In the past, fruits and vegetables accounted for a large portion of the food that people eat daily, a lifestyle characterized by rich and healthy food. Later, it was realised that many of the pigments that were able to bring bright colours to fruits and vegetables were actually very valuable nutrients.
Modern technology can also be used to develop more sophisticated products. There are many pigments in nature, some of which can be used as edible pigments as well as important nutrients, many of which are between yellow, orange and red.
Anthocyanins are a kind of natural pigments that exist in fruits and vegetables, making fruits and vegetables appear red to blue tones. In industrialized production, most of the pigments commonly used are grape, elder fruit, raspberry and red cabbage (purple cabbage). Anthocyanins not only serve as pigments, but also have many biological activities, and anthocyanins of different origins have different properties. Anthocyanin from grape peel can reduce the risk of heart disease, the anthocyanin from the elder fruit is resistant to influenza virus, and the anthocyanin from raspberry has a good protective effect on eyesight.
Another large class of natural pigments with nutritional properties is carotenoids. Carotenoids are widely distributed in nature and generally present in yellow, orange and red. Most fruits and vegetables contain a mixture of carotenoids, and extracts from these fruits and vegetables are an important source of human essential nutrients, confirming that there are 600 different carotenoid species in nature.
Beta-carotene is the most common carotenoids, has been widely used in food processing, beta-carotene has been used in butter and margarine for many years, not only to provide these products with yellow hue, but also to provide vitamin A, mainly because beta-carotene in the human body can be converted into vitamin A. In many countries, it is stipulated that margarine must be added with vitamin A, so beta-carotene becomes a source of vitamin A.
In nature, the most abundant mixture of carotenoids is the fruit of palm oil, which contains alpha, beta and gamma-carotene and lycopene. Many consumers have acknowledged that mixed carotenoids are good for human health. Natural carotene has become a very commonly used pigment that offers attractive yellow and orange products.
Lutein is a yellow pigment from marigold. It is only when people realize that it is an antioxidant that can fight spot degeneration (a disease that causes blindness in the elderly). Lycopene is a bright red pigment, it is a strong antioxidant, can prevent many kinds of cancer. Curcumin also has antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory characteristics.