Purple smoothies contain a variety of healthy berries that provide antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients. Common purple berries used in smoothies include blueberries, blackberries, acai berries, and frozen mixed berry blends. The specific berry depends on the smoothie recipe and personal preference. Quick answers to questions in the opening paragraphs include:
What is a purple smoothie?
A purple smoothie is a blended beverage made with purple-colored berries and ingredients like yogurt, milk, juice, or protein powder. The purple hue comes from antioxidant compounds called anthocyanins in the berries.
What are some examples of purple berries used in smoothies?
Blueberries, blackberries, acai berries, purple grapes, elderberries, purple figs, purple plums, and frozen mixed berry blends that contain a variety of purple/blue fruits.
Why are purple berries good for smoothies?
Purple berries are packed with antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They add nutrition as well as bold color and flavors like tart, sweet, or tangy. The liquid blended consistency makes berries’ nutrients easy to absorb.
What are the benefits of purple berries?
Eating purple berries is associated with health benefits like improved heart health, better cognition, anti-inflammatory effects, and protective effects against certain cancers. Their antioxidants help fight free radical damage that leads to aging and disease.
Nutrition in Purple Berries
The deep purple pigment in berries like blueberries and blackberries comes from anthocyanin antioxidants. In addition to anthocyanins, purple berries deliver a range of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds:
Fiber – Berries provide both soluble and insoluble fiber. Fiber promotes healthy digestion and heart health. It also helps control blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Just 1 cup of blackberries has over 7 grams of fiber.
Vitamin C – With 1 cup providing over 30% of the daily recommended intake, vitamin C is one of the predominant nutrients in purple berries. Vitamin C supports immunity and collagen production.
Manganese – An essential mineral, manganese is vital for metabolism, bone health, and wound healing. One cup of blackberries has around half the RDI for manganese.
Vitamin K – Important for proper blood clotting, vitamin K is found in high levels in purple berries like blueberries and blackberries.
Potassium, magnesium, and calcium – These minerals play key roles in muscle, heart, and nerve function. Berries provide them in varying amounts.
Polyphenols – Compounds like anthocyanins, flavonols, ellagic acid, and resveratrol have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-carcinogenic effects in the body.
Here is a table comparing some of the main micronutrients in 1 cup servings of three common purple berries:
As shown, blackberries tend to be very high in essential nutrients compared to other common purple berries.
The bright pigments in purple berries signify high antioxidant levels. Antioxidants help counter oxidative stress caused by free radicals in the body. Oxidative stress contributes to aging, cell damage, and chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Anthocyanins – These flavonoid antioxidants give blueberries, blackberries, and other purple/red fruits their vibrant color. In addition to acting as antioxidants, anthocyanins also have anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-carcinogenic effects.
Ellagic acid – Found in high levels in blackberries and raspberries, ellagic acid is a polyphenol antioxidant with numerous health benefits. Research suggests it may have protective effects against cancer, heart disease, and cognitive decline.
Resveratrol – Purple grapes, particularly their skins and seeds, are good sources of resveratrol. This polyphenol boosts antioxidant levels in the blood and may help lower inflammation and prevent LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and forming plaque in arteries.
Vitamin C – While all berries contain vitamin C, blackberries are one of the most concentrated sources. Vitamin C is a water-soluble antioxidant that fights free radicals and supports immune function.
Here is a table comparing the ORAC values, a measure of total antioxidant capacity, in a few common purple berries:
|5347 μmol TE/100g
|4837 μmol TE/100g
|9019 μmol TE/100g
|102,700 μmol TE/100g
Among widely available berries, acai berries have the highest antioxidant levels by far. But blueberries and blackberries also deliver significant antioxidants.
Eating antioxidant-rich purple berries may improve several heart disease risk factors. Potential benefits include:
– Lower LDL cholesterol – Animal studies find blueberries and blackberries help lower total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. The antioxidants may limit cholesterol oxidation.
– Reduce blood pressure – The anthocyanins in berries may improve arterial function and lower blood pressure. In one study, people who consumed blueberry powder daily saw 5-6% reductions in blood pressure.
– Improve arterial function – Compounds in purple grapes boost production of nitric oxide, which relaxes arterial walls, allowing blood to flow more freely. This effect improves circulation.
– Lower inflammation – Chronic inflammation contributes to plaque buildup in arteries. The anthocyanins and polyphenols in berries have anti-inflammatory properties.
– Inhibit platelet formation – Berry antioxidants can disrupt platelet aggregation in the blood, potentially preventing clot formation in arteries.
