The Power of Purple

Dr Ailsa Care

MBChB, MRCGP, AFMCP

June 21, 2021

It is common knowledge, and there is plenty of research evidence, for the health benefits associated with eating a varied ‘rainbow’ of vegetables and fruits.

The different colours all contain a number of plant chemicals called phytonutrients that together support our ability to fight infections and cancer, support a healthy heart, liver, kidneys, brain, reduce inflammation and more.

A study in 2009 showed that 8 out of 10 people had a “phytonutrient gap” meaning they were not eating the full range of food colours resulting in implications for their health.

Purple is one of the colours that is most often missing from our plates, particularly the savoury dishes.

Purple, blue and black colour pigments contain a group of phytonutrients like anthocyanins, resveratrol, chloragenic acid which have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune supporting benefits.

Some of the cardiovascular benefits are that these phytonutrients protect the inner lining of blood vessels from damage and relax vessel walls resulting in reduced pressure i.e they help to lower blood pressure.

Brain benefits are in part due to anthocyanins which cross the blood brain barrier to exert their benefits on brain cells. Blueberries and strawberries contain pigments which reduce inflammation and inhibit DNA damage resulting in reduced risk of cognitive decline and improved memory. Berries contain resveratrol and quercetin which are beneficial for the production of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which is involved in the survival and maintenance of nerve cells.

Purple foods to consider:

  • dark berries like blueberries, blackberries, purple grapes, cherries
  • other fruits – plums, prunes, figs
  • purple cabbage, purple broccoli, purple carrots, purple potatoes, purple sweet potatoes, purple cauliflower, beetroot, aubergine, black olives, purple fries cheese beans, radishes, purple kale
  • black or purple rice

Tips for including more purple foods:

  • keep a variety of frozen berries in the freezer for convenience to add to smoothies, make a healthy chia jam or fruit compote.
  • add berries to a smoothie
  • add berries to yoghurt and serve with porridge or pancakes
  • try purple kale instead of green
  • shred some purple cabbage into a salad
  • add some grated beetroot to a salad
  • make beetroot burgers
  • substitute purple or black rice for white rice

Here are a couple of recipes to get you started.

Please do let us know the ways you have found to include more purple power!

Purple Power Salad

Inspired by a recipe from The Medicinal Chef Dale Pinnock

Serves 2

1/4 red cabbage, finely shredded or grated

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1 large beetroot, grated

1/2 pomegranate deseeded

2 tbsp flax oil (or hemp oil, extra virgin olive oil)

1 tsp honey

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 clove garlic

1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Fresh herbs to garnish

Mix the shredded/grated/chopped vegetables in a large serving bowl.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or blend together in a blender.

Pour over the salad and mix well.

Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and garnish with your choice of fresh herbs.

Purple Power Smoothie

The amounts and ingredients are not crucial, you can vary what goes in depending on the season and what you have available.

I used:

A handful of mixed berries (can be fresh or frozen)

A chopped fresh beetroot

A chunk of purple cabbage

100ml coconut kefir (could also be natural yoghurt or dairy kefir)

250ml non-dairy milk

2 scoops of collagen powder

So simply whizz all the ingredients in your blender and it’s ready to drink!