Have you ever been at a party or picnic and a guest looks at the blue corn chips and thinks they’ve been artificially dyed? It’s interesting how many people don’t realize there are multiple varieties of corn beyond yellow and white. What about cabbage and onions? Are they considered red or purple? In this last blog of the rainbow series, I’ll review all the beautiful foods that are blue and violet.
Let’s start with that blue corn. Like blueberries, blue corn contains cancer-fighting anthocyanins, the compound responsible for its blue color. Recent rodent research from the Journal of Medicinal Food found that when rats were fed a high sugar, high cholesterol diet in addition to blue maize extract, they didn’t accumulate as much abdominal fat as rats fed the same diet without blue maize extract. In addition, blood pressure, high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and triglyceride levels were lower in the blue maize group. 1 Blue corn is a staple of the Hopi Indian tribe, who believed the corn gave them strength prior to long journeys. While you can't eat blue corn on the cob right now you can find blue corn tortillas and chips in your store!
Blue (may also be dubbed violet) potatoes can also be filed under “food anomaly” like blue corn. These blue tubers are native to South America, but specialty stores or restaurants in the US may carry them as well. In addition to carbohydrate, blue potatoes are a source of vitamin C, B 6 and potassium. These blue beauties are also a source of anthocyanin.
Eggplant is another purple vegetable that’s a member of the nightshade family, similar to potatoes, peppers, and tomatoes. Eggplant has a similar texture to some mushrooms and is most often used in eggplant Parmesan. Try it roasted with olive oil and zaatar seasoning or roasted and pureed for baba ganouj. It’s also excellent in ratatouille, a French vegetable stew with tomatoes, onions, peppers, and squash. Eggplant is a good source of fiber and provides just 20 calories in a 1-cup serving.
Purple cabbage may be seen as an “extra” in bagged salads, but this beautiful vegetable is more than just a pretty face. Purple cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C and K in addition to beta-carotene. It can be stir-fried with other veggies or chopped and added to soups and stews. It often turns a blue hue when cooked, then reheated, so don’t be alarmed!
Radicchio is another vegetable that might not receive much attention, but it should. This beautiful reddish-purple leaf is a member of the chicory family and is also known as red endive. Like other leafy vegetables, radicchio is very low in calories and provides vitamin C in addition to minerals such as vitamin K. It can be added to salads or served as an appetizer with goat cheese and dried cherries.
In addition to blue and purple vegetables, there are plenty of beautiful purple fruits to enjoy. Dark plums are a good source of fiber as well as antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Dried plums are more concentrated in sugar and are known for “assistance” with bowel regularity.
Blackberries provide vitamin C, fiber and anthocyanins. Blackberries tend to be less sweet and more tart than other berries and contain a little over 60 calories in a full cup serving. Similar to blackberries, blueberries are a great source of anthocyanin and vitamin C. They make a great snack and research suggests that wild varieties may help in preventing dementia. 2
Purple grapes make a great snack on their own or can be sliced and added to chicken salad, green salad or fruit salad or frozen for a healthy summer treat. They’re also a nice addition to fruit compote for chicken or pork or served over your favorite ice cream.
With so many options, your clients will be looking for more recipe ideas for this gorgeous blue and purple produce!
1. Guzmán-Gerónimo RI1, Alarcón-Zavaleta TM1, Oliart-Ros RM2, Meza-Alvarado JE3, Herrera-Meza S4, Chávez-Servia JL5. Blue Maize Extract Improves Blood Pressure, Lipid Profiles, and Adipose Tissue in High-Sucrose Diet-Induced Metabolic Syndrome in Rats. J Med Food. 2017 Feb;20(2):110-115
2. Boespflug EL1, Eliassen JC1, Dudley JA1, Shidler MD1, Kalt W2, Summer SS3, Stein AL1, Stover AN1, Krikorian R1. Enhanced neural activation with blueberry supplementation in mild cognitive impairment. Nutr Neurosci.2018 May;21(4):297-305.
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and owner of Sound Bites Nutrition in Cincinnati. She shares her clinical, culinary, and community nutrition knowledge through cooking demos, teaching, and freelance writing. Lisa is a regular contributor to Food and Health Communications and Today’s Dietitian and is the author of the Healing Gout Cookbook, Complete Thyroid Cookbook, and Heart Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook. Her line of food pun merchandise, Lettuce beet hunger, supports those suffering food insecurity in Cincinnati. For more information, visit her website: https://soundbitesnutrition.com/