Valentine’s Day is great for an excuse to eat chocolate, but it is also a great excuse to promote the amazing heart health benefits of red fruits and vegetables.
This category of red fruits and vegetables includes – tomatoes, watermelon, red cabbage, red leaf lettuce, red apples, raspberries, red swiss chard, red grapes, red potatoes, red onion, strawberries, beets, blood oranges, red peppers, cherries, cranberries, papaya, red grapefruit, pomegranates, radicchio, radishes, red chili peppers, red pears, rhubarb, and many more.
Lycopene, which makes up the red pigment, is the most well know compound within this category of produce. That is because big food companies that sell canned tomato, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce and even ketchup like to market its powerful antioxidant benefits. It is a really good selling point because lycopene does some amazing stuff like: maintaining a healthy blood pressure, lowering LDL cholesterol (or “bad” cholesterol), and reducing the risk for several types of cancers. Lycopene is fat-soluble. That means that it is best absorbed when eaten with a source of fat. So when you eat a big salad with red bell peppers, red onions, red leaf lettuce, and radishes make sure you top it with a salad dressing that contains a heart healthy monounsaturated fat, like olive oil, canola oil or even avocado.
This red group of fruits and vegetables have other important compounds called anthocyanins, ellagic acid, quercetin, and hesperidin. Don’t worry about remembering or even pronouncing these scientific sounding names. All you need to know is that these antioxidants work together to provide many of the same benefits as lycopene like reducing the risk of prostate cancer and other cancers, lowering blood pressure, reducing tumor growth, reducing LDL cholesterol levels, protecting our cells from damage by scavenging for harmful free-radicals, and supporting joint tissue in cases of arthritis.
So after you eat that chocolate today, think about ways that you can increase your consumption of red fruits and vegetables. Here are a few ideas:
Add fresh strawberries, raspberries to cereal or oatmeal
Make an omelet with tomatoes and red bell peppers and include a side of roasted redskinned potaotes.
Fruit salad that includes papaya, watermelon or red apples
Add sliced tomato and red lettuce leaves to your sandwich
Top salads with roasted beets, fresh radishes or radicchio.
Add red bell peppers and red cabbage to a stir-fry
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!