Anthocyanins are a colorful way to prevent cardiovascular disease


Image: Anthocyanins are a colorful way to prevent cardiovascular disease

It is often said that presentation is everything when it comes to meals, but there’s an even better reason to fill your plate with colorful foods. The pigment that gives foods like berries their rich red and purple hues also doubles as powerful protection against cardiovascular disease.

Studies have shown that this pigment, anthocyanin, not only offers antioxidant effects; it also protects people from chronic diseases. Indeed, one of its most impressive feats is lowering the risk of the cardiovascular conditions that take millions of lives each year, such as stroke, heart attack, and atherosclerosis.

In a systematic review that involved more than 600,000 participants, British researchers looked at the impact that dietary anthocyanins had on cardiovascular events. They discovered that those who had the greatest dietary anthocyanin intake enjoyed a 9 percent reduction in their risk of developing coronary heart disease; when it came to death due to heart disease, their risk was 8 percent lower compared to those who consumed the lowest amount of anthocyanin.

The study, which was published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, is the strongest argument yet for increasing your fruit intake. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion suggests that people eat a minimum of two servings of fruit per day; just 32 percent of Americans reach that goal.

Choose the right fruits

It’s easy to spot fruits that contain anthocyanins because of their red, purple and blue colors. Some of the best sources include strawberries, blackberries, grapes, pomegranates, cherries, blueberries, raspberries and bilberries. They can also be found in red cabbage, eggplant, and purple potatoes. It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to learn that the fruit’s skins contain the most anthocyanins given their rich color, so make sure you also eat the skin – and be sure to choose organic to avoid pesticide exposure. The review’s authors say that just one to two portions of berries per day are enough to get the anthocyanins you need to protect your heart.

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Anthocyanin’s many benefits

The review is supported by several other studies, including one from 2012 that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. That study showed a link between a higher intake of anthocyanin and significantly lower systolic blood pressure, arterial pressure, and pulse wave velocity. It also confirmed an earlier study that showed eight weeks of taking blueberry supplements reduced participants’ systolic and diastolic blood pressure by 6 and 4 percent respectively.

In addition, anthocyanins can help prevent neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. They accomplish this by improving the communication between nerves and boosting blood flow to the brain. Their antioxidant effect also means they can stop brain damage caused by oxidative stress.

If you’re still not sold on the benefits of anthocyanins, consider this: They can fight cancer cells by attacking them and spurring cell death, in addition to activating the enzymes that rid your body of cancer-causing substances.

Studies have also shown that consuming foods rich in anthocyanins can lower your insulin resistance and protect beta cells in the pancreas, which helps normalize blood levels. That means anthocyanin-rich fruits can help inhibit diabetes.

Cardiovascular disease continues to be one of the top causes of death in America, affecting 84 million Americans and causing roughly one out of every three deaths. Those are very frightening statistics, so you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to consume more anthocyanins and take other steps known to reduce your risk, like exercising and eating as healthier diet overall.

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Berries are some of the best anti-cancer foods you’ll ever find


Image: Berries are some of the best anti-cancer foods you’ll ever find

If you’re constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce your cancer risk, welcome to the club. With so many different types of cancer to worry about and so few safe and effective treatments, prevention really is better than cure. Most natural foods possess anti-cancer benefits to some degree, but if you want to get the most benefits, you should head straight for the berry aisle at your grocery store or farmer’s market.

Your first clue that berries possess remarkable properties is their color. Many fruits that are deep purple, red and blue get their shade from anthocyanins. These powerful antioxidants help fight free radicals and curb the oxidative stress and inflammation at the heart of many types of cancers as well as degenerative diseases.

While they boast a lot of useful benefits, like preventing the buildup of plaque in arterial walls that can lead to heart disease, anthocyanins’ crowning achievement is their ability to prompt various types of cancer cells to kill themselves. They also have the power to interfere with tumors’ abilities to resist chemotherapy, helping make this often-ineffective treatment that much more useful.

It’s no surprise, then, that acai berries, with their incredible antioxidant content, have been shown in studies to inhibit cancer. They can be especially useful when fighting colon cancer; a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that acai could suppress the growth and reproduction of colon cancer cells in humans by a remarkable 90 percent.

That doesn’t mean you should seek acai at the expense of other berries, however. Bilberries might not be as glamorous as other superfoods, but they are still worthwhile, especially in those who have breast or intestinal cancer cells as studies have shown they can cause cell death in these cancers. Also known as the European blueberry, they are like smaller versions of the typical blueberry and can be used in any way you would use the more familiar fruit.

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Another more obscure berry, the chokeberry, puts many other fruits to shame. According to a 2012 study in Oncology Reports, the berries were able to cause malignant brain tumor cells to die. That study looked at the combination of these berries and curcumin. While curcumin fared well when it came to inducing cell death, chokeberries were completely lethal to the cancer cells while also inhibiting the expression of genes that help cancer to spread.

Raspberries, meanwhile, offer a double-pronged approach to fighting cancer. In addition to their high anthocyanin content, they also have a high amount of ellagitannins, enabling them to limit colon cancer cells’ invasiveness and spur cell death in prostate, breast, oral and cervical cancer. Ellagic acid attacks cancer from several angles, acting not only as an antioxidant but also helping to slow cancer cell reproduction and deactivate carcinogens.

Berries’ benefits extend beyond their antioxidant abilities

The American Institute for Cancer Research points out that berries are also excellent sources of vitamin C, which has been shown to help protect against esophageal cancer. They also contain a lot of fiber, which can lower your risk of colorectal cancer.

When you consider all these benefits, combined with the fact that berries happen to be delicious, it might be tempting to get as much of them into your system as possible. Eating berries is unlikely to hurt you, unless you happen to be allergic to them. However, it’s important to keep in mind that berries contain astringent tannins, so taking high doses of very concentrated berry extracts could be damaging over time. Use common sense and talk to a naturopath if you’re concerned about striking a healthy balance.

Sources for this article include:

NaturalHealth365.com

AICR.org

Naturalpedia.com