Four purple foods to choose for good health

Fruits and vegetables come in a rainbow of colors: red, orange, yellow, white, brown, green, blue and purple. Each color is associated with a different phytochemical, compounds made by plants to protect themselves. In addition to keeping plants healthy, phytochemicals also provide health benefits to us when we eat those plants.

Anthocyanins and phenolics are the phytochemicals that give fruit and vegetables their purple color. Anthocyanins and phenolics are associated with improved memory function, anti-aging, improved urinary tract health, and decreased risk of some types of cancer. To get the health benefits of these important phytochemicals, choose deep purple-colored fruits and vegetables. Here are four of my favorite purple foods:

Plums are a good source of vitamin C, which increases iron absorption from foods and also improves our immune system function. Add diced plums to a vegetable salad or stir chopped plums into yogurt for a delicious snack. One fresh plum contains 30 calories, no sodium, cholesterol or fat; 8 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of fiber.

Radicchio is a purple leafy vegetable popular in Italy. It's very high in vitamin K and a good source of folate, potassium, vitamin C and zinc. One cup of shredded radicchio contains only 9 calories. Cut a head of radicchio into quarters, sprinkle with olive oil and grill for a quick and delicious vegetable side dish.

Purple carrots are a good source of the same healthy beta-carotene and vitamin A as regular orange carrots. One medium-size carrot contains only 25 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrate and 2 grams of fiber. Carrots lose their purple color when cooked, so enjoy them raw in coleslaw or a tossed vegetable salad.

Eggplant is a good source of potassium, magnesium and copper. Tenderize and remove the bitter taste of eggplant by cutting it into pieces, sprinkling with salt, and letting it rest for 30 minutes. Rinse to remove most of the salt before cooking. Roast eggplant and puree with garlic, lemon juice, tahini and olive oil for a homemade babaganoush.

Add purple fruit or vegetables to your weekly food choices for great taste and improved health.

Editor's Note: This will be Lynn Grieger's final column in The Journal. You will still be able be able to read her advice on her blog and website. We want to thank Lynn for sharing her suggestions and knowledge with us and the newspaper's readers for the past several years, and wish her and her family well on their relocation to Arizona.

Lynn Grieger, RD, CDE, cPT is a health, food and fitness coach online at She tries to include five different colors of fruits and vegetables each day.


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