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Source: J. Scott Smith, 785-532-1219, jsschem@k-state.edu
Note to editor: This is the third in a series of news releases about the color purple in honor of Kansas State University's founding on Feb. 16, 1863.
News release prepared by: Jennifer Torline, 785-532-0847, jtorline@k-state.edu

Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011

The power of purple:
PURPLE FOODS PROVIDE HEALTHY NUTRIENTS AND ANTIOXIDANTS

MANHATTAN -- When it comes to healthy eating, consider adding some powerful purple foods to your diet.

That's because many purple foods contain anthocyanins, which are red, blue and purple natural pigments. Anthocyanins are healthy because they're powerful antioxidants and may help boost the immune system, maintain health and prevent disease, said J. Scott Smith, Kansas State University professor of food chemistry.

"It's the name of the game right now," Smith said. "Everybody is really interested in antioxidants because they are thought to be healthy."

Anthocyanins are more prevalent in fruits than vegetables, Smith said, noting the deep red and purple hues of apple skin and grapes. Because anthocyanins are pH sensitive, they can appear more red or blue depending on the type of food.

Anthocyanins are especially common in berries, including blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and blackberries.

"That's why people say 'Eat your berries,' because they are very healthy for you," Smith said.

Even the extracts from foods that contain anthocyanins are healthy, Smith said. A recent trend in the food industry is to use natural, instead of synthetic, food dyes. Anthocyanins can be extracted from fruits or vegetables and then used as a natural purple or blue-hued food dye.

Because red wine comes from grapes, it also contains anthocyanins. In addition, red wine contains resveratrol, which is an antioxidant and may be heart-healthy.

Some lesser-known purple foods also contain anthocyanins. South Americans have grown purple corn for centuries, Smith said, and a purple cauliflower and a purple carrot also exist.

While beets come in deep reds and purples, it's not because of anthocyanins, Smith said. The purple color found in beetroot comes from betalain pigments, which replace anthocyanins in some plants. Betalains are also healthy antioxidants.