Eat Red! Here are a few good reasons! Not only is it National Wear Red Day®—a day to wear red to raise awareness of heart disease. We also celebrate Go Red for Women, the American Heart Association’s initiative to specifically increase women’s heart health awareness. February is also American Heart Month in the U.S.and National Heart Month in the UK. Go Red for Women is the American Heart Association’s initiative to specifically increase women’s heart health awareness.
I also want you to think about eating red today and all month. You’ve probably heard that eating the rainbow is a good way to get a variety of nutrients. Today I want to get in the spirit of “Go Red” and “Eat Red” and entice you to learn why eating red is good for your heart (and other parts) as well as some tasty ideas.
Red Bell Peppers: A fun way to eat red when used to dip!
Crunch into a large handful of bell pepper strips and you’ll get your vitamin C for the day, which of course, along with vitamin A and carotenoids, is good for the immune system. Vitamin C also protects bone and cartilage. 1 medium bell pepper has only 31 calories—perfect to fill up, not out! Why red? Besides tasting sweet, red peppers contain the highest amounts of the anti-inflammatory compounds beta-carotene, quercetin, and luteolin, according to research in the Journal of Food Science. Luteolin has been found to neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation. If you like your food picante, red and green chiles contain similar nutrients including the powerful capsaicin. Bell peppers are an easy way to eat red–eat them raw, stuff them with tuna or chicken or make them into a sauce.
Red cabbage: It doesn’t get much respect!
Cabbage may not be first on your list for veggies, but it definitely has its health perks, starting with being a rich source of vitamin K. Vitamin K doesn’t see much traction in the news, but it’s important for bone health—and a nutrient you may not be getting enough of. Fermented red cabbage can help with gut bacteria and may be easier to digest. Finally, red cabbage, is rich in anthocyanins, an antioxidant linked to better blood pressure and lower risk of heart disease. It’s often a side dish at German restaurants and you can buy it in a jar. Here’s a recipe to make your own fermented red cabbage. Read about one dietitian’s journey to cabbage fermentation success here: https://summeryule.com/fermented-sauerkraut-recipe/
A cup of raw red cabbage has 56% of the daily value of vitamin, 28% of the daily value of vitamin K, 20% of the daily value of vitamin A and just 28 calories.
Cherries: Not only are they fun to pick, they’re also fun to eat!
What a sweet way to eat red! They’re also super healthy for you, (as long as you don’t eat too many of them, but that’s another story!)
While sweet cherries have just 18% of the daily value of vitamin C, they make up for it with their super rich polyphenol, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant content.
And tart cherries (often used for pies & chutneys) contain twice as much polyphenols, twenty times the beta carotene of their sweet cousins. (Source) When they’re not in season, try dried cherries or put tart cherry juice in your smoothie or make a fizz. Make this Spicy Cherry Chutney to spice up your grilled salmon or lamb burger.
Berries: Fiber filled goodness in small packages.
It’s hard to single out just one berry when it comes to heart health. Berries are rich in fiber, which we know helps digestive health, but is also linked to other good health outcomes. Blackberries and raspberries have a whopping 8 grams of fiber per cup. Berries are also generally an excellent source of vitamin C, an important antioxidant. Blackberries contain gallic acid, rutin and ellagic acid, compounds that may have antiviral and antibacterial properties that help kill oral bacteria so keep on munching! Berries are also rich in the phenol anthocyanin, which both protect the body from oxidