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The Power of Purple Foods
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November 17, 2016

By Susan Callahan, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Doctors and Registered Nurses, Certified fitness
professionals and other members of our Editorial Board.]




When it comes to fruits and vegetables, there really is
something special about the color purple.  In studies from
universities around the world, scientists are learning that the
compounds in these fruits and vegetables which give them
their vivid purple, deep red and bue colors are not just there
to make them look pretty. These purpling compounds are
powerful cancer fighters.

Could it really be that simple? Just pick the foods that are
purple, eat more of them, and you lower your risk for all
kinds of cancer? I mean, science can't be that
straightforward, can it? Well, actually, in this case, it is.  

Purple foods, all of them, contain special antioxidant
compounds which have been strongly associated with far
ranging health benefits.

It doesn't happen very often in life but, every now and then,
nature keeps it simple and actually gives us a color-coded
map to our health.  

Purple Foods Have Two Different Powerful Compounds

From blueberries, to eggplants, to dark red wines, even to
purple potatoes, fruits and vegetables with purple or dark
red, purplish colors are loaded with antioxidants.

In most discussions of purple foods, the focus are
compounds called "anthocyanins".  

But there is another type of powerful compound found in
purple, and even some red foods, and these are called
"anthocyanidins".

Let's look first at the better known of the powerful
compounds, anthocyanonins.

Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants which scavenge free
radicals that cause cell damage.  These polyphenol
compounds give fruits and vegetables their red, blue and
purple colors.

More than 600 compounds have been identified as
anthocyanins, according to a 2004 study from Flinders
University in Australia.

Humans have eaten anthocyananins as natural medicines for
centuries, in cultures as diverse as North American Indians,
Europeans and Chinese.  

Through trial and error, we humans discovered that eating
purple and red and blue foods helps to dampen pain from
arthritis, lower our blood pressure, help treat liver disorders,
help remove gallstones and kidney stones and shorten the
duration of the common cold.  Each of these discoveries was
later verified by scientific studies from universities from
around the world.

For example, a 16-year study of 34,489  post-menopausal
women in the Iowa Women’s Health Study confirmed that
eating foods rich in anthocyanins (as well as  certain types of
other flavonoids) is associated with a reduced risk of death
from cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. The
study was conducted jointly by scientists from the University
of Minnesota and the University of Oslo in Sweden.


Less well known than anthocyanins are other "cousin"
compounds found in purple foods with a similar name,
anthocyanidins.

These lesser-known compounds may ultimately prove even
more powerful in terms of the  health benefits conferred
than their more famous cousins for one important reason ---
anthocyanidins are more effective in stopping the spread of
cancer cells.

Anthocyanidins Inhibit the Spread of Breast Cancer Cells































Purple, red and blue foods contain anthocyanidin
compounds which inhibit several types of cancer cells,
including breast cancer, colon cancer, stomach cancer and
cancers attacking central nervous system cancers.


In 2005, scientists from Michigan State University examined
the power of various anthocyanins and anthocyanidins to
inhibit different types of cancer.  

The study looked at 5 different anthocyanidins, (cyanidin,
delphinidin, pelargonidin, petunidin and malvidin), and four
different anthocyanins (cyanidin-3-glucoside, cyanidin-3-
galactoside, delphinidin-3-galactoside and pelargonidin-3-
galactoside).

The scientists tested each of the anthocyonins and each of
the anthocyanidins against each of the types of cancer cells
to see which antioxidants inhibited the growth of which
types of cancer cells.

To their surprise, the scientists discovered that none --zero
-- of the anthocyanins stopped the multiplication of the
cancer cells.  They were totally ineffective no matter which
type of cancer was involved.

But when they tested the anthocyonidins, they were shocked
to find that the opposite was true. All of the anthocyanidins
were effective, in varying degrees, in stopping each of the
cancer cells from multiplying.

The most effective was malvidin. It inhibited the growth of
breast cancer cells by 74.7%, the growth of colon cancer
cells by 75.7%, stomach cancer cells by 69% and central
nervous system cancers by 40.5%.


The dosage of malvidin used was 200 micrograms per
milliliter.

One food rich in malvidin is red wine, made of course from
purple or red grapes. The European Union's database of
food content indicates that red wine contains 0.18
microgram of malvidin for every 100 ml.  Clearly, you would
have to drink quite a lot fo red wine to produce the same
amounts of maldivin tested by the scientists.


However, you can boost the amount of anthocyanidins by
adding the following foods to your diet, in addition to the
delicious red wine:



1.
Black Raspberries. Black raspberries, like all purple foods,
contain both anthocyanins and anthocyanidins.

But a 2015 study from the University of Saskatchewan in
Canada found that these deep purple, black-appearing
raspberries are particularly high in the anti-cancer
anthocyanidins.

Moreover, black raspberries are also particularly well-
absorbed, compared with other purple foods. A study in
found that the absorption black raspberry anthocyanins
reaches 7.5% of the amount eaten. This compares to onpy
about 1% with other sources of anthocyanins and
anthocyanidins.

2.
Chokeberries. Black chokeberries, technically known as
"Aronia melanocarpa", are native to the swamps and
lowlands of the East Coast of North America and the Great
Lakes region, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
Nowadays, these hearty plants are also grown throughout
Europe.

In 2012 , the anthocyanin content of chokeberries was
measured definitely by a team of scientists from the
University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine in
Romania. The anthocyanin content was measured at 176 to
366 mg/100 g.  

3.
Bilberries. Bilberries, "Vaccinium myrtillus L.", are native
to Europe and Asia. A 2007 study from Kaunas University of
Medicine in Lithuania measured the anthocyanin content of
bilberries at approximately 1% to 2.13% by weight.

4.
Cherries. Cherries, and in particular, tart cherries such as
Montmorency, contain high levels of anthocyanins. A 2004
study from Istituto di Scienze delle Produzioni Alimentari in
Italy estimated the anthocyanin content of sour cherries
such as Montmorency at 4–50 mg/mL.

This study also noted, in passing, that sour cherries have
more anti-inflammatory potency than aspirin.


5.
Blueberries. Scientists view bilberries as a species of
blueberries but we have separated them because often in
America, blueberries and bilberries are viewed as different
fruits.

Blueberries contain 5 out of the 6 known anthocyanins,
according to a 1999 study led by scientists from Guelph
University in Canada.

Blueberries vary in their anthocyanin content by species. The
species of blueberries with the highest anthocyanonin
content are lowbush blueberries ("V. angustifolium") with a
value of mg per gram of weight.











































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Bilberries and blueberries contain compounds that inhibit the
growth of many types of cancer cells including breast cancer cells
and colon cancer cells.
Peppers grown in the greenhouse of one of our editors. Peppers
cause certain types of cancer cells to "suicide" themselves".