Unleash the power of purple vegetables!
The recent death of a neighbor of mine who was diagnosed with cancer just one month ago has got me thinking today about preventative measures for cancer and other devastating health crises. Eating for health is hardly a new concept, but I think it’s one that a lot of us forget in the daily grind. It’s so much easier to throw a burger in the microwave and munch on some potato chips while you wait than it is to make a trip to the farm stand to get some fresh produce, bring it home and cook for an hour at the end of your long work day. The belly rumbles demand instant gratification! Or so it goes in my experience.
Farmer Dave mentioned at the Headhouse Market this weekend that he’d been reading about how purple vegetables contain cancer-fighting nutrients. I was intrigued – and determined to verify and learn more. Apparently it’s all about phytochemicals. These little color-inducers are “any of various bioactive chemical compounds found in plants, as antioxidants, considered to be beneficial to human health”, according to Dictionary.com. In reading various other sources, my collective definition for phytochemicals is any plant substance/compound that’s not on the generic cereal box list of “daily recommended” vitamins and minerals, but that is scientifically proven to be beneficial to human health and to protect against disease. Well that clears it all right up, doesn’t it?
Science mumbo-jumbo aside, a colorful (natural – not artificially induced) diet means a diverse diet with lots of vegetables and fruits. Even D’s first grade class knows getting several servings of fruits and veggies each day is important. What’s so interesting about PURPLE fruits and veggies is that they carry more anthocyanins and phenolics than any other color of produce. These two antioxidants (that are ultimately a result of a purple crop’s phytochemical signature) have been at the heart of much of the hype over berries, particularly blueberries, as cancer-fighting agents. Evidence from recent laboratory tests suggests that anthocyanins in particular can noticabely slow the growth of colon cancer cells. But it’s not just berries… any purple (or blue-ish) produce has a powerful punch of these antioxidants, which are also proven to help urinary tract health, memory loss, and the general effects of aging. Just last month at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, Dr. M. Monical Giusti from the Ohio State University said that purple (and red and blue) fruits and vegetables “contain many compounds, and we’re just starting to figure out what they are and which ones provide the best health benefits.”
While the scientist figure it all out, Weavers Way Farm is growing several feisty purple crops that will definitely contribute to your longevity one way or another, including eggplants, purple haze carrots, purple basil, purple beans, purple scallions, beets, radishes and purple peppers. Others to look for at your local farm stand are blackberries, plumes, prunes, purple/red cabbage, grapes, purple/red onions, figs, purple corn, and purple/blue potatoes. So even though a recent study by the Produce for Better Health Foundation found that only 3% of Americans’ produce intake is of the purple/blue variety, it’s not for a lack of availability.
In case you haven’t yet had your fill of the science behind the power of purple veggies, here’s an informative article to read. Otherwise, start incorporating more purple produce into your diet today with fun and healthful recipes like this one or this one. Or even this one! Oh heck, why not one more! See, it’s easy to get more color in your diet!
Entry filed under: Extra Credit.