Are you team green or team purple? When it comes to grapes, people always have a favourite (red/purple is superior, just saying).
But now, there’s scientific backing to prove that purple fruit and veg might actually be better for you. When it comes to grapes, cabbage, berries, onions, or even oranges, choosing the darker variety has more health benefits, say researchers.
UK scientists told the British Science Festival at Anglia Ruskin University about the benefits of the pigment called anthocyanins, which is found in purple, blue and some red varieties of certain fruits and veggies.
Anthocyanins can stop harmful compounds called free radicals from damaging cells. Previous research also indicates anthocyanins possess “anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-obesity effects”. But these preventative pigments are not found in tomatoes, beetroot or peppers.
As tomatoes tend to be lower in sugar and cheaper to buy and grow, scientists are now working on a genetically modified ‘purple’ tomato which includes anthocyanins. They told festival goers they are working to get regulatory approval for a “super” tomato that has rich purple skin.
The scientists recommend about 125mg of anthocyanins a day and two purple tomatoes would give you the same amount of anthocyanins as 70g of blackberries.
Lead researchers have managed to convince Waitrose to stock blood orange juice for its health benefits, and we may soon be seeing purple tomatoes on the shelves of the supermarket too.
Dr Eugenio Butelli, from John Innes Centre of plant and microbial science in Norwich, said at the festival: “We believe anthocyanins are a bit special. Everything is converging to the idea that these are really good compounds for you — natural antioxidants that you should introduce in your diet.”
Cathie Martin, from the centre, added: “The purple tomatoes are genetically modified and it’s difficult to get regulatory approval to grow GM [food in the UK] for non-research purposes. In [America] it’s different, so we have gone through the safety procedure with the [Food and Drug Administration] and they’ll decide whether it’s safe. We’re fairly confident we’ll get that decision by the end of this year.”
Researchers added, after they get FDA approval, they will go to the UK Food Standard Agency for permission to sell seeds for people to grow their own purple tomatoes.