Although blue might be the least popular color of food, it is one of the mightiest. Indeed, naturally blue foods offer a large nutritional punch, mostly in the form of antioxidants and other polyphenols.
Furthermore, research shows that including a variety of blue fruits and vegetables in a diet helps maintain brain, bladder, vision, and heart health. They may also lower the risk of some cancers and chronic diseases like diabetes.
But what’s more? Blue foods may also quite literally help cure the blues! Come winter when the blues run rampant, gobble up some of these blue foods to feel better mentally and physically.
Nutritional Benefits of Blue Foods
Well known for their antioxidant properties, deep blue foods derive their color from the flavonoid anthocyanin. This is another polyphenol plant compound that is associated with slowing cognitive decline, improving motor skills, and reversing memory loss.
In addition, their antiinflammatory effects help prevent cell damage linked to various chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Moreover, specific polyphenols such as resveratrol, found in the skin of violet grapes, and ellagic acid are being researched for their possible protection against heart disease and cancer.
Violet pigmented foods, especially blue fruits are also high in some more well-known nutrients such as fiber and vitamin C. Fiber helps balance blood sugar, reduce bad cholesterol and promote satiation while vitamin C supports the immune system and helps build strong, elastic skin, hair, and nails along with fighting free radicals as a potent antioxidant.
How do blue foods actually fight the blues though? Once again, it is thanks to those magical compounds called flavonoids. Responsible for the colors of plant foods depending on the specific type, they also increase serotonin and dopamine within the body. These are two “happy hormones” that can help boost bad moods.
Take a look at all of the blue food options, many of which you have probably never tasted! Some are technically purple, but the entire class of blue/purple/violet foods exerts the same functions more or less.
List of Blue/Violet Foods
- Adirondack (blue) potatoes
- Aronia berries
- Blue chlorella/spirulina
- Blue corn
- Black currants
- Blue marble tree
- Blue pea flower
- Black salsify
- Concord grapes
- Dried plums
- Indigo milk caps
- Purple figs
- Purple grapes
- Purple asparagus
- Purple Belgian endive
- Purple cabbage
- Purple carrots
- Purple peppers
- Purple potatoes
- Wild blueberries
Best Blue Foods
As with any class of food, some are going to be just slightly better at their job. Thus, take a deeper dive into the blue abyss of blue foods. Include one serving a day or at least multiple servings per week to reap the greatest benefit.
1. Wild Blueberries
Considered the most potent antioxidant in the world, it is perfectly OK to eat these blueberries wildly. Low in calories and high in fiber and micronutrients such as vitamin C, K, and manganese, wild blueberries help protect DNA against free radical damage.
These blue fruits are also associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Similarly, blackberries are also considered a blue fruit that packs eight grams of fiber per cup, totaling about 40% of the recommended daily value. And it does not stop there- they also offer 35% of the daily value for vitamin C and 24% of the daily value of vitamin K.
Overall, this means blackberries are good for hair, skin, bone, and nail health and proper blood clot formation.
3. Blue Spirulina/Chlorella
Ever seen the whimsical blue smoothie from Jamba Juice at an airport? Well, it has blue spirulina to thank for its majestic color. It is derived from blue-green algae in ponds, lakes, and alkaline waterways and although it shares a habitat with fish, it does not taste like them.
Spirulina in general is recognized for superior health benefits such as:
- Binding to heavy metals and toxins
- Being a good source of protein
- Aiding in weight loss
- Boosting energy and physical performance
- Improving bowel and digestive health
Add to smoothies, juices, raw treats, healthy icings, and baked goods. Or, mix it into a sauce to really shock the blues out of dinner guests.
4. Concord Grapes
Although they can be eaten fresh, concord grapes are often used to make wine, grape juices, and jams thanks to their naturally very sweet profile. Of all the kinds of grapes, concords are highest in antioxidants, specifically one known as resveratrol.
Research has linked concord grapes with boosting the immune system, memory, mood, and brain function, and health in general. So, enjoy that next glass of red wine guilt-free (but also in moderation)!
Potentially better known as prunes, damsons are blue plums that are often also processed into jams and jellies for their fantastic color and sweetness. With half a cup providing 6 grams of fiber, plums and prunes are known for their ability to alleviate stubborn constipation.
Research shows they can help soften stools and increase frequency. In addition, they contain sugar alcohol known as sorbitol, which also loosens stools and promotes easier stool passing.
6. Purple Cabbage
Sometimes called red cabbage, the purple variety of cabbage belongs to a nutrient-dense, sulfurous genus of plants that also includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale. And compared to its green counterpart, purple cabbage is richer in beneficial plant compounds which offer health benefits like stronger bones, a healthier heart, and lower inflammation.
Not to mention, it can be eaten raw, cooked to glory, or fermented to kimchi perfection. So, it is beneficial for the gut too!
Cabbage also boasts 2 grams of fiber and high amounts of vitamin A. C, B6, and K, potassium, thiamin, and riboflavin in addition to small amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc.
The Bottom Line on Blue Foods
Blue foods may make your tongue blue in color, but they actually help fight a blue mood. Thanks to their potent plant compounds like antioxidants and anthocyanins, they can help improve mood, prevent cell damage and blood clots, reduce the risk of chronic disease, and are extremely heart and brain-healthy. They may also improve memory recall specifically and generally support healthy aging.
Round out your green, orange, and other colorful foods with some deep blues to achieve balanced health!
Blue Spirulina and Its Benefits. Unicorn Superfoods. Published July 2018. www.unicornsuperfoods.com/blogs/news/blue-spirulina-and-its-benefits.
Blue/Purple. Why Colors Mean Health: Blue. www.colorsofhealth.com/colors/blue.shtml.
Eating Blueberries Can Help Fight the Blues. Orchard Health Foods. Published July 24, 2021. www.orchardhealthfoods.com/eating-blueberries-can-help-fight-the-blues/.
Meixner M. 7 Delicious Blue Fruits with Powerful Health Benefits. Healthline. Updated July 31, 2019. www.healthline.com/nutrition/blue-fruits.
Petre A. 8 Impressive Benefits of Purple Cabbage. Healthline. Written December 11, 2019. www.healthline.com/nutrition/purple-cabbage.
Quiñónez A. 12 Delicious Blue Foods That Are Ready for You to Try at Home. Hypable. Published April 29, 2021. www.hypable.com/blue-food-percy-jackson/.