You've tried purple potatoes, purple cauliflower, and purple Skittles. Maybe you've even had butterfly pea flower tea. But purple bread? Before you assume it's some artificial food-coloring-doused, chemical-laden snack food, consider these facts about what's being hailed as one of the healthiest breads you can (almost) find.
1. It was created by an academic.
This wasn't something some giant food company execs dreamed up in an office building. Purple bread was actually invented by food scientist Zhou Weibiao, professor and director of the Food Science & Technology Program at the National University of Singapore. The guy's also got a PhD and a pretty impressive resume.
2. The color is all natural, we swear.
The purple comes from anthocyanins, natural pigments that give certain foods, like grapes and eggplant, their deep, dark hue. In this case Weibiao extracted the anthocyanins from black rice, an ancient grain that's high in fiber and is rich in phytonutrients, the compounds that shield plants from outside factors like germs and insects.
3. It's pretty much a man-made superfood.
That's because the anthocyanins give it the same antioxidant qualities as lauded foods like blueberries. "Antioxidants basically clean up the damage of free radicals—things like the sun, smoking, and environmental pollutants that our bodies are subjected to," says Michelle Dudash, a registered dietitian, nutritionist and creator of Clean Eating Cooking School.
4. Purple bread will help you stay full.
Thanks to a chemical reaction between theanthocyanins and starch enzymes, purple bread takes 20 percent longer to digest than plain old white bread. "White bread is devoid of fiber so it's easy to eat a lot of it, but since this is digested slower it's going to stick around longer," says Dudash. "Usually to feel fuller longer, the bread has to be whole grain or have added fiber, but adding these anthocyanins seems to be giving a similar effect when it comes to the fullness."
5. Purple bread will be good for diabetics.
That's also thanks to that slower digestive process. "When it's digested slower, it's less likely to spike your blood sugar," Dudash explains. "When blood sugar spikes it's not great for anybody, but especially for somebody who has diabetes. You don't want to have a spike in blood sugar, which is going to be followed by a crash."
6. And it could potentially help fend off other diseases.
Dudash says that arthritis patients are often advised to eat foods rich in anthocyanins because of their anti-inflammatory properties. "They're also possibly anti-cancer," she says. "And they've been studied and found to be a potential helpful compound for cardiovascular health."
7. But purple bread still tastes like less-virtuous white bread.
Zhou told CNN that it was a challenge to change the formula of the bread without messing with that smooth texture of white bread that people go gaga over. But it sounds like he did it. "If you want to enjoy the texture of white bread and slow down digestion, this is probably the best formula," he said.
8. It's right on trend
Dudash calls the anthocyanin in purple bread the "hot antioxidant of the moment," in part because it ticks all those health boxes and can be found in lots of readily available foods like blueberries, tart cherries, and of course, black rice. "There's more and more research being done on that compound."
9. This isn't the only new purple product out there
Earlier this year, something called butterfly pea flower tea, a blue blossom native to tropical Asia, began gaining popularity here in the U.S. The stuff can turn drinks into a sort of disco light show since it's bright blue when brewed, but magically turns purple when hit with some lemon, making for some very groovy cocktails. And a few months ago a Japanese chain called Eggs N Things rolled out purple pancakes on the menu, made with the popular Japanese ingredient known as ube, a sweet purple yam … which totally negates all those pancake calories, right?
10. We don't know when it'll be available… but fingers crossed.
Zhou has said that major food manufacturers have contacted him about bringing purple bread to market, but so far there's no been no official announcement or target date. In the meantime, there's always black rice….
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