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What are anthocyanins?

Anthocyanins are compounds found in plants called flavonoids which are natural pigments that contribute to red, blue, and purple coloring of fruits and vegetables. They give plants the blue and red colours as seen in blueberries and plums. They also have additional antioxidant-like effects in the body. 

What foods have anthocyanins?

Foods that contain high amounts of anthocyanins are dark blue, purple, or dark red in color. They are found in plants including leaves, roots, grains, but most commonly fruits and vegetables. The most concentrated food sources include blackberries, blueberries, black currants, red cabbage, cherries, and cranberries.

What are the benefits of anthocyanins?

Anthocyanins act as antioxidants that can protect against harmful free radicals. Some potential benefits include preventing heart disease, diabetes, specific microbial infections, and some metabolic diseases. They may also help with reducing inflammation. Anthocyanins are also used as a natural way to color food instead of using synthetic dyes.

Can you take anthocyanin supplements?

There are anthocyanin supplements available, though there are no proven research studies with recommended usage or dosing. Additionally, many supplements are not regulated or tested for safety. If seeking the desired benefits of anthocyanins, it is recommended to choose food first. They can be found in purple, blue, and dark red foods such as blackberries, cranberries, red onions, kidney beans, black currants, blueberries, red cabbage, cherries, and more.

Does cooking destroy anthocyanins?

Anthocyanins will be in the highest concentration in their raw forms. Heating and cooking decreases the amount of antioxidant compounds in the foods, as heat can degrade the compound’s chemical structure. The higher the heat and the longer amount of time that a food is cooked, the more the anthocyanins that will be lost. While keeping heat and duration of cooking to a minimum is ideal for antioxidant capacity, there will still be health benefits regardless of consuming raw or cooked.

Related Terms

Lycopene Isoflavones

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Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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