Thanks to their high concentration of powerful plant compounds, foods with a natural purple hue offer a wide array of health benefits.
Though the color purple is most often associated with fruits, there are many types of purple-colored foods to choose from, including vegetables and grains.
Here are 16 purple foods that are as nutritious and delicious as they are visually appealing.
Blackberries are among the most well-known purple fruits. These juicy berries are packed with nutrition and potent anthocyanin pigments.
Anthocyanins are a type of polyphenol compound that gives foods their purple, blue, or red colors. They’re found in high concentrations in the other fruits, vegetables, and grains on this list.
They act as strong antioxidants in your body, protecting your cells from damage and reducing inflammation that may otherwise lead to negative health outcomes.
Anthocyanins promote your health in various ways. Eating anthocyanin-rich foods like blackberries may protect against many chronic conditions, such as diabetes, certain cancers, and heart disease (1).
Blackberries are also loaded with other strong polyphenol antioxidants, as well as fiber and micronutrients, including vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. All these nutrients make blackberries a highly nutritious choice for a tasty, sweet treat (2).
Black rice (Oryza sativa L. indica) — often referred to as “forbidden rice” — is a unique rice variety that takes on a deep purple color when cooked (3).
Unlike other rice varieties, highly pigmented forbidden rice is an excellent source of anthocyanins, which may have cancer-fighting effects.
This striking grain makes a colorful substitution for white or brown rice and can be used in a number of recipes, such as soups, stir-fries, and pilafs.
All sweet potatoes are highly nutritious, providing many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, provitamin A, potassium, and B vitamins. Purple sweet potatoes have the added benefit of containing anthocyanin antioxidants (6).
You can use purple sweet potatoes as a substitute for more common orange-fleshed sweet potatoes in any recipe.
Eggplants come in a variety of colors, but purple-skinned eggplants are among the most common.
Though not as nutrient-dense as some of the other foods on this list, eggplants are high in antioxidants and manganese, a mineral essential for bone health and metabolism (10).
The peel of purple eggplants is especially concentrated in the anthocyanin nasunin, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and heart-protective properties in animal and test-tube studies (11, 12).
Purple cauliflower (Brassica oleracea var. botrytis) is a visually stunning cruciferous vegetable. Unlike white-colored varieties, purple cauliflower contains anthocyanins thanks to a genetic mutation that gives them an intense purple hue (13).
Purple carrots are sweet-tasting, crunchy vegetables that are packed with a wide array of polyphenol antioxidants, including anthocyanins, cinnamic acid, and chlorogenic acid.
Purple carrots contain more polyphenol antioxidants than other carrot varieties, so adding them to your diet is a smart way to boost your health (20).
Kale is a nutritional powerhouse, and the purple-tinged Redbor variety is no exception. One study found that Redbor kale extract contained 47 powerful plant compounds, including kaempferol, quercetin, and p-coumaric acid (21).
Because of its distinctive color and interesting texture, Redbor kale is often used as a decorative plant to add visual appeal to gardens and planters.
However, it’s also edible and highly nutritious. You can use it in the same way as other leafy greens in many different recipes.
Passiflora edulis is a tropical vine cultivated for its ability to produce delicious fruits known as passion fruit. Ripe passion fruits have a yellow or purple rind that covers sweet, soft flesh filled with crunchy seeds.
Passion fruit contains a special polyphenol antioxidant called piceatannol, which has been shown to have several remarkable health-promoting properties and may be especially beneficial for skin health.
For example, a test-tube study found that piceatannol isolated from passion fruit protected skin cells from sun damage. Furthermore, a study in 32 women with dry skin demonstrated that taking 5 mg of piceatannol for 8 weeks increased skin moisture (22, 23).
The tree Garcinia mangostana has been grown since ancient times in tropical areas for the fragrant, purple-toned fruit it produces — the mangosteen.
Mangosteens have a tough, deep purple outer rind that must be removed to enjoy the tangy, slightly sweet fruit found inside.
Mangosteens are packed with fiber and folate, a B vitamin essential for many important processes in your body, including the production of DNA and red blood cells (24).
These unique fruits also contain antioxidants called xanthones, which have been shown to provide anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and anticancer properties in some studies (25).
Although asparagus is most often associated with the color green, this vegetable also comes in other hues, including white and purple.
Purple asparagus adds visual appeal and nutritional benefits to recipes, providing a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and potent plant compounds. It’s an excellent source of anthocyanins.
Acai berries are small, deep purple fruits that have become popular in the wellness world due to their high concentration of antioxidants, including anthocyanins.
Acai berries can be incorporated into various recipes, including acai bowls — a Brazilian dish consisting of frozen, blended acai berries. They are also made into juices, powders, and concentrated supplements for medicinal uses.
The purple star apple — Chrysophyllum cainito — is a tree that produces round fruits that turn purple when ripe. The fruits have sweet flesh that secretes a milky juice and has a radiating star pattern when cut.
People have used the fruit, bark, and leaves of the star apple tree medicinally throughout history to treat a variety of ailments, including coughs, pain, and diabetes (31).
All varieties of cabbage are exceptionally nutritious. However, purple cabbage — also known as red cabbage — contains anthocyanins, which boost the health-promoting properties of this cruciferous vegetable even higher (34).
Purple cabbage is loaded with fiber, provitamin A, and vitamin C. It provides potent anti-inflammatory effects thanks to the high levels of powerful plant compounds found in its highly pigmented leaves (35, 36).
Purple cabbage can be used in the same way as green cabbage and makes an excellent addition to slaws, stews, and stir-fries.
Elderberries are known for their intense purple color and immune-boosting effects. People take concentrated elderberry products, such as syrups and capsules, as a natural remedy to treat colds and the flu.
Elderberries are also high in fiber and vitamin C, and they’re commonly eaten cooked in jams and jellies or made into juice, wine, or concentrated syrups.
Red dragon fruit has a bright, reddish-purple flesh dotted with tiny, black, edible seeds. This tropical fruit has the texture of a kiwi, and its taste is often described as mildly sweet.
Dragon fruits are low in calories yet packed with fiber, vitamin C, and magnesium, making them a nutritious addition to fruit salads and other sweet dishes (39).
Red dragon fruits also contain a high concentration of protective antioxidants.
Test-tube research suggests that extract from red dragon fruit may have the ability to stop the growth of certain types of human cancer cells, including breast cancer, and may induce cancer cell death (40).
Barley is a grain that comes in a variety of colors, including black, blue, yellow, and purple (41).
All barley types are high in fiber and minerals, such as manganese, iron, magnesium, and selenium. Along with these nutrients, purple barley is loaded with anthocyanins, making it an excellent choice for a nutrient-rich ingredient (42).
Barley is also high in beta-glucan, a type of fiber that has been linked to a number of health benefits. Research shows that beta-glucan may promote digestive health, reduce heart disease risk factors, and improve immune response (43).
Additionally, those who consume diets rich in whole grains like purple barley have lower rates of diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers (44).
Purple-pigmented foods offer a host of health benefits and add color to your diet.
Incorporating purple foods like blackberries, Redbor kale, acai berries, forbidden rice, purple carrots, and elderberries into your meal plan can ensure you are consuming a powerful dose of anthocyanin antioxidants and a variety of important nutrients.
Try adding a few of the fruits, vegetables, and grains on this list to your next meal or snack to take advantage of their health-promoting properties.