Anthocyanins are a large subcategory of the bioflavonoid family. They are the pigments that give plants and fruits their beautiful colors. Plants and fruits use these phytochemicals and their powerful antioxidant properties to protect themselves against free radical damage caused by sunlight and other harsh environmental conditions. When you eat these foods, you get the same antioxidant protection for yourself.
I will leave the discussion of phytochemicals at that. If you want to learn about them in depth, you can visit this website on phytochemicals.
ORAC Values. Scientists have created a standard to measure the antioxidant capacity of any given fruit or vegetable, called an ORAC table. ORAC stands for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. If you want foods with greater antioxidant properties, you look for foods with a high ORAC values. Fruits with bright pigmentation tend to have the highest ORAC values; berries, red grapes, cherries and apples are good examples.
You often see this standard used to promote the antioxidant benefits of certain food. However, it's only one standard of measurement; it doesn't apply to every antioxidant. Although ORAC values may be useful in some cases, it's only one factor to consider when comparing any antioxidant food to others. For more information, go to ORAC Values.
The French Paradox. People in France have relatively low rates of coronary heart disease. This is despite the fact that they eat high levels of saturated fat, sugar, white flour and smoke a lot. They also drink a lot of red wine. This led to the theory called "French Paradox" — the idea that regular consumption of red wine might provide protection from heart disease. While this theory doesn't prove a direct cause-and-effect, it is currently being investigated by French scientists.
Red wine contains an anthocyanin called resveratrol and even higher levels of other flavonoids. These may be responsible for some of red wine's reputed health benefits. Resveratrol is the focus of a considerable number of research studies being conducted now because of its possible benefits related to life extension and cancer treatment.
Anthocyanins and Heart Disease. These powerful antioxidants may be a potent weapon in the prevention of heart disease. They strengthen your entire circulatory system in the following ways:
• reducing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol
in your bloodstream
• preventing blood cells from sticking together
• preventing your arteries from constricting
• improving elasticity in your blood vessels
• keeping your blood pressure under control
Anthocyanins are said to have the following general benefits:
• bolster your immune system
• increase your energy levels
• prevent osteoporosis
• combat premature aging
• improved mental clarity
• reduced risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
• protection from cataracts and macular degeneration
• relief from night blindness
• protecting your cells from free radical damage
• replenishing vitamin C and E
when they become oxidized
• normalizing your anti-inflammatory response
• protection against radiation and environmental pollutants
• reduced production of histamine and allergic reactions
• enhanced soft tissue healing
Food sources of anthocyanins include any type of berry — blueberries, cranberries, strawberries and raspberries. Other good sources include red wine, grapes, cherries, green tea, eggplant and red cabbage.
Superfruit Juices. There are many concentrated juice products on the market now that are great sources for anthocyanins. These exotic fruits grow in tropical climates under intense sunlight; because of this, they develop extraordinary amounts of valuable anthocyanins, many of which are not found in any other food source.
Since these juices are extracts of the whole fruit, you'll get the entire spectrum of antioxidants contained in the whole fruit. Drinking any of these juices may be the easiest way to get generous amounts of these incredibly valuable antioxidants into your diet.
Here is a list of the most popular superfruit juices, each one discussed on its own page:
Acai Berries Antioxidant-rich fruit from the Amazon jungle.
Goji Berries "Longevity" berries from the Himalayans.
Mangosteen High in xanthones; over 200 documented medicinal benefits.
Noni Antioxidant fruit from Polynesia.
With any of these products, a suggested serving of only one ounce gives you the benefits of 3 or 4 servings of ordinary fruit and more. You can drink as much as you like, of course!
I find that these juices are a great way to wash down my other supplements after a meal. They also make easy additions to any smoothie recipe.
Although eating foods rich in anthocyanins is very wise, many of the fantastic benefits available from flavonoid compounds can't be realized by diet alone.
That's where the superfruits mentioned above and supplements come in. All of these fruits have unique antioxidants that aren't found in any other food — and the unique health benefits that come with them. Pycnogenol is an example of a supplement that has a blend of antioxidants not found anywhere else in nature.
Supplements can also give you much larger doses of specific antioxidants than you could ever get from diet alone.
For example, to get the benefits in just one capsule of a grapeseed extract, you'd have to eat several pounds of grapes, and chew the seeds (yech!), or drink a gallon of organic red wine every day (maybe not so bad, except for the calories — and the incredible hangovers!).
Anthocyanin Nutritional Supplements. The most popular anthocyanins typically available in capsule or tablet form include the following. Click on the links to learn more about each particular one.
Resveratrol/Grape Seed Extract Life-extension and heart health.
Pycnogenol A unique natural blend of powerful antioxidants.
Bilberry Antioxidant that protects and strengthens your eyes.