One of the nutrients in beets, called betaine, has been linked to a lower risk of chronic disease. Beets can help control blood pressure and may help ward off dementia. They have also been shown to be beneficial for helping speed up recovery after exercise and may help increase performance during exercise. The bottom line is this purple vegetable is incredible for your health.
If you aren’t sure how to eat beets, consider dicing them up, coating them with a little olive oil, and roasting them. This helps caramelize the sugar in the beets making them taste amazing. Once they are roasted top them with a little bit of goat cheese or feta to counteract their sweet taste.
These tiny blue-ish purple fruits are chock-full of antioxidants called anthocyanins, responsible for their color. But, the nutrition doesn’t stop there, they also have other antioxidants such as quercetin and kaempferol, which provide additional health benefits. They are also high in several vitamins and minerals including iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamins K and C. Blueberries have been studied for their potential benefits to decrease the risk of diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and obesity. One study even showed that blueberries were able to decrease the growth of cancer cells by 50 percent.
These summer treats are also incredibly delicious and can be eaten fresh or added to several recipes. They can easily be added as toppings to breakfast foods such as cereal, oatmeal, or pancakes and also make a delicious addition to smoothies and even to salads.
Cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable meaning it contains a type of sulfur compound similar to broccoli, kale, and Brussels sprouts. The sulfur in these vegetables is notorious for the potential to cause gas after eating them, although it is not a harmful side effect. Cruciferous vegetables are high in anthocyanins, flavonoids, carotenoids, and other antioxidants. These vegetables, like cabbage, have been linked to a decreased risk for cancer and heart disease due anti-inflammatory activity and influence on certain hormones. Purple cabbage specifically is also high in fiber and vitamin K.
Purple cabbage tastes delicious as a simple salad with a little bit of lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper, just let the dressing soak in for 20-30 minutes. Cabbage is also a great way to add some extra fiber and nutrients to soup, as it has a neutral flavor and tends to hold up well to cooking.
Blackberries are another incredible fruit with health benefits almost matching those of blueberries. They are full of similar antioxidants found in other purple fruits and veggies, but also high in vitamin C, fiber, lutein, zeaxanthin, potassium, and magnesium. They rank as one of the highest rated fruits for helping neutralize free radicals based on their antioxidant capacity. They have been shown to help slow the growth of lung, breast, colon, and prostate cancers. Talk about one incredible tiny berry. This benefit may be related to two specific antioxidants called cyanidin 3-glucoside and ellagic acid. They may also be beneficial for helping maintain brain health.
Blackberries taste amazing on their own and they can also be added to smoothies, salads, or even desserts. The important thing is that you eat them.
Purple cauliflower is similar in nutritional content as regular white cauliflower, with one exception — the purple color means it is high in anthocyanins. Just like its white counterpart it is low in calories, yet high in fiber. It also has a significant amount of vitamins C, K, B6, and folate. It is part of the cruciferous vegetable family, along with cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, which have been shown to be beneficial for reducing the risk of cancer, particularly those of the lung and gastrointestinal tract.
Purple cauliflower can be prepared and consumed in a similar way as white cauliflower. Roasting it tastes amazing, but it can also be eaten raw, pickled, or added to soups for an extra fiber boost. You may also consider freezing it and adding it into a smoothie for some extra fiber.