Purple foods contain polyphenols which are renowned for their benefits for mood and brain function.
Blue and purple plant foods are full of antioxidants, particularly those known to protect the brain and nervous system from oxidative stress and inflammation. Anthocyanins give these plants their blue-purple pigment and can cross the blood-brain barrier to apply their benefits on brain cells.
Blue foods are packed with nutrients that are known to improve cognitive health and mood, like anthocyanins, which are actually a type of flavonoid with potent antioxidant properties. There are many scrummy blue/purple fruits and vegetables that are good for brain health, like blueberries and purple kale.
Physiological effects of purple phytochemicals
- antioxidant properties
- cognitive support
- healthy mood
- role in nerve health
The brain is a key part of the central nervous system and maintains control over muscular activity, the activity of other organs in the body, and regulates sensory information. The organ is like the captain of your body and allows cells to communicate with each other by releasing neurotransmitters and hormones.
When it’s all working as it should, things are great. However, if brain health becomes impaired, then your moods can be imbalanced, your cognitive function may reduce, and you may experience memory problems. These are often associated with ageing too.
Oxidative stress and the brain
Oxidative stress occurs when the number of free radicals is larger than the number of antioxidants in the body. Free radicals are unpaired electrons, but electrons need to be paired — if not, they can cause harm.
Unpaired, they travel around the body looking for another lonely electron to pair up with. Ultimately, while they’re on their search, they are causing damage to other cells. This is called oxidative damage or stress. Antioxidants are cool because they can pair up with the free radicals and prevent the destruction.
Oxidative stress is associated with inflammation and many chronic diseases. It also plays an important role in the aging process, and maybe even neurodegenerative conditions, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia.
The naturally occurring chemicals found in plant foods have many benefits for human health, and those in purple foods are no exception.
The phytonutrients present in purple foods are known to be helpful for both cognition and mood. Blueberries and grapes have been singled out for their beneficial phytonutrients, like anthocyanins, phenolic acid, and resveratrol.
Phytonutrients in purple foods
Berries, currants, and grapes have high anthocyanin contents. Anthocyanins can be red in acidic conditions or blue in alkaline conditions. These flavonoids are part of the polyphenol family and have strong anti-inflammatory activities.
Research shows that anthocyanin consumption is beneficial for human cognition in the long- and short-term. For example, a flavonoid-rich blueberry drink improved the recall of children aged 8-10 years old. After a single dose, there was a significant improvement in their recall of a previously learned of listed words.
These juicy berries could also improve adult cognition, not to mention the mood of children. This is yet another excellent example of how diet could be important in promoting positive mood and preventing conditions such as depression.
Another antioxidant found in purple foods, particularly purple grapes and blueberries, is resveratrol. This polyphenol could offer protection against many human diseases, including neurodegenerative ones that affect us in old age.
Resveratrol, found in large amounts in grapes, is one of the reasons red wine is now considered to be healthy (in moderate amounts). A study by Kennedy et al. (2010) showed that resveratrol increased cerebral blood flow in 22 healthy adults who were asked to carry out various cognitive tasks.
This is particularly important for aging because blood flow in the brain may degrade as we age. This reduction in blood flow is linked to many age-related neurological disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and stroke.
Purple veg are everywhere. If you don’t believe us, check out this list. We’ve got some creative recipe ideas to prepare them too.