We’re often told to “eat the rainbow,” meaning aim to include a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods in our diet.
But how many red, blue, and purple foods do you eat?
No, we’re not talking blue smarties or a red velvet cupcake; We’re talking fruits and vegetables, including blueberries, red cabbage, and eggplant.
These colorful foods really pack a punch thanks to a range of plant-based compounds that support overall health.
From supporting a healthy gut to avoiding type 2 diabetes, nutritionist Sophie Trotman reveals exactly why you should start eating more of these red, blue, and purple foods…
Support heart, brain and liver health
Sophie says the botanicals found in these ingredients have several benefits.
One compound – anthocyanins – has antioxidant properties. Sophie says: “Antioxidants help protect cells from oxidative damage.
“Anthocyanins have been linked to anti-inflammatory effects, improved cardiovascular health and potentially anti-cancer properties.”
She adds, “Resveratrol is a phytochemical found in red grapes, berries, and dark chocolate that also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.”
“Resveratrol may help protect against heart disease, promote brain health and have anti-aging properties.”
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Next comes lycopene, which is responsible for the red color of tomatoes, watermelon, and other red fruits like strawberries.
“It is a powerful antioxidant that may help protect against certain types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer.
“Lycopene has also been linked to cardiovascular health benefits,” says Sophie.
“Betalains – found in red and purple fruits and vegetables like beets and red cabbage, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and may support liver function, reduce inflammation and potentially have anti-cancer effects.”
Help protect yourself from diseases
The anti-inflammatory properties of red, blue, and purple foods — from strawberries to figs to purple grapes — may help reduce the risk of life-threatening diseases from chronic inflammation.
“Modern life can be quite pro-inflammatory. Stress, alcohol, smoking, highly processed foods, sugar and pollutants can all cause inflammation in the body,” explains Sophie.
She adds that inflammation is at the root of many diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and certain types of cancer.
“Of course, reducing the risk of these diseases requires a lot more than just eating these foods, but including these foods is a step in the right direction.”
Increase your gut health
A healthy gut is not only important to ensure that we can go to the toilet comfortably, but also supports a good mood and helps to maintain constant energy levels.
“Red, blue, and purple foods are good for gut health because they contain fiber, which helps keep bowel movements regular.
“And many contain a specific type of fiber called prebiotics.
“The good bacteria in our gut love to feed on it and produce beneficial metabolites that improve gut health and have anti-inflammatory effects,” explains Sophie.
Try expanding your repertoire with radicchio, pomegranates and purple potatoes.
Improve your productivity
Make your boss love you by munching on these colorful, antioxidant-rich foods.
“These have been linked to various health benefits, including brain health.
“Anthocyanins have been shown to improve memory and cognitive function.
“Resveratrol has been linked to improved brain health and protection against age-related cognitive decline.
“Belatin may also improve cognitive function,” says Sophie.
“Blueberries have even been dubbed ‘brain berries’ for their potential cognitive benefits.”
The best blue, red and purple foods to enjoy
Although goji berries and acai powder — which cost significantly more than other edibles — fall in the red, blue, and purple bands, you don’t have to spend a fortune to reap the benefits.
Sophie recommends berries (including frozen berries), cherries, figs, red and purple grapes.
Red cabbage, eggplant, black beans, and red onions are also good choices.
“Make a low-sugar berry compote to serve with oatmeal and yogurt for breakfast. Add eggplant to pasta sauces or prepare a delicious eggplant parmigiana by grilling the eggplant instead of frying it. Eat red cabbage as a side dish for Sunday lunch; Use black beans in a chili or mix them with olive oil, lemon and garlic for a delicious dip to enjoy with raw vegetables. Use red onions as a base for many dishes,” says Sophie.
Get the kids involved
It is sometimes difficult to encourage children to eat fruit and vegetables for nutritional reasons.
Sophie recommends sneakily incorporating these red, blue, and purple veggies into her favorite dishes.
“For example, mix eggplant into pasta sauces, mix black beans into meatballs.”
She adds: “Involve children in the process of choosing and preparing these foods.
“Allow them to help with washing, chopping (only where safe!) or blending vegetables.
“This involvement can make them more curious and more interested in trying out the end product.”