Why purple is the new green ... and why you should care.

One of most interesting things I learned from the book Eating on the Wild Side is how good purple vegetables are for you. If you have the choice of purple or orange carrots, choose purple. Purple or yellow beets, choose purple. Purple or green cabbage, choose purple. 

Often the purple varieties of vegetables have far more antioxidants and phytonutrients than their colorful counterparts. Over the years many vegetables have been bred to be sweeter to appeal to our highly addictive sweet tooths, but as a result many of the best nutrients are diminished. This is the case with yellow beets. They are a little sweeter than purple beets, but have far fewer cancer-fighting phytonutrients called betalains. In a dietary study, they found that people who eat beets on a regular basis have a lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity than people who don’t eat beets. Interestingly the first wild carrots that originated several thousand years ago were purple, but the orange variety that was bred in Holland 400 hundred years ago became so popular for their pretty color that the purple ones were phased out.

Purple carrots are really high in the antioxidant anthocyanins and have amazing health properties including helping to combat chronic inflammation, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In some cases like with red leaf lettuce (ok it is not purple but it is kind of) the red aspect is present in the lettuce to protect the plant from damaging sun rays and this means that is higher in antioxidants which help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. All in all, there are so many reasons to go purple the next time you are at the grocery store.

Beet, red cabbage, kale slaw

Beet, red cabbage, kale slaw

I make variations of this salad all winter long because all of these vegetables are readily available, but of course now that beets, cabbage and kale are at the famers market, I am in heaven. To be fair this photo is a version I made without beets so the beets will make it even more colorful. The proportions of chopped vegetables is not critical. 


2 purple beets, steamed and grated
¼ head of red cabbage chopped finely
2 cups finely chopped lacinto kale
½ medium red onion finely chopped
1 cup grated daikon or harukai turnip
1 cup grated purple carrots (or whatever you can find)
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
2 cloves minced garlic
Balsamic salad dressing

  1. Cook the beets. Place unpeeled beets with the stems on (they retain more nutrients this way) into a steamer and steam until tender. Drain. Refresh under cold water and leave to cool. You should be able to easily rub the skins off. Coarsely grate. 
  2. Prep the cabbage, kale, onion, cabbage, garlic, daikon, mint
  3. Toss with your favorite balsamic vinaigrette. I often doctor Wholefoods Organic Balsamic dressing with dijon mustard, more balsamic vinegar, brown rice vinegar and a little ume plum vinegar.