If you survived high school bio you probably already know that the green color of most plants comes from chlorophyll, a pigment found in the chloroplasts of plant cells. But few stop to question where other non-green plant foods that we encounter get their color. Even fewer people understand how these colors benefit our health, especially when it comes to purple fruits and veggies.

Luckily, I did all the work to answer your burning questions about purple fruits and veggies, and here's what you should know.

1. Pigment

The compound responsible for the red-blue-purple hue of purple fruits and veggies comes from a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin. Flavonoids are a type of phytonutrient (plant chemical) which are responsible for the vivid colors in fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids are part of a larger classification known as polyphenols, which means it has antioxidant properties.

Antioxidants are important for us to eat because they reduce the amount of free radicals in the body, which are harmful because they can damage cells.

The darker the pigment of blue, red or purple fruits and veggies, the higher the concentration of anthocyanins. This means that blackberries contain more anthocyanins than raspberries, for example.

2. Heart Health

Research has shown that consuming anthocyanin-rich food is associated with a significant reduction in cardiovascular disease (CVD) as well as a reduced risk of developing hypertension, aka high blood pressure. And good news for all wine lovers, researchers have found an association between the polyphenolic compounds found in red wine (anthocyanins) and decreased risk of death from CVD.

Though all these correlations have been researched, it is not entirely clear why these effects result from anthocyanin intake. It may be due, in part, to the anti-inflammatory effects of the anthocyanins which can decrease stiffness in one's arteries. This can result in overall reduced stress on the heart, will can lower blood pressure and reduce risk of CVD.

3. Cognitive Function

Research shows that flavonoids, like anthocyanins, can enhance memory and possibly prevent a loss of mental function as people get older. Other studies have found that berries may reverse age-related decline in some aspects of working memory. Again these effects may be due to the anti-inflammatory properties of anthocyanins and their ability to reduce inflammation in the neurons. This can help brain signaling as well as improve blood flow to the brain, similarly to how anthocyanins affect the heart.

4. Cancer Prevention

Anthocyanins have anti-carcinogenic qualities, though how this works exactly is not yet known. In laboratory studies, anthocyanins have shown the ability to activate enzymes which detoxify the body, prevent cancer cell multiplication, and cause cancer cell death on several different types of cancer cells. (Side note: most of these studies were not conducted on humans.)

Even though most of these studies were done on rats, there is no real risk in increasing consumption of these purple fruits and veggies. If anything, incorporating these into your diet will give you more variety of nutrients and contribute overall to a more nutritious diet! These anthocyanins are all found in fruits and veggies, and eating more of those is never a bad thing.

5. Variety

If you don't like blueberries, that is a-okay because there are so many other ways to incorporate anthocyanins into your diet! Whether you're a fruit person or veggie person, there is something purple for everyone: beets, cauliflower, raspberries, açaí, pitaya, eggplant, beans, asparagus, potatoes, cherries, red onion, cabbage, radish, peppers, blackberries, Gogi berries, grapes—the list goes on and on.

Purple is a pretty color, but it also packs a powerful punch when it comes to your health. It's time to branch out and try something new; your heart, mind and body will thank you.