1. Fights Inflammation
Anthocyanin-rich foods seem to be natural inflammation fighters, and that can be important for keeping numerous workout-sapping conditions, ranging from achy joints to asthma, under control. In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Nutrition, men who ate one purple potato per day over six weeks had reduced markers of whole-body inflammation and less DNA damage than men given an equal portion of white potatoes.
2. Anti-Aging, Anti-Cancer
Anthocyanins are also natural antioxidants, which means they protect our cells from oxidative damage from the likes of ultraviolet light, pollution or the natural aging process. Anthocyanins may also prevent the growth of cancerous cells in the body: in one study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, an extract of anthocyanin-rich Concord grapes helped prevent cancerous damage to breast tissue.
While cardiovascular disease might not be at the forefront of your mind, a healthy heart helps to transport oxygen to working muscles, and anthocyanins are thought to help keep the heart and circulatory system in top condition by relaxing blood vessels by triggering the release of a compound known as nitric oxide. On top of that, several studies have suggested that anthocyanin-rich blueberries help protect the brain from aging, keeping you fit - and sharp - until a ripe old age.
4. Weight Control
Could anthocyanins actually help keep you lean? Several studies conducted on mice have suggested that blueberry anthocyanins, in particular, may be able to help prevent the accumulation of body fat. In one study, published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry, mice placed on a high-fat diet gained no more body fat than mice on a low-fat diet, as long as they were given either pure blueberry juice or purified blueberry anthocyanins. Include this fruit in this cashew butter wrap for a tasty snack!
5. Anthocyanin-Rich Foods
Any plant-based food that is blue, purple or deep red will likely contain some amount of anthocyanins. If you're ready for a break from blueberries, blackberries are a great option. Nutritional winners for their anthocyanin content, blackberries are also low in calories (62 per cup) and high in fiber (eight grams per cup). Keep fresh or frozen blackberries on-hand for a boost to yogurt, oatmeal, smoothies and even cottage cheese.
Bitter they may be, but cranberries seem to be particularly beneficial for preventing unwanted bacteria from sticking to the cells of the urinary tract, keeping infections away. Watch out for sweetened cranberry cocktails, however - you're better off to use a splash of the real stuff in sparkling water for an alcohol-free cocktail with dinner. Or bake with them!
7. Red Kidney Beans
Yes, anthocyanins are found in more foods than just berries. Red kidney beans are a must-have food because they are rich in muscle-building protein, filling fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants - a rare combination found in few other foods. Toss them into a satisfying chili, a mixed bean salad or soup, or mash them up with some cumin and garlic for a quick veggie dip.
8. Red Cabbage
Not just for grandma's soups anymore, red cabbage is back: chock-full of antioxidants and low in calories, research suggests that foods from the cabbage family are particularly powerful breast cancer fighters. Try shredded red cabbage, cooked with a chopped apple for sweetness, as a simple but bold side-dish to any meat-based meal.
9. Tart Cherries
Like cranberries, tart cherries have a bit of zing, but it's a taste you can get used to, especially because this juice not only seems to reduce oxidative stress, a process that contributes to aging over time, but research suggests that it also reduces symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage after even the toughest workouts.