What is anthocyanin

Anthocyanins, anthocyanins, E 163

English: anthocyanins, anthocyans
French: anthocyanes, anthocyanines
Italian: antociani
Spanish: antocianinas

Table of Contents

Anthocyanins or Anthocyanins are natural dyes that have the European approval number E 163 wear for food additives.

Anthocyanins are the most important group of blue, purple and red as well as yellow and green pigments in plants. The color of the individual anthocyanins depends on the chemical structure and the pH value of the plant:

  • Anthocyanins with hydroxyl groups (-OH) or a slightly basic mileu turn blue or purple
  • Anthocyanins with methyl groups (-CH3) and / or a low pH value turn red
  • Anthocyanins in a Mileu with a very high pH value turn yellow or green

About 250 different anthocyanins are known. Anthocyanins are naturally found in eggplants, blueberries, elderberries, red cabbage, cherries, and grapes. In these plants the anthocyanins are responsible for the strong color. Anthocyanins also provide colored petals in many ornamental plants and color them from light pink to dark blue. Peas, pears and bananas also contain anthocyanins. There are different anthocyanins, all of which have a very similar chemical structure and belong to the so-called flavone dyes. The flavone dyes belong to the secondary plant substances (polyphenols), which are said to have a health-promoting effect. Anthocyanins are said to have an antioxidant effect. These colorings are also one reason why moderate consumption of red wine is said to have a health-promoting effect. In wine there are mainly anthocyanins with glycoside compounds such as cyanidin, delphinidin, malvidin, peonidin and petunidin.

Anthocyanins dissolve in water and are resistant to heat and light. Due to their special chemical structure, anthocyanins behave differently and change their color depending on the pH value. In acidic solutions, anthocyanins are red in color, in alkaline environments anthocyanins turn blue.

Production of anthocyanins

This dye is extracted from fruit and black corn to produce anthocyanins. Above all, however, red cabbage and pomace, which are produced in the production of red wine, are used to produce the color.

The isolated dyes are less used in the food industry. The isolated dyes have names such as malvidin, pelargonidin and petunidin. The grape peel extract is used far more frequently than the isolated dye. The grape peel extract is then treated like a coloring food and does not have to be labeled with an E number. However, the extract is still listed on the list of ingredients.

Use of anthocyanins

© Stieber / fotolia.com

Anthocyanins are generally permitted for coloring all foods, unless the food is untreated or the addition of coloring agents is prohibited due to legal regulations. Anthocyanins may be added to foods without any restriction on the maximum amount. E 163 is used for red-veined cheese, drinks 🛒, jellies, jams and breakfast cereals. The use of these dyes is also permitted in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.


If anthocyanins are used as coloring agents and fed directly to food, they must be declared as an additive. Anthocyanins that are contained in composite ingredients and no longer have a technological effect in the finished product, i.e. no longer color the food, do not have to be listed as food coloring in the list of ingredients.

Anthocyanins: Health Risks

Anthocyanins are considered harmless; there is no ADI value for these dyes. The EC organic regulation rejects the addition of colorings to organic food.

Summary and brief information

  • Red cabbage, red wine, and kale are high in anthocyanins
  • Currants, black currants, blueberries, blackberries, musk strawberries, wild strawberries and strawberries contain a lot of anthocyanins
  • Anthocyanins are found in eggplants, blueberries, elderberries, red cabbage, cherries, grapes, peas, pears, and bananas
  • Anthocyanins are food additives, coloring agents, natural coloring agents, secondary plant substances


  • The Brockhaus Diet: Eat healthy - live consciously. Brockhaus, 2011 »