Today’s Solutions: March 03, 2024

Purple tortilla chips add a fun pop of color to your appetizers or finger food spreads, but the benefits of purple corn go far beyond just aesthetics. Purple corn contains a healthy pigment that, when ingested, can help reduce the risk of developing heart disease or diabetes.

This pigment is known as anthocyanin, an antioxidant that is also found in blueberries, pomegranates, and beets. People love to snack on corn-on-the-cob, probably more so if it’s purple, but all the pigment that’s left on the cob once the delicious kernels are gone often gets tossed.

Fortunately, Fabrizio Adani, Roberto Pilu, and Patrizia De Nisi from the University of Milan led a team of researchers to develop a method of extracting more of this healthy pigment from the discarded cob that doesn’t involve harsh solvents that are used in traditional extraction processes.

The team developed a new variety of purple corn, from which they harvested the kernels. The leftover cobs were then dried, ground up, mixed with water, and finally, heated. This technique allowed for 36 percent of the cobs’ pigment content to be used to dye wool and cotton fabrics.

Then, an ethanol mixture was used to extract another 33 percent of the pigment. This portion of extracted pigment exhibited antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so scientists believe that it can be used in nutraceutical supplements.

In addition to maximizing the benefits of anthocyanin, the remaining ground cob material can be used to make more eco-friendly kitty litter. This process is already practiced, but the team’s resulting material had superior absorbent properties to the corn cob waste currently used in commercial kitty litter. The residual anthocyanin found in the material was also found to have antibacterial qualities, which would up the game of commercial litter as a substance that reduces odors and kills bacteria.

Many of our most valuable resources come from the naturally powerful plants that grow in the world around us. This is a perfect example of a natural superfood and the exciting results that come from capitalizing on its beneficial properties.

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