Scientists used betalains, pigments found in beets and some flowers, to reproduce tomatoes with new and brighter colors. Scientists used betalains, pigments found in beets and some flowers, to reproduce tomatoes with new and brighter colors. Scientists used betalains, pigments found in beets and some flowers, to reproduce tomatoes with new and brighter colors. (Photo: Eag1eEyes / Shutterstock)

You've never seen fruit this color before

Pigments made from beets can enhance not only the color of your produce, but the nutritional value, too.

What can beets do for you? We already know they're packed with health benefits and make a great addition to lots of dishes, like salads, juices and hummus.

But did you know they can also make other foods healthier?

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute in Israel recently discovered that fruits and vegetables can be genetically engineered to produce betalains, the same pigments that give beets their vibrant red color. Potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants can be altered to give off a whole variety of colors without changing the look of the plants they grow on.

Purple tomatoes, anyone?

Sure, this sounds like a great way to turn your garden into a rainbow. But it also has practical uses. Betalains are high in antioxidants, so when they're added to the mix, voila: even healthier produce.

raw beetsOn the outside, beets are rough, rugged, oddly shaped and homely. But it's a whole other story on the inside. (Photo: vesna cvorovic/Shutterstock)

“Our findings may in the future be used to fortify a wide variety of crops with betalains in order to increase their nutritional value,” says Professor Asaph Aharoni of Weizmann’s Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, who co-led the study.

The benefits don't end there. In addition to being brilliant in color and great for your health, the betalain-infused produce in Aharoni's study also works to protect against mold. That's because Aharoni and his team actually produced new versions of betalains that do not exist in nature and engineered them to grow with the plants.

"Some of these new pigments may potentially prove more stable than the naturally occurring betalains,” says Dr. Guy Polturak, who helped lead the study with Aharoni in Israel. “This can be of major significance in the food industry, which makes extensive use of betalains as natural food dyes, for example, in strawberry yogurts.”

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Related Topics: Healthy eating, Science