Nowadays it is accepted that fruit and vegetables are very important elements of your daily diet, with beneficial effects on the whole body.
Research has shown that the coloured pigments in fruit provide essential protective qualities while also helping defend the plant itself from environmental stress, UV rays and parasites.
These pigments are called polyphenols: a large family of molecules found in plant-based foods.
It is a very effective natural defence system which develop less readily when the external dangers to the plant diminish. This is why, unfortunately, there is a lower concentration of polyphenols in mass produced fruit and vegetables, as they are cultivated in optimal environmental conditions.
It should not be forgotten that often the skin is removed when consuming the fruit but it is in the skin, however, that we find the highest concentration of polyphenols.
Fruit picked in the wild contain the highest quantity of polyphenols, as they experience more external adversity. This is especially true of small fruits of the forest, like blackberries, blueberries and wild strawberries.
Recent studies have shown that the berry with the highest concentration of polyphenols is the maqui berry: a small fruit with an intense blue colour.
The plant, Aristotelia Chilensis, grows in the Juan Fernandez archipelago and in Chilean Patagonia, and is subject to extreme conditions, with large temperature shifts and strong winds.
It is in response to this extreme environment that the maqui berry produces copious amounts of these natural elements, so rich in essential antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.
The maqui berry can only be harvested by hand as the use of machines could compromise its delicate natural habitat, thus damaging the plant and its precious fruit, with such a high concentration of the specific type of polyphenols which causes the blue colouration: anthocyanins.
In the maqui berry 70% of these natural substances are made up of the subgroup of delphinidins, which are rich in health-giving properties.
It’s therefore not by chance that Barry Sears, creator of the Zone diet strategy, strongly advises the use of maqui extract supplements.
Produced by the plant’s secondary metabolism, polyphenols play several roles which aid the survival and health of the plant itself: from pigmentation to protection from UV rays, and even from parasites.
These natural substances have been studied since the mid-90’s and today there are 4000 recorded composites, including flavonoids, isoflavones, phenolic acids, stilbenes, tyrosol esters, proanthocyanidins and anthocyanins. Fruit and vegetables are the principal sources of these composites: foods essential to the wellbeing of the human body.
Anthocyanins (from the Greek words anthos = flower, and kyàneos = blue) are a special type of polyphenols with pigments that change colour in response to their environment: in fact, depending on soil’s pH level, they vary from red to pink, to purple, right through to intense blue. Different types of anthocyanins can be found in nature, for example in red fruits and red and black grapes (each type of fruit has its own profile, known as its “digital imprint”). These natural composites are different from most polyphenols, which are often bitter, in two main characteristics: they dissolve easily in water and have a nice fruity taste, when present in the correct concentration.
Within the anthocyanins subgroup, delphinidins contain the greatest concentration of a specific hydroxide that guarantees water solubility, which allows for a higher level of intestinal absorption (this is usually quite low in the case of other polyphenols). Unlike other very commonly found subgroups, however, delphinidins are present in anthocyanins only in a few different plant-based foods. The fruit most rich in these element, with a concentration of over 70% of anthocyanins, is the valuable maqui berry.