What all this about Purple Food?

I first read about the benefits of purple foods a couple of years ago, but as is the way of these things that seems to be a moment where they get into the zeitgeist and see mentions of a subject popping up all over the place.

In the last month I must have seen three or four articles referencing purple foods, with various degrees of hyperbole, including one in a mainstream newspaper.

You may be wondering what exactly is going on here, so I've put together an article to explain what special benefits these foods have, and give you my favourite “add a dash of purple to your meal” recipe of braised cabbage.


The reason the fuss is being made about “purple” foods, which really includes foods that are coloured anywhere on the red-blue spectrum, is that the pigments that gives these foods their colour are a family of antioxidants known as Anthocyanins.  (The name even comes from the Greek for blue flower!)

Now why is this important?

Well these particular antioxidants have been linked with a number of strongly beneficial effects on human health.

These include a number of studies showing strong evidence that increased consumption of Anthocyanins resulted in a reduction in death from Cardiovascular Disease.  Some evidence that these chemicals may inhibit the growth of cancerous tissue, and some good evidence in animal trials that Anthocyanins help prevent age-related declines in mental function and improve memory.

That sounds like a pretty good set of benefits to me.

Sources of Anthocyanins

The other great thing about making a little bit of effort to include these strongly-coloured Anthocyanin containing foods in our diet is that pretty much everything that contains them is also great for us in other ways!  It really is a win-win.

Anything with a strong red, purple, blue colour will have this benefit, with some great examples including:

  • Berries (so my DOMS busting smoothie is doubly good for you!)
  • Other fruits such as cherries, pomegranates, grapes and plums
  • Red/purple varieties of vegetables like potatoes, onions and cabbage
  • Other vegetables such as aubergine and beetroot
  • Black Rice 
A great side for many a meal!

A great side for many a meal!

Add a splash of red to a meal

One of the ways that I like to add a splash of purple to any meal is with my braised red cabbage.  Cabbage being a member of the Cruciferous family as a number of other great health benefits, so this really is a lovely side dish to pep up many different meals.  
What’s more it tastes great too, when I first prepared it my wife was extremely unconvinced, but now she’s a huge fan!
Red cabbage keeps for ages in the fridge (also really useful) but what I like to do is create a big batch of this that I can and keep in the fridge and use over a couple of days.



  • 85g of butter
  • 1red cabbage (quartered, cored and very thinly sliced)
  • A pinch of salt and pepper
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of either red wine or cider*
  • 1 tablespoon of red wine or cider vinegar

*  Alternatively, if you can get hold of it my personal favourite variation is using German apple wine (Apfelwein) common in the Frankfurt region.  The dish has a somewhat Germanic flavour to me and if you can get hold of it just seems to work perfectly.



  1. Melt the butter in a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Add the cabbage, with the salt and pepper, and stir regularly until the cabbage begins to wilt and soften.  This should take around 7 to 8 minutes.
  3. Add the wine or cider and simmer until liquid has evaporated.
  4. Toss in the vinegar and stir constantly until the cabbage is tender and turns incredibly vivid red purple colour.

Serve immediately, or refrigerate when cool and warm by gently stirring over a medium heat before serving.