by Melissa Chichester
Several health advocacy groups including the American Heart Association recommend eating a diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables. Mother Nature provides us with a vivid array of colorful, nutritious foods that are pigmented thanks to flavonoids, pigments that act as antioxidants. Purple foods get their color from flavonoids called anthocyanins, which are responsible for creating red, blue, and purple pigments. These pigments attract pollinators to flowers, and as antioxidants can contribute to fighting free radicals in the body. Perk up your plate with this selection of purple plant food!
Did you know that the eggplant is not a vegetable, but a berry? This fleshy fruit is a nightshade related to the tomato and potato. Originally cultivated in Asia, eggplant is a perennial that prefers a temperate, tropical climate. In recent years the eggplant has gained popularity as a substitute for meat in the vegetarian community. Eggplant also carries an impressive array of nutrients to support well-being, including potassium, fiber, and Vitamin B-6.*
Red cabbage is also known as blue kraut and purple cabbage. In the United States, red cabbage is usually used in coleslaw, but in Germany, it is used to dress up sauerbraten, a traditional German pot roast.
Red cabbage also boasts 10 times more Vitamin A than green cabbage, and more iron.
Red cabbage is also a source of Vitamin K.
Figs are best known for their use in jam making, tarts, and cookies; however, figs can be consumed fresh or dried. Figs are also documented in several religious texts and mythology, and they were used in folk practices of the Mediterranean. Fresh figs are the most flavorful at room temperature and should be consumed while they are soft. Dried figs are a good source of dietary fiber and contain essential mineral manganese.
Elderberry is a traditional herb used for immune support.* In addition, the berries can be consumed after they are ripe and fully cooked. Elderberries grow all over the world, mostly in the Northern Hemisphere, and the tiny white flowers of the elderberry plant attract birds and butterflies. In Central Europe, elderberries are rolled into palatschinken, a breakfast dish similar to a French crepe. Elderberries also contain important nutrients including Vitamin C, Vitamin B-6, and iron.
Most of us know prunes (dried plums) for their reputation as a digestive agent and with good reason: one cup of prunes contains 12 grams of dietary fiber. They also contain protein, Vitamin A, magnesium, and Vitamin B-6. Prunes were originally cultivated near the Caspian Sea in the Caucasus region between Europe and Asia. Today, California produces 40% of the world’s supply of prunes, making it the largest producer in the world!
Acai berries are small purple fruits that have slowly gained popularity during the last ten years due to their superfruit reputation. A cross between grapes and blueberries, acai berries are native to Brazil and Trinidad, but today they also grow in Peru and Belize.
Acai berries contain beneficial antioxidants, even more than blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries.
Purple pod pole beans (say that ten times fast!) are heirloom plants that were discovered in the 1930s by Henry Field in the Ozark Mountains. Also known as “purple podded pole” (another tongue twister!), these beans grow on long vines and turn green when they are cooked. A source of Vitamins C, K, and A, purple pod pole beans taste best fresh or frozen rather than canned.
Beets are no longer just for boiling or roasting! Beets have entered the mainstream food market for their use in hummus, juice, powders, and even smoothies. Interestingly, the entire beet plant is edible, including the leaves. Beets contain many beneficial nutrients, including potassium, folate, Vitamin C, nitrates, and fiber. In recent years, many endurance athletes have touted raw beet juice because of the presence of these nutrients.