One of the most interesting parts of nutrition is that the science is always evolving. We know a lot, but there is so much more to learn. Research on anthocyanins is very much still developing, provoking lots of great questions to send scientists further down the rabbit hole. Anthocyanins are the chemicals that give berries, eggplant, red cabbage, red wine, red and purple grapes and purple plums their rich colors. 1 Considered an antioxidant, anthocyanins are able to neutralize damaging free-radicals. Clocking in at more than 700 varieties, this plant chemical is emerging in research as having particular benefit in heart health, and cancer and diabetes prevention, among others. 2 What’s interesting however, is that science also indicates that anthocyanins are relatively fragile chemicals, and are poorly absorbed by the body, some studies suggesting only 30% absorption of these chemicals from food. 3 More research needed…
While we await the conclusions to this story, we can take a few steps to benefit from these beneficial nutrients.
1) Include fruits and vegetables with these colors regularly. There is no recommended, nor known maximum “dose” at this time for anthocyanins. Just don’t forget about your purple food friends.
2) Choose foods more concentrated in anthocyanins to help increase the amount you absorb. Elderberries, red cabbage, purple carrots, blueberries, and purple potatoes have some of the highest concentrations, respectively. 4
3) Remember that there are many nutrients just as beneficial as these, available right under your nose in whole foods. Strive for a variety of colorful produce to cover your nutrient bases.
1. Special Issue Information. Molecules website. https://www.mdpi.com/journal/molecules/special_issues/anthocyanin . Published 2018. Accessed December 12, 2018.
2. Khoo HE, Azlan A, Tang ST, Lim SM. Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Food Nutr Res. 2017;61(1):1361779. Published 2017 Aug 13. doi:10.1080/16546628.2017.1361779
3. Dangles O, Fenger JA. The Chemical Reactivity of Anthocyanins and Its Consequences in Food Science and Nutrition. Molecules. 2018;23(8):1970. Published 2018 Aug 7. doi:10.3390/molecules23081970
4. Thalheimer, JC. Purple Reigns. Today’s Dietitian. 2016;18(7):18. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0716p18.shtml