The human eye is attracted foods that are colorful. Our eyes pick up on the smallest blemishes and color variations when we pick our vegetables in the store. The bright colors are actually antioxidants, molecules that slow the oxidation of our cells. The oxidation of human tissues is known to cause many diseases. In biochemistry we talk about antioxidants as important factors in the electron transport chain, which is critical to the creation of cell energy.

Whole foods with the highest levels of antioxidants:
Wild blueberries Grapes Cherries Rasberries Purple corn Eggplant (the skin) Blood oranges Marionberries Pomegranite Purple tomatoes

Most whole foods with deep red, purple or blue colors are high in antioxidants. Most recently, concentrated Acai has become very popular. Interestingly, Acai does not have the most antioxidants. Wild blueberries and red grapes far exceed Acai in antioxidant concentration. Red wine is also notably high in antioxidants, although wine should always be used in moderation.

The anthocyanin component of these colorful whole foods is important. Anthocyanins have been proven in clinical research to have anti-inflammatory effects, improve memory and particularly short-term memory, improve motor skills, improve glucose control in diabetics, and prevent and limit cancer growth.

Clinical research is a very detailed process. There is much to be learned from current and future research projects focused on food and its healing properties. Recent research found that when elderly patients with decreased memory and motor skills drank 2 cups of blueberry juice per day, as compared to patients who drank none, their memory and brain functioning improved.

As a practice, I discourage the use of highly concentrated juice or fruit beverages. Nutrition is a person-specific process. While some patients may respond well to high doses of fruit or fruit juices, other patients may not.

Take home message:
1) Humans require the benefits of a whole food diet to remain healthy.
2) As a physician, I am regularly prescribing a rainbow salad, a salad that includes one to two of each color in the rainbow once a day.
3) For every patient, I also recommend whole foods, as opposed to concentrated juices which contain high amounts of sugars and preservatives.
4) I understand that patients value convenience when looking at food options, but the time you don’t spend choosing and preparing healthy foods often leads to disease.
5) When patients have a known disease it might make sense to use a concentrated dose of an antioxidant such as blueberry juice to reduce the harm of slow liver functioning, reduced cognitive function or free radical production.
6) More clinical research needs to be done on the effects of a whole food diet and on the effects of concentrated food products such as blueberry juice. A naturopathic physician is specifically trained to help patients make good dietary choices to prevent disease.
7) Grain Integrative Health providers commonly use a prescription-only product of concentrated blueberry extract. The source of these substances can matter significantly. Many quality nutritional supplements are only available through a licensed provider, such as a Naturopathic Doctor.

1. Krikorian et al. Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2010; 100104141245097 DOI: 10.1021/jf9029332
2. “Regulation of Adipocyte Function by Anthocyanins; Possibility of Preventing the Metabolic Syndrome” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Voume 56, Number 3, Pages 642-646, doi: 10.1021/jf073113b
3. Potential Mechanisms of Cancer Chemoprevention by Anthucyanins. Current Molecular Medicine. 2003. Mar; 3 (2): 149-59.
4. Mary Ann Lila. Anthocyanins and Human Health: An In vitro Investigative Approach. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2004 December 1; 2004(5): 306–313.
doi: 10.1155/S111072430440401X.
5. Paul Pitchford. Healing With Whole Foods. North Atlantic Books. 2002.

Written by Lindsay M. Baum, ND