Why You Should Eat Brightly Colored Fruits and Vegetables
Marks Daily Apple
by Mark Sisson: Why
You Should Eat and Drink High-Cacao Dark Chocolate
Today I round
out my Wahls-inspired series on the health benefits of eating various
classes of plant matter. If you're just now joining us, be sure
to watch the video
in which Terry Wahls explains how eating a Paleo diet rich in leafy
greens, cruciferous vegetables, and brightly colored produce (plus
coincided with a regression in her rapidly-progressing MS. Then,
read the previous two installments on leafy
greens and crucifers
to get completely caught up.
You know how
those deep red beets sliced in half to show off the insides, those
taut blueberries, those purple and violet mottled, oddly-shaped
heirloom tomatoes lightly dusted with soil, and those glistening
blackberries sitting in your periphery pop out and draw your gaze
as you make your way through the farmers' market? That's not just
clever product placement. It's actually because of the pretty colors.
It's innate. It's by "design." Mother nature, you see, is a masterful
visual merchandiser who comes up with all these lovely colors so
that plants can reproduce. But wait how does color help plants
tend to be stationary. Except for the ents, they are, quite literally,
rooted in place. A tomato plant can't walk, can't kneel and lovingly
place its firstborn into a shallow womb dug into the soft, fertile
earth. That would be awesome to see, but it's not gonna happen.
What does happen is that colorful plants catch the eye of hungry
organisms who eat the fruit, swallow the seed, and poop it out someplace
else, thus giving it a chance to take hold, germinate, and develop
into a full-blown adult plant. In order to disseminate their progeny
across the land, many plants must therefore manufacture pigments
colorful compounds that draw the eye and signal "food source"
to mobile, hungry organisms. Being mobile, hungry organisms ourselves,
we are also attracted to colorful fruits and vegetables.
And for good
reason. See, mother nature is also thrifty. It's rare that she manufactures
a compound with only one use she likes her creations to multitask
and plant pigments are no different. They serve multiple roles
in plants in addition to attracting animals, such as protecting
it from UV damage, dampening the effects of excess light, enabling
photosynthesis, and even acting as endogenous antioxidants (plants
can't really sip red wine and pop supplements, after all). Luckily,
it appears that we can leverage many of these pigments for our own
gain by eating brightly colored fruits
Which is why
both Terry Wahls and I recommend eating a wide variety of them.
There are hundreds of different bioactive plant pigments, each with
unique effects. Rather than isolate just one or two, by eating a
variety of colorful plants we ensure consumption of a wide range
of potentially health-promoting plant pigments.
I could end
this post now with the basic advice to "eat colorful foods and lots
of them." This would cut down on reading time, ingratiate myself
to vegan and vegetarian
readers, and still manage to convey an effective, actionable message.
But alas, I know you guys like the gritty details. It's not enough
(for most of you) to read someone tell you that eating blueberries
and purple sweet potatoes is healthy. Sometimes you want to vividly
imagine those anthocyanins sliding down your gullet, preventing
the oxidation of omega-3 fatty acids in your gut, and interacting
with your body at the cellular level to produce beneficial antioxidant
and/or hormetic effects. Sometimes you want to know what you're
putting inside your body on a deeper level. If that's you, keep
on reading. If it's not, just go out, eat some colorful produce,
and you'll be fine.
When I put
this post together, I struggled with formatting. Should I cover
each individual pigment? With dozens of them out there, that would
be a large undertaking. Should I cover each plant? Plants contain
multiple pigments, so it could get confusing rather quickly. Should
I cover each color? That's confusing, because there's a lot of overlapping
and combinations of different pigments into different colors. I
decided to break them up into pigment categories.
and Other Flavonoids
Since I already
mentioned anthocyanins, let's start there. Anthocyanins are flavonoids,
the most common type of polyphenol. Pretty much any fruit, vegetable,
or flower with a significant amount of purple or blue gets that
color from anthocyanins. Even some reds can be anthocyanin-based.
The deeper the color, the more anthocyanins. We're talking:
Anthocyanin-rich blueberry juice improved cognitive
function and memory in aging adult humans.
(black and red) Raspberry juice shows anti-atherosclerotic
effects in hyperlipidemic rodents, and although
human studies are lacking, there is a strong basis for considering
them a healthful food.
favorite berry, blackberries are rich in flavonoid pigments
vivo evidence of protection against neurological degeneration and
sweet potatoes Tons of references in my sweet
potato post (that's my post about sweet potatoes, not my sweet
post about potatoes). Same goes for regular purple potatoes.
Nasunin, a potent eggplant anthocyanin that is strongly
absorbed in the GI tract, displays antioxidant
effects. Make sure to eat the peel, though.
Although (again) human studies are lacking, the considerable anthocyanin
content of cherries suggests that their efficacy
models may well carry over to us.
Cranberry juice, whose anthocyanins are bioavailable
in humans after drinking, improved vascular
function in heart disease patients.
tomatoes In addition to carotenoids (more on those below),
tomatoes also contain significant levels of anthocyanins.
the rest of the article
February 25, 2012
© 2012 Mark's Daily Apple
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