Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst, trend watcher and creator of the Web site supermarketguru.com, said the dark color is the result of naturally occurring flavonoid pigments called anthocyanins -- which protect the plant against oxidation, pests and from damaging radiation from the sun.
In the body, anthocyanins act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, protecting against the development of chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers, as well as contributing to overall good health.
For example, back rice, which contains higher amounts of vitamin E in the bran, is great for the immune system and contains more anthocyanin antioxidants than blueberries, the Agricultural Center at Louisiana State University found.
One cup of black lentils contain 8 milligrams of iron, about half the daily recommendation for women, while
black beans are packed with bioflavonoids, powerful plant nutrients that may protect against cancer, Lempert said.
Blackberries, a great source of fiber, are a great choice as an ingredient or as dessert. They contain polyphenols that may help reduce cognitive decline, the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging found.
To wash it down, choose black tea, which contains theaflavins, antioxidants Rutgers University suggested may improve recovery from muscle soreness after intense exercise, Lempert said.
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