Calling all iMag Readers! It's time to put a little love in your heart (or should I say in your stomach). With American Heart Month finally here, there’s no better time to start eating right. And what more appropriate foods to eat than red foods— they're full of vitamins, good for your heart, and a perfect Valentine’s Day treat! iMag talked to Registered Dietician, Danielle Schupp, and got her advice on the five red foods you should be eating!
According to Danielle, “red foods are rich in phytochemicals including resveratrol, lycopene and anthocyanins. Phytochemicals are the ingredients in fruits and vegetables that appear to promote health, by slowing the aging process or reducing disease risk including cardiovascular and certain cancers.” Here are some of the top good-for-you red foods:
1. Red wine
Why it’s good for you: It contains ethanol, resveratrol and phytochemicals. The alcohol contained in wine, either white or red, in moderate amounts may protect against cardiovascular disease by boosting HDL (“the good”) cholesterol, preventing LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol from forming and preventing blood platelets that cause heart attacks and strokes from clotting. The plant substances in grapes, called resveratrol and tannins, may contribute to these heart healthy benefits. In addition, phytochemicals found in the skin and the seeds of grapes used to make wine may help prevent several forms of cancer as they provide a variety of vitamins and minerals.
How to consume it: Keep in mind that moderation is key! To get heart-healthy benefits from wine, women should consume no more than one 5-ounce glass of wine daily and for men its two glasses.
2. Tomatoes and tomato products
Why it’s good for you: These foods contain lycopenes, vitamin C and potassium. Lycopene has received a lot of attention from researchers in recent years. It is a pigment that gives vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon, their red color. It also appears to have strong antioxidant capabilities. Several studies suggest that consumption of lycopene-rich foods is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease. Lycopene is not produced in the body, so you can only obtain its benefits by eating lycopene-rich foods. Cooked tomato products provide more health benefits than eating raw tomatoes. Research shows that more of the phytochemical lycopene is absorbed from cooked tomatoes such as canned tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce than from fresh tomatoes. Also, lycopene is fat-soluble, making it more easily absorbed if eaten with fat.
How to consume it: Keep it healthy by adding a little olive oil to your favorite tomato-based dish to reap the full benefit of lycopene. You can also add these foods to your diet by adding tomatoes in your salad, topping pasta with red sauce instead of cream or oil-based sauces, throwing a slice of tomato on your favorite turkey sandwich, or even top your next burger with extra ketchup.
Why it’s good for you: This fruit contains polyphenols (a phytochemical), vitamin C and B6. Research has shown that in both mice and people, pomegranates can help prevent the oxidation of LDL—or bad cholesterol that can contribute to clogging arteries. Pomegranates may also help maintain blood flow, keeping your blood vessels healthy.
How to consume it: Pomegranate contains hundreds of ruby-colored seeds encased in translucent red pulp that is both sweet and tart. To enjoy, cut a pomegranate in half and pry out the pulp-encased seeds, removing any of the light-colored membrane that may be stuck to them. Seeds can stain clothes and skin, so remove seeds under water.
4. Red apples
Why it’s good for you: Red apples contain fiber, quercetin, tannins and potassium. A medium-sized apple contains about 80 calories, provides about four grams of fiber (15% of the recommended daily amount) and is a good source of potassium. The fiber in apples is a mix of soluble and insoluble fiber, providing heart health and colon cancer prevention benefits at the same time. In addition, tannins in apple juice may help keep your gums healthy.
How to consume it: Be sure to eat the skin. It is loaded with quercetin, which may reduce the growth and spread of cancer cells and help promote heart health. Try apples in salads and desserts or as toppings for meat, fish and chicken. Cut them up and enjoy them as a snack and for variety, try different types of apples. Galas, Fuji and Pink Lady are sweet apples that go well in salads.
5. Red peppers
Why it’s good for you: Red peppers contain capsaicin, a phytochemical, and vitamin C. Peppers are also rich in phytochemicals that appear to provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Preliminary research shows capsaicin may act as a blood thinner. Red bell peppers also contain more than twice the amount of vitamin C as an orange. Vitamin C is important to healthy teeth, bones and iron absorption. Especially if you smoke, you and those around you may need more vitamin C than you think. Your body “uses up” vitamin C to clear out many free radicals smoking causes.
How to consume it: Add red peppers to a salad for a splash of color or slice and enjoy with your favorite dip. Remember, have more pepper and less dip.
For more nutrition advice, check out iMag’s Food Section.