Anthocyanins are the pigments that give red, blue, and purple fruits and vegetables (i.e. elderberries) their rich coloring. They’re a type of bioflavonoid, a class of compounds found only in plants that have powerful antioxidant effects. Plants produce these anthocyanins as a protective mechanism; and it turns out, those same bioflavonoids help protect human bodies too.
Historically, anthocyanins have been used in folk medicine for generations as a remedial measure. But it’s only recently that the measurable pharmacological properties of isolated anthocyanin pigments have been conclusively verified by in vivo, in vitro, or clinical research trials.
Basically, today’s science seems to back up yesteryear’s folklore. It’s something Norm has known intuitively all along: that elderberries are a nutritional force to reckon with.
What Do Anthocyanins Do for the Body?
We still have a lot to learn about the exact benefits of anthocyanins in the body, but we’re finding out that they play a role in fighting free radical damage, and protecting cells, tissues and other vital organs.
Getting your fill of anthocyanin-rich fruits and vegetables may help boost your overall health by offering up an array of nutrients and antioxidants your body needs to perform at its best.
When anthocyanins interact with microflora (organisms that live inside the intestines to help digest food) it has a positive effect on gut health. Additionally, anthocyanins have shown to support hormonal balance by reducing estrogen. And of course, anthocyanins have shown dramatic anti-inflammatory effects, boosting the production of cytokines that regulate your immune response.
Overall, adding foods containing these essential nutrients to your diet increases general wellness.
What Foods Contain Anthocyanins?
Anthocyanins are plentiful in plant foods, providing the bright red-orange to blue-violet colors of many fruits and vegetables. These compounds are most abundant in berries (eg, black currants, elderberries, blueberries, strawberries) and their juices, and in red and purple grapes, red wine, sweet cherries, eggplants, black plums, blood oranges, and red cabbage. Red to purplish blue-colored leafy vegetables, grains, roots, and tubers also contain high levels of anthocyanins.
Plants produce anthocyanins as a protective mechanism against environmental stressors, such as ultraviolet light, cold temperatures, and drought. This production of anthocyanins in roots, stems, and especially leaf tissues is believed to provide resistance against these environmental hazards. Turns out, humans benefit from these compounds too.
Elderberries & Anthocyanins
Elderberries are one of the richest sources of anthocyanin pigments. Elderberries produce a small blue-black fruit that is typically made into jellies, wine, extracts or other products and is rarely eaten fresh.