Overall, regularly consuming antioxidant-rich purple berries appears helpful for improving major risk factors for heart attacks and strokes, though more human research is needed.
Effects on Cognition
Oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain are associated with cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases. By combating these effects, compounds in purple berries may support brain health:
– Improved memory – Human studies link higher intakes of blueberries and strawberries to slower rates of cognitive decline in older adults. Anthocyanins appear protective to memory centers.
– May protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s – Animal studies show blueberry polyphenols may help prevent key steps in Alzheimer’s development. Compounds in berries also prevent toxicity to neuron cells.
– Support neuron communication – Antioxidants called catechins found in blueberries boost production of the “feel good” neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. This aids neuron communication.
– Increase blood flow in the brain – Better circulation delivers more oxygen and glucose to feed neuron cells. Berry antioxidants enhance blood flow.
– Reduce inflammation – Berry polyphenols inhibit inflammatory cytokines. Chronic inflammation can damage neurons and impair signaling between brain cells.
More human research is needed, but antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects appear key to berries’ ability to maintain brain health and cognitive skills.
Cell studies show compounds found specifically in blackberries, blueberries, and acai berries may help suppress cancer growth and induce cancer cell death. Potential anti-cancer mechanisms include:
– Induce apoptosis – Ellagic acid, anthocyanins, and polyphenols in berries encourage apoptosis – programmed death of mutated cancer cells.
– Slow cancer cell multiplication – Berries disrupt cellular signaling pathways that allow cancer cells to quickly multiply.
– Reduce inflammation – Chronic high inflammation enables cancer growth and metastasis. The anti-inflammatory actions of berry polyphenols may inhibit this process.
– Alleviate oxidative stress – Cancer cells experience high oxidative stress. Berry antioxidants help ease this, slowing cancer proliferation.
– Prevent DNA mutations – The anthocyanins in berries protect DNA from oxidative damage, preventing cancer-promoting mutations.
No clinical trials prove berries prevent cancer in humans. But their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-proliferative effects suggest a protective role against cancer development.
Using Purple Berries in Smoothies
Almost any purple berry can be blended into a smoothie. Consider the flavor profile and nutritional benefits to choose one variety or a mix. Some good options include:
– Blueberries – With familiar sweet-tart flavor, blueberries blend easily into many smoothies. Use fresh or frozen wild blueberries when possible for more intense antioxidant benefits.
– Blackberries – Blackberries have bolder, more earthy flavors. Their high fiber and antioxidant content makes them a nutritious choice.
– Mixed berries – Use a store-bought or homemade mix of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and sometimes strawberries for dynamic flavor.
– Acai packs – While fresh acai berries are hard to source, frozen puree packs provide concentrated antioxidant power. The flavor pairs well with tropical fruits.
– Purple grapes – Grapes add mild sweetness when blended. Opt for purple/red grapes to get the antioxidant resveratrol.
Base the smoothie with fruit juice, milk, yogurt, or nut milk. Bananas or avocados help create a creamy texture. Supplements like protein powder, chia seeds, and nut butters further boost nutrition.
Purple berry smoothies are healthy, but a few factors to keep in mind:
– High in natural sugar – Berries contain natural sugars like glucose and fructose. When blended, these sugars are released from the fruit flesh, spiking the total sugar content. Moderate portion sizes if watching sugar intakes.
– May irritate bowels – For some people, drinking smoothies with raw berries can cause digestive issues like gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Cooked berries may be better tolerated.
– Risk of contaminants – If using non-organic berries, consider washing thoroughly to remove any residues of pesticides or heavy metals from the soil. These can accumulate in small berries.
– Quickly perishable – Fresh berry smoothies don’t keep long. Drink soon after making and avoid leaving at room temperature more than 2 hours to limit risk of foodborne illness.
When made properly and consumed in moderation, purple berry smoothies can be a very healthy dietary addition, providing protective antioxidants. Focus on variety and balance with other fruits and vegetables too.
Smoothies made with blueberries, blackberries, acai berries, purple grapes, or mixed frozen berries deliver a concentrated dose of antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds that support overall health. Their vibrant pigments signify natural anthocyanin antioxidants that help fight free radicals, lower oxidative stress, reduce inflammation, and may protect against heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline. While clinical evidence in humans remains limited, the proven nutrient profile and antioxidant capacity of berries, coupled with promising results from animal and cell studies, suggest useful protective effects of incorporating more purple berries into a balanced, healthy diet. Moderating portions and mixing with less sugary ingredients can optimize the nutritional benefits of antioxidant-packed purple berry smoothies.