Growing up, your mom undoubtedly tried to make you eat your fruits and veggies with every meal. She knew how important and beneficial they were for your health. A variety of colors in your diet is key. This especially holds true for the darker coloured ones.
Dark foods, including those with a purple and dark green pigment, have a high concentration of antioxidants in them. They are able to reduce the number of free radicals in the body, and therefore promote a healthier lifestyle. Here are a few reasons why mom was right about including them in your diet.
1. Maintains healthy eyes
Bilberries are the European cousin of blueberries. It’s one of the few fruits that can be found easily in the wild. It has often been found in the mountains, especially in the Alps. The forests of Sweden are dense, and it is estimated that 17% of the country would be covered with bilberries!
These berries are smaller in size and have a deeper blue color than the blueberries we are used to in North America. This difference in color is due to the high concentration of anthocyanins, a pigment full of antioxidants with many health benefits. The bluer, the better!
Bilberries are best known to promote healthy eyesight. It has been proven that the high concentration of color pigments called anthocyanidins that these berries contain, can help maintain healthy eyes. They come into play and nourish the macula of the eye in order to ensure its functioning. It would seem that even during the WWII people knew of the benefits of bilberries. It has been reported that pilots during that era used to eat bilberry preserves in order to enhance their eyesight and night vision. Many stories claim that thanks to this, they were able to complete their missions more accurately. To this day, people who eat a high number of carrots and bilberries over time do notice their nighttime visual acuity and reaction to darkness is improved. Now that’s something eye can stand by!
2. Lowers inflammation
When we’re sick, the body’s natural mode of defense is inflammation. However, long-term, chronic inflammation can be debilitating. To reduce the risk, it has been found that the antioxidants that are present in darker coloured fruits and vegetables can help. Their anthocyanin content has a true anti-inflammatory property to it.
3. Supports blood sugar levels
High blood sugar levels seem to be a growing epidemic this day in age. With the ever-growing fast food industry and unhealthy eating habits that plague our society, more and more people are suffering from high glucose levels or pre-diabetic conditions. Fruits and veggies not only provide fiber, and fewer calories compared to other food groups, but they also generally have a lower glycemic index which helps keep blood sugar levels low. Interestingly, the powerful anthocyanins in deep purple berries are part of a class of flavonoids that may also affect those levels.
4. Promotes heart health
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death all over the world. This is usually associated with obesity, diabetes and hypertension, all stemming from poor health habits. Besides their numerous positive attributes in providing vitamins, fiber and low calories, fruits and veggies also provide pigments which contribute to vascular health. Purple anthocyanins can for example strengthen capillaries and blood vessels while allowing for better blood circulation in the body. In turn, the risk of blood clots can be reduced.
5. Decreases risk of cancer
Sadly, the statistics for cancer are never good to hear. It would seem that 1 in 3 people will receive a cancer diagnosis at some stage in their lives. Cancer is caused by gene mutations linked to cellular division and growth. Therefore, any damage to DNA increases the risk of these mutations. However, deeply colored fruits and veggies are packed with antioxidants that all help reduce oxidative stress and therefore help prevent DNA damage that otherwise could accumulate and lead to gene mutation.
Among most fruits and veggies out there, the dark purple ones are the ones full of antioxidants and health properties. What better time to load up on them than now and embrace the dark side?..of health that is !
By Jennifer Soueida, BSc.