EATING a variety of different coloured fruits and vegetables is essential to our health and wellbeing. Latest data by the NDNS – National Diet Nutrition Survey1 – run by the government, shows our plates are well short of vital nutrients that we need to fuel our bodies daily, whatever our age.
Shockingly 67% of adults (19-64 years), do not meet the ‘5-A-Day’ recommendation. Plus, new NDNS data shows that we are alarmingly short of a range of micronutrients.
We need a host of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals to be healthy, and nature provides all of these in highly-coloured fruits and vegetables.
But are you getting enough? More importantly, are you eating the right ones? This week, we take a look at the latest dietary ‘must haves’ and why we all need to ‘purple up’ our diets.
'Purples' need to be increased
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, vegetables and fruit should make up around a third of what we eat, with at least one each from the colour groups to make up our ‘Five-A-Day’. Some scientists believe that we should be increasing our ‘purples’ to two a day.
Purple fruits (such as blackcurrants) and vegetables are coming under the spotlight for their outstanding health benefits and lifespan-essential properties – and it appears that the compounds they contain, anthocyanins, may be one of the missing links in our diets.
While there is no recommended daily intake for anthocyanins, their remarkable health-promoting, anti-ageing effects are beyond dispute.
Professor Mark Willems, from the University of Chichester (left), has been studying the effects of a New Zealand blackcurrant anthocyanins on cardiovascular function and glycaemic responses for over six years.
He found the amount of anthocyanin consumed3 had a significant effect on cardiovascular responses. When given up to three capsules (315mg anthocyanin) of CurraNZ, a pure blackcurrant anthocyanin supplement, subjects in the study experienced a 20.2% decrease in peripheral resistance (indicating greater blood flow) and 27.5% increase to cardiac output. Even at lower doses, subjects showed improved cardiovascular function.
Last year, the degree of the cardio-protective effects for older people was revealed in a study6 that showed that just one week of the anthocyanin-rich supplement reduced the consequences of ageing on the conditions of the arteries and blood vessels equivalent to ten years.
Professor Willems has found that New Zealand blackcurrant lowers insulin and helps normalise blood sugar levels4.
His findings were confirmed in a follow-up study5 in 2020, performed in overweight and obese individuals in a free-living situation. Researchers found the blackcurrant supplement improved insulin responses 22%, while reducing obesity-driven inflammation by 24% and reducing post-meal blood glucose levels.
While there are no official guidelines on daily anthocyanin intake, Professor Willems observes that most people may not be consuming enough anthocyanins as part of their diet, given the positive responses seen in studies on high anthocyanin intake.
He says: “The normal dietary intake in Europe is 40-80gm of anthocyanin. A lot of individuals in society are trying to live a healthy life and eat a balanced diet, but despite best efforts, it seems they are still deficient in anthocyanin and not aware of it.”
CurraNZ is a natural extract made from New Zealand-grown blackcurrants, one of the best sources of anthocyanins, with one of the highest densities of any berry in the world. Each capsule contains the equivalent of a generous handful of blackcurrants, or 105mg of anthocyanin.