Do you try to eat a rainbow of natural foods every day? If so, you’re treating yourself to a diverse group of nutrients that all play vital roles for your health. Greens, for instance, contain detoxifying properties, while orange-colored foods contain free-radical-fighting carotenoids. And it’s easy to add green and orange produce to your diet, whether you opt for spinach, broccoli, tangerines or carrots. But as you may have noticed, it’s a bit more difficult to find blue and purple foods because there aren’t as many. And “blue” foods, such as blackberries and blueberries, are arguably closer to a purple hue.
But even if they aren’t as easy to find at your grocery store or farmers market, don’t neglect adding blue and purple fruits and veggies to your diet. Why? They actually contain more antioxidants than any of the other colors of produce. Below are some great blue and purple foods to add to your diet:
Blueberries may be small, but berries pack a nutritional punch. Fresh or frozen, they protect against heart disease, improve bone health, encourage blood circulation, and help control blood sugar levels. The high levels of antioxidants found in blueberries can even help neutralize free-radicals that can cause cancer.
Blueberries make a fantastic snack you can simply eat by the handful, but you can also try making this Mango Blueberry Salad.
Much more tart than other berries, blackberries are technically a deep purple. These tart treats are full of fiber, vitamins K and C, and manganese, and blackberries have even been called a superfood. Blackberries make a great addition to your oral hygiene routine, too. A 2013 study found that blackberries contain antibacterial properties, which can be effective in treating cold sores when combined with traditional treatments.
A study from Molecular Nutrition & Food Research found that purple sweet potatoes, in particular, are effective in fighting colon cancer. Purple-fleshed potatoes contain powerful anthocyanins, the antioxidant flavonoids responsible for creating vibrant purple, red and blue hues in plant-based foods. Try purple potatoes in this Purple Sweet Potato Hummus, which offers all the benefits of purple potatoes, plus all the protein and fiber benefits of chickpeas.
Also known as aubergine, eggplants are large, dark purple vegetables that are featured prominently in the Mediterranean Diet, and for good reason—one serving contains 5% of the recommended daily amount of fiber, copper, manganese, vitamin B-6, and thiamine. Thiamine helps your body generate energy from the nutrients you eat, and it’s also important for growth and development. Try eggplant in this Eggplant Curry with Cardamom-Spice Quinoa.
In Eastern medicine, elderberries are considered a healing plant, and elderberry syrup has long been used to treat a variety of ailments. It’s commonly used to treat constipation, joint and muscle pain, headaches, and fever. Elderberries contain high amounts of powerful antioxidants, including phenolic acid, flavanols, and anthocyanins. These antioxidants can help reduce the damage from oxidative stress in your body.
The purple in purple cauliflower comes from the same source as the hue in red wine and red cabbage: an antioxidant called anthocyanin. Besides this extra boost of antioxidants, purple cauliflower contains the same great benefits are traditional, white cauliflower. It’s extremely high in vitamins K and C, has a good amount of fiber, and is low in carbohydrates.
Cauliflower is a popular replacement for other kinds of carbohydrates for people following low-carb or ketogenic diets. Get creative and try purple cauliflower in these Cauliflower Cakes.
Figs may have been one of the first fruits cultivated by humans (fig leaves as clothing, anyone?), and their benefits have continued to make them popular through current times. Figs are high in several amino acids, including leucine and lysine, which have been shown to boost sexual stamina and increase libido. They’re also high in fiber, and are commonly used to help keep the digestive system regular and prevent and relieve constipation. Try them for yourself in these Fig and Raspberry Raw Bites.
The bottom line
At Integrative Nutrition, we believe in eating a diverse diet of different colors and textures, and adding the rare purple and blue foods to your plate is just one way of doing that. This year, make it a point to enrich your meals with produce representing all colors of the rainbow, not just your typical green. And in the process, we hope you’ll discover some exciting new recipes!