Ever heard of anthocyanins, carotenoids or chlorophyll? They can be described as plant pigments that are known as phytochemicals or secondary plant substances (SPS). In this case, secondary does not mean they are less important. It simply means they are not among the three primary nutrients – protein, fat and carbohydrates. Their importance is anything but secondary! They’re good for our bodies, but they also look good. As we know, the eyes eat first and, in these times of social media, food photography and fancy snack breads, the SPS are not only popular because of their health benefits.
How does one recognise secondary plant substances in food?
Very easily! These are substances that you can see (colour), smell (fragrances) or taste (sharpness). Carotenoids give carrots, squash or apricots their yellow colour, allicin imparts the typical taste in garlic and onion, and anthocyanins provide pigmentation ranging from red to blue. Red cabbage, aubergine, artichokes, blue grapes, blueberries, cherries and purple wheat – an old type of wheat that has been rediscovered – are full of secondary plant substances.
Why do plants do this for us?
Honestly, one has to admit that the plants don’t do it for us. First and foremost, plants produce these substances for themselves. Pests are deterred by a sharp taste (onion), vermin and diseases (bacteria) are combated. Some plants want to be eaten to spread and, therefore, want to attract attention with an intense colour or by appearing particularly tasty. Plants even protect themselves against UV radiation and free radicals through SPS. Thankfully, we can also benefit from these qualities.
What’s so healthy about it?
Meanwhile, it has been discovered that phytochemicals also perform many important tasks in the human body: they protect us against various diseases by strengthening the immune system, combating bacteria and even cancer cells. Free radicals are neutralised, protecting our cells from premature aging (the anti-aging effect). That certainly sounds like a lot of power!
How can you meet your needs?
The more varied our food choices, the more certain we can be that we have a little of everything and that nothing important is missing. A common mind-set is that “more is better”, but we find that the focus should be on exactly the opposite. Worldwide, human energy requirements are covered mainly by the consumption of just 30 crops! All the better then that “old” is being rediscovered in many places. Forgotten crops and fruits, such as purple wheat and the aronia berry, are being cultivated again, bringing more variety to our plates.
Aronia & PurPur – hello anthocyanins!
Aronia, the power berry, is not only full of fibre, vitamin C and minerals, but is also a superstar when it comes to anthocyanins. It is a domestic superfood that can be added to cakes, rolls/ciabatta and also in (sweet) bars.
The power in regional purple wheat can be seen immediately. The grain has a pretty reddish/purple colour. Since the outer shell contains the largest content of valuable ingredients, it is recommended to go for wholegrain options. PurPur purple wholegrain bread is a particularly juicy bread that is still delicious after 2 days!
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