One of the benefits of a persistent item is passive regeneration. This attribute is signified by a specific color and increases your rate of regeneration for a specific attribute. Red items increase health regen, blue items increase mana regen, and white items increase stamina regen.
The second benefit of a persistent item is a passive increase. This benefit will increase a base attribute of your player and is signified by an animal. The Bear increases health, the Dolphin increases mana, the Rabbit increases stamina, the Beaver increases gold income, and the Armadillo increases armor.
The last benefit of a persistent item is an active replenishment or buff. The "consumable" portion of a persistent item has a long cooldown and can either give a short lived additional bonus (ie 15% more armor for 30 seconds) or instantly replenish health, mana, or stamina. The Heart increases health, Brain increases mana, Lungs increases stamina, Shield increases armor, Dagger increases melee damage, and Feet increase speed.