The anthocyanins are a sub-group of phytonutrients (a group of chemical compounds which occur naturally in plants and have numerous health benefits but are not believed to be essential in humans) that belong to the flavonoid family. The major anthocyanins include:
Anthocyanins are mainly found in berries with blackberries, blueberries, cranberries and raspberries all being excellent sources. But what do they actually do for your body? Today I am going to answer that very question and provide you with 6 amazing anthocyanin health benefits:
1) ACTING AS ANTI-INFLAMMATORIES:- Inflammation is your body’s natural response to infection, injury, irritation and stress. It is normally characterised by heat, pain, redness and swelling. In most cases inflammation is a positive thing as it shows your body has responded to the infection, injury irritation or stress and is starting to fix any damage. However, in certain circumstances inflammation is unnecessarily triggered by other factors and actually causes damage to the body’s cells. Fortunately, research has shown that cyanidin is a powerful anti-inflammatory (a substance which reduces unnecessary inflammation in the body’s cells). Provisional studies suggest that delphinidin, malvidin and peonidin may also be anti-inflammatories but further studies are required before these suggestions can be confirmed.
2) ACTING AS ANTIOXIDANTS:- Antioxidants are powerful nutrients that protect your body’s cells from damaging free radicals. Free radicals are released during oxygen related reactions and have been linked with an increased risk of cancer, an increased risk of diabetes, a weakened immune system and increased signs of ageing. The anthocyanins are all powerful antioxidants and can protect your body’s cells from these damaging free radicals and their harmful effects.
3) BOOSTING YOUR BLOOD HEALTH:- The anthocyanins boost your blood health in 2 main ways. First, cyanidin has been shown to prevent atherosclerosis (a condition where hard plaques form in your artery walls and restrict the flow of blood). Secondly, cyanidin has been shown to reduce blood glucose levels (which reduces cellular damage and helps diabetics manage their condition). Early research suggests that delphinidin may also have a role to play in the prevention of atherosclerosis and pelargonidin may help to reduce blood glucose levels but more research is required before this can be confirmed.
4) PREVENTING CANCER:- Cancer is a disease that develops when the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in your body’s cells becomes damaged or disrupted and causes your cells to grow in a rapid and uncontrollable way. This increased cellular growth ultimately leads to the development of a tumour which may become cancerous. Cancerous tumours can spread to other areas of the body and cause significant damage to the surrounding cells. Fortunately, research has revealed that cyanidin can prevent various types of cancer including colon cancer, leukaemia, lung cancer, prostate cancer and skin cancer. Provisional studies suggest that delphinidin, malvidin and peonidin may also have a role to play in cancer prevention but further evidence is required to validate this.
5) PREVENTING DIABETES:- Diabetes is a disease that causes your blood glucose levels to become extremely high. It develops when your body’s cells stops responding to insulin (a hormone which allows your body’s cells to take glucose from the blood) or when your body fails to produce enough insulin. The good news is that cyanidin can reduce blood glucose levels and make your cells more receptive to insulin which makes it highly beneficial to people suffering from diabetes (particularly type 2 diabetes). Some studies suggest that pelargonidin may also have a similar effect but more research is required before this can be confirmed.
6) PREVENTING HEART DISEASE:- The anthocyanins protect your heart in multiple ways. Cyanidin has been shown to prevent heart disease directly and indirectly (by preventing atherosclerosis and increasing the flow of blood to your heart). Pelargonidin may also help prevent heart disease but further research is needed to validate this.
ANTHOCYANIN HEALTH BENEFITS SUMMARY
Although the anthocyanins are not believed to be essential in humans, there are still plenty of reasons to consume these highly protective phytonutrients. They fight cancer, prevent diabetes, keep your blood healthy, protect your body’s cells and much more. So if your diet does not currently include enough anthocyanins, start making some changes and filling up on berries today.