Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants found in some fruits, vegetables and grains. Anthocyanins not only counteract free radicals and aging processes, but are also useful for improving cognitive function and memory, counteract dry eye and support the gut microbiota. Really not bad for substances that can be taken very easily in the everyday diet. But let's try to understand better by analyzing the results of a very recent scientific research that appeared in the journal Nutrients and conducted by a Thai team (Wattanathorn et al, Nutrients, 2023).
Nutrition and health, an indissoluble but still little-known combination
What we eat can become a precious ally for our health. By now this statement is well known. However, we certainly cannot say that we have arrived at a complete knowledge of the foods, of the substances that bring benefits to health and of the mechanisms through which this occurs. As far as anthocyanins are concerned, we know that they are antioxidant substances found, for example, in berries, black grapes, cherries, aubergines, but also in black rice. Previous studies had observed that anthocyanins are able to counteract inflammation and free radicals, as well as support the work of neurotransmitters. Not only that, anthocyanins can protect eyesight. Hence the interest from the scientists who signed the research we are talking about today. In particular, the further idea to maximize these properties of anthocyanins came from the consideration that it is generally better to take the whole food, which contains anthocyanins but also fibers, vitamins and minerals, and not just the single substance, the anthocyanins in our case. In fact, the whole food guarantees a synergy of properties deriving from the other substances it contains, a synergy that would otherwise be lost. Not only that, the complete food, compared to the single extract, also provides fibers, which are important for nourishing the intestinal microbiota on whose health depends that of other very distant organs, such as the brain and even the eyes.
The soup that protects eyesight and brain, the study
Scientists have not based their research on anthocyanin supplements, but have elaborated a dish, in particular a soup, with foods rich in anthocyanins. Specifically, they used colored glutinous rice, which included a mix of white rice, black rice, squash, beetroot, parsley and onion, and purple corn. The researchers recruited 69 volunteers, all aged between 45 and 65 and in good health. The volunteers were divided into two groups. One group had to take the antioxidant-rich soup within 5 minutes of waking up in the morning, the other group a placebo. After 2 months, the results of the experiment were evaluated at the level of the brain, intestinal microbiota and vision. What emerged was that the antioxidant-rich soup was able to improve cognitive function, attention and working memory, which is a type of temporary memory that allows information to be stored, processed and used immediately, like when we calculate the change we expect at a supermarket checkout. Not only that, improvements were also observed in the case of the eye, with an increase and greater stability of the tear film, and in the composition of the intestinal microbiota. Finally, it was found that the antioxidant soup reduced blood pressure.
Conclusions and suggestions
The soup proposed in the study is a dish obtained with typical ingredients of Thai cuisine, therefore not easy to find. However, we can certainly draw inspiration from this recipe and propose, in our daily diet, some ingredients rich in anthocyanins, such as beetroot, red onion, black rice, as a single dish or as a side dish, parsley, but also berries, cherries, eggplants, purple carrots, red cabbage and purple potatoes. Purple corn is rare but can be found in well-stocked stores. Hence, fibers, anthocyanins, vitamins and minerals act in synergy to counteract inflammation, free radicals and intestinal microbiota imbalance and bring important benefits to the brain, which works better and faster, and to vision, counteracting dry eye.