What are anthocyanins?
Due to their recent popularity, many are now asking, what are anthocyanins? Also called anti-ocyanins, they have made headlines in many medical journals because they are linked to a variety of health benefits. Here’s what they are, and what foods you can find them in.
Clearly, most nutrition experts agree that eating a balanced and varied diet, including at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, is the best thing you can do to take care of your health. But what is so special about purple foods, which are now known to contain anthocyanins?
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What are anthocyanins?
If you want to know what anthocyanin is, we will tell you that it is a type of flavonoid with antioxidant effects. Anthocyanins in foods occur naturally, because they are the pigments that give plants their purple, blue, and reddish coloration. But in addition to their role as antioxidants and free radical fighters, anti-ocyanins are also known for their anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anticarcinogenic properties.
It is worth mentioning that anthocyanin-rich substances have long been used in herbal medicine. This is to treat a number of conditions that relate to the blood vessels, including high blood pressure, chronic venous insufficiency, and diabetic retinopathy.
In addition, anthocyanins have been used for the treatment of colds and urinary tract infections. More recent studies have revealed that anti-ococyanins have the potential to prevent serious health problems such as cancer and heart disease.
Anthocyanins are present in many purple foods.
It is important to note that all brightly colored fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants. These are compounds that play a fundamental role in the protection of our organism. However, many foods that are characterized by their purple color contain a certain antioxidant known as anthocyanin.
As we said before, anti-ocyanins are the plant pigments thatgive fruits and vegetables that purple, reddish, violet, or bluehue. Although research is ongoing, it is still too early to conclude that purple foods containing anthocyanins should be considered “superfoods”. Despite this, previous studies have established a link between anthocyanins and a wide variety of health benefits.
These include increased longevity, cancer prevention, cardiovascular health, and dementia prevention.
What foods contain anthocyanins?
High concentrations of anti-ocyanins can be found in blackberries, blueberries, and black currants. They are also present in the peel of eggplant, cherries, and red cabbage.
They are known to be a rich source of vitamin C, which helps protect cells and helps with iron absorption. Blueberries also contain soluble fiber that aids digestion. In addition, research published in the European Journal of Nutrition revealed that a blueberry powder supplement improves brain capacity in children aged 7 to 10 years.
A study conducted by the University of Tuffs, meanwhile, suggests that taking a blueberry supplement may be effective in improving, or possibly delaying, short-term memory loss. This by studying its effects on mice.
In spite of all this, the research carried out has been based on small groups of samples or animals. Therefore, it is still too early to say that these benefits could be transferred to the human population.
Purple sweet potato
This is another food containing anti-ocyanine, which is regularly consumed on the Japanese island of Okinawa. This is relevant because Okinawa is home to an exceptionally healthy elderly population, where there are also a large number of people over the age of 100.
Not only that, according to various reports, the dementia rate in Okinawa is up to 50% lower than in the West. This has led scientists to believe that a high intake of purple sweet potato plays a key role in maintaining healthy bodies and brains, even well into old age.
However, as with blueberries, there are not enough studies to support the health benefits of purple sweet potatoes. Moreover, it is virtually impossible to say with certainty that longevity in Okinawa is a result of the consumption of this food alone.
The color of the pomegranate is a mixture of purple and reddish, also as a result of its high concentration of anthocyanins. This fruit is known to be a rich source of fiber and vitamins A, C, and E. even contains iron and other antioxidants. A 2014 research found that pomegranate helped strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis in mice.
There are also studies that suggest that the consumption of 50 ml of pomegranate juice daily reduces damage to the arteries, including the accumulation of cholesterol in patients with narrowed arteries.
Health Benefits of Anthocyanins
Here are the two main health benefits of anthocyanins:
- Heart disease. Anti-ococyanins appear to improve cholesterol levels, and blood sugar metabolism. They may also combat oxidative stress, which is known to play a role in the development of heart disease.
- Cancer. Regular consumption of anthocyanin-rich foods may also help in the prevention of breast cancer. A study published in Phytotherapy Research, revealed that anthocyanins extracted from blueberries, can help prevent breast cancer.
It is clear that incorporating fruits and vegetables rich in anthocyanins into our diet can contribute to improving our health, as they provide a wide variety of nutrients and antioxidants. However, medical research has yet to determine whether the consumption of high concentrations of anthocyanins can be used as a treatment or prevention for any particular health condition.
In any case, the best thing to do is to consult a specialist doctor for the corresponding assessment.
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