Eating well includes eating the colours of the rainbow, according to nutritionists. The dark purple foods on that colourful spectrum have a rich concentration of healthy antioxidants and vital flavonoids.
The colour purple in these foods comes from the natural plant pigments called anthocyanins. These are powerful antioxidants that work hard to protect cells from damage by free radicals.
Among the purple vegetables available, possibly the first to come to mind is aubergine. But also available are purple carrots, purple cabbage, purple peppers and purple-fleshed potatoes. Look in the right places (farmers’ markets or specialty food stores) and you might even find purple Belgian endive, purple olives or purple asparagus.
Legumes and grains
You can also find purple legumes and grains, including climbing beans that sport purple pods, purple corn, purple quinoa and purple rice.
By far the best represented foods in the purple colour spectrum are fruits. The list is deliciously endless and includes purple grapes (and raisins), figs, passion fruit and plums (and prunes). Add to this the long list of berries that cloak themselves in this rich colour, including blackberries, blueberries, elderberries, cranberries, chokeberries and bilberries—and acai berries.
One of the most interesting of these purple berries, the acai berry (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) from South America, is the fruit of the palm tree Euterpe oleracea and grows in the rich, dark organic soils of the Amazon River Basin in Brazil.
The concentration of antioxidants in the acai berry is reported to be considerably higher than those found in red wine. The anthocyanins found in acai berries offer protective benefits to the cardiovascular system, digestive organs, brain, blood, cells and tissues, as well as exhibiting strong anti-inflammatory and antiageing properties.
Acai also contains amino acids, including phenylalanine, proline and glycine. Phenylalanine is crucial for brain and behavioural health and serves as a precursor to numerous neurotransmitters in the human body.
Proline is one of the main components of collagen, the connective tissue structure that binds and supports other tissues. Glycine is utilised in liver detoxification and is essential for the biosynthesis of nucleic acids and bile acids.
Acai is very similar to olive oil in fatty acid content. The berry contains 60 per cent oleic acid, an omega-9 monounsaturated essential fatty acid and 12 per cent linoleic acid, an omega-6 polyunsaturated essential fatty acid.
Essential fatty acids are crucial for human life and are responsible for hundreds of physiological processes in the human body including reproduction, fertility, inflammation, immunity and communication between cells.
Plant sterols found in the acai berry also enhance immune response by increasing T-cell division, enhancing secretion of lymphokines involved in cellular immunity and boosting the activity of cytotoxic cells (a key to fighting pathogens).
The acai berry also contains a full array of natural vitamins, minerals, trace minerals and significant amounts of dietary fibre. Most noteworthy, acai contains vitamins B1, B2, B3, C and E as well as potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorus.