Anthocyanins & Phycocyanins

The Colorful, Natural World of Anthocyanins & Phycocyanins

Anthocyanins, a class of flavonoid compounds which fall under the heading of plant polyphenols, are responsible for the blue, purple, magenta, red and orange pigments that give fruits, vegetables, plants and flowers their striking colors. They are used around the world as safe, natural colorants in foods and liquids. Berries are well-known sources of foods with high concentrations of anthocyanins. Other excellent sources of anthocyanins come from cabbage, carrot, corn, pomegranate, and edible flowers such as the butterfly pea, hibiscus, and marigold, to name only a few.

Phycocyanins, pigment-proteins from photosynthesis, are an accessory pigment to chlorophyll and are derived from cyanobacteria such as blue-green algae, a common type also known as Spirulina.

Anthocyanins & Phycocyanins derived from fruits, vegetables and algae are an accepted form of colorants for foods and liquids as indicated by the FDA. Although the FDA doesn’t designate colors as “artificial,” “natural,” or even “unnatural,” there are colors that are “certified” and those that are “exempt from certification.” Colorants approved for human consumption include those derived from annatto extract, beet powder, caramel, beta carotene, cochineal extract and carmine, cottonseed flour, grape color and grape skin extract, fruit juice, vegetable juice, carrot oil, paprika, riboflavin, saffron, titanium dioxide, turmeric, and blue-green algae.

Anthocyanins are well known for their powerful antioxidant, antimicrobial properties.  Six of 250 known anthocyanins are gaining esteem in health circles for their anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant, anti-obesity, noortropic, and anti-depressant properties.

Phycocyanins are well known “superfoods” that have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, neuroprotection and hepatoprotection properties to name a few.

For additional information regarding natural colorants and guidelines, or the health benefits of anthocyanins, click on the links in the sidebar.