The Darker The Better

  • Jaspal Bajwa
  • India
  • Dec 19, 2014

You have probably heard that a healthy diet must cover all colors of the VIBGYOR (Rainbow) range. This way we can tap into the entire spectrum of Nature’s bounty of healthful flavonoids and polyphenols. This treasure-chest also contains foods high in Anthocyanins (ACNs), which are flavonoids that give fruits and vegetables their vivid red or blue-violet colours. Like an impassioned painter, Nature too has endowed the darker shades with a higher antioxidant content. Dietary consumption of ACNs is high compared to other flavonoids, owing to their wide distribution in plant materials. To date, more than 635 ACNs have been identified. Plants seem to produce ACNs as a protective mechanism against environmental stressors, such as ultraviolet light, cold temperatures and drought. Anthocyanin pigments have been used in folk medicine for generations, but only recently have the specific pharmacological properties of these compounds been isolated. Interest in Anthocyanin pigments has intensified because of their possible health benefits in a large array of diseases. In a 2010 report published in the Annual Review of Food Science & Technology, it has been suggested that ACNs possess anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic activity, which helps prevent cardiovascular disease, control obesity, and alleviate diabetes. 

Most of the absorption of ACNs occurs in the stomach and small intestine. However, there are a few constituents that tend to degrade in the mouth itself, based on saliva action. Of the 6 common aglycones in ACNs, two (delphinidin, petunidin) are implicated, whereas four others (cyanidin, pelargonidin, peonidin and malvidin) tend to remain intact as they travel down the digestive tract for absorption in the intestine. There is an increasing body of evidence that suggests that ACNs can help reduce the risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, neurological disorders, inflammation, arthritis, gout pain and even cancer. Further, flavonoids, including ACNs, have the ability to enhance memory and help prevent age-related declines in mental functioning. ACNs help in arresting cognitive decline, as they help protect the fats (lipids) found in brain cell membranes. 

Tip of the Week 

The concentration level of ACNs can vary considerably among various fruits and vegetables - from a low of 0.7 mg in Gooseberry to a maximum of 1,480 mg per 100 gm in the Chokeberry. Invariably, the darker the fruit or vegetable, the higher the Anthocyanin content. That is why red wine, made form ACNs-rich red grapes (ACNs are located in the skin of the grapes), is considered healthier than white wine (which does not contain grape skin). All cherries are considered a great source of ACNs; however, there is a higher accumulation in tart cherries rather than sweet cherries. Once again, the darker the hue, the more antioxidants are likely to be contained in it.

Nature’s Wonder Food(s) of the Week: Anthocyanin-rich Super Foods

Most berries are high in Anthocyanins (ACNs) - especially the red, purple or blue-skinned ones. As mentioned earlier, Chokeberries (aronia) appear to have the highest concentrations, at 1,480 mg. Other high-ACN berries are - Black Raspberry (589 mg/100g), Blueberry (558 mg/100g), Cherry (350-400 mg/100g), Red Raspberry (365 mg/100g) and Acai Berry (320 mg/100g). Other high-anthocyanin foods are: Eggplant, Black Currant, Plums, Red Asparagus, Pomegranates, Red Cabbage, Red and Purple Grapes, Black Currant, Red and Purple Olives, Kidney & Black Beans, Red-fleshed Peaches, Cherries, Red Onions and Red Wine. Research continues to help produce even darker hued varieties. Potatoes with pigmented flesh have a higher antioxidant capacity – 2 to 3 times greater than white potatoes. Very recently, scientists at the Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Maryland have produced three new purple and red potato varieties that contain a 20 times higher Anthocyanin content! 

For Education purposes only; always consult a Healthcare Practitioner for medical conditions



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