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Pile on the purple produce

Environmental Nutrition

Beyond the mere beauty of purple produce, such as blueberries, blackberries, plums, purple potatoes and eggplant, lies a nutrient-packed, health-protective profile.

Purple fruits and vegetables can thank the presence of powerful phytochemicals — namely anthocyanins — for their royal purple hue and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action. Other phytochemicals may be present, too, including resveratrol and ellagic acid, as well as powerful nutrients like vitamin C and fiber. In fact, people who eat purple fruits and vegetables have higher intakes of essential nutrients, such as fiber, potassium and vitamin C, according to a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, which examined dietary intakes of 15,000 children and adults.

Studies show that anthocyanin-rich purple fruits and vegetables have numerous health benefits. Eating purple produce may help reduce the risks of certain types of cancer and heart disease, and aid in immune, eye, brain and digestive health.

Adults who consume purple produce regularly have significantly lower waist circumferences and body mass indexes than those who do not consume purple produce (American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 2011). And two daily servings of steamed purple potatoes significantly lowered blood pressure by about four percent, according to a 2011 study from the University of Scranton.

Beyond your grocery staples, such as blueberries and cabbage, a cornucopia of purple-hued produce is now available at farmers markets, grocery stores and restaurants.

Eggplant Salad

1 large eggplant, split lengthwise

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 large clove garlic

1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1/2 lemon, juice and zest

Black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rub the eggplant with half of the olive oil. Place, cut side down, on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven, and cool slightly.

Scoop the eggplant flesh into a medium bowl and whisk with a fork until smooth.

Mash garlic and salt together to form a paste.

Mix in lemon juice and zest, black pepper, and remaining olive oil.

Serve with whole grain pita or bread. Serves 8.

Per serving: 80 calories; 7 g fat (1 g saturated fat; 78 percent calories from fat); 4 g carbohydrates; 3 g sugar; 0 mg cholesterol; 290 mg sodium; 1 g protein; 2 g fiber.

Nutrition Information Per Serving: 80 calories, 1 g protein, 4 g carbohydrate, 3 g sugar, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 2 g fiber, 290 mg sodium.