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Five health benefits of purple foods

Dark-coloured foods such as purple onions and blackberries are loaded with healing antioxidants. Here’s why you should include them in your diet and a healthy purple coleslaw recipe

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blackberries in pink plastic bowl

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It’s a scientifically-proven fact that the darker the food, the higher the antioxidant level. Antioxidants are to the body, the way rust-proof works on a car – they have the ability to mop up free radicals and keep you looking younger, longer. Thus, dark foods with a purple pigment, such as purple onions, concord grapes, purple cabbage, black mission figs, prunes and blackberries, are known for having amazing healing powers.

The purple pigment in all of these fruits and vegetables contain flavonoids, including resveratrol, which can help decrease blood pressure. Resveratrol helps relax the arterial walls, decreases the pressure in the arteries and allows better circulation. Produce with purple hues contain a variety of polyphenols that can reduce the inflammatory response in the body. In my book Meals That Heal Inflammation, I outline how inflammation is at the root of all major diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and immune dysfunction.

Let’s take a deeper look into these dark nutritional superheroes. Here are five reasons to eat more purple foods:

1. Purple foods kill cancer
The resveratrol found in purple grapes, cranberries, blueberries, bilberries, and, of course, red wine and grape juice can inhibit the spread of colorectal cancer in animal studies. Other promising studies also show that resveratrol can induce cancer cell death in cases of prostate, breast, skin, liver, lung and blood cancers. The curcumin in turmeric seems to boost its anti-cancer activity so have a glass of pinot noir (the type of wine highest in resveratrol) next time you have curry.

2. Purple foods are ulcer-fighters
A 2011 study found that anthocyanins from blackberries reduced stomach ulcer formation in rats. Researchers believe this is because the antioxidants in blackberries prevent oxidation and boost the activity of other important antioxidants, such as glutathione, that are naturally present in the body.

3. Purple foods are good for your liver
Black rice, which has more anthocyanins per gram than blueberries, is a delicious antioxidant grain that has been found to reduce damage to the liver incurred by excessive alcohol intake.

4. Purple foods are good for the heart
Black currants can lower “bad” LDL cholesterol by up to 13 percent while raising “good” HDL cholesterol. Black currants and bilberries have more anthocyanins than blueberries. Wild raw berries have higher antioxidant content than fresh raw berries or frozen varieties.

5. Purple foods prevent urinary tract infections
Vegetables such as purple cauliflower, purple carrots and purple cabbage contain the same plant pigment, anthocyanin, that is responsible for the UTI-fighting power of cranberries. Lab studies show that anthocyanin compounds fight H. pylori, the bacteria that promotes stomach ulcers and urinary tract infections.


 

Tangy purple coleslaw
Look for unpasteurized sauerkraut in your local health food store as the natural process of fermentation creates beneficial probiotic bacteria. The tasty zip in this recipe is from the tangy sour flavour of the sauerkraut. I love Ambrosia apples for this recipe because this variety is slow to brown when cut and ideal for salads. Ambrosia is a sweet apple with a distinct honeyed aroma that pairs nicely with the purple cabbage. For maximum nutrition, top the coleslaw with the nutty crunch of hemp hearts. They offer healing benefits of omega 3 fatty acids.

Ingredients:
4 cups purple cabbage, finely sliced
1 cup unpasteurized Sauerkraut
1/2 cup red onion, finely sliced
2 organic Ambrosia apples, finely sliced
2 tbsp. hemp hearts (shelled hemp seeds)
Dressing:
2 tbsp. Veganaise (healthy mayo substitution)
2 tbsp. sauerkraut liquid
1 tsp. dill weed, dried
Honey, to taste
2 tsp. unrefined sea salt

Directions:
1. Mix salad ingredients together.
2. Mix dressing ingredients together.
3. Combine until salad is evenly coated.
Makes 6 servings.

Julie Daniluk hosts Healthy Gourmet (OWN: the Oprah Winfrey Network), a reality cooking show that highlights the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. Her first book, Meals That Heal Inflammation (Random House) is now available and will help people enjoy allergy-free foods that taste great and assist the body in the healing process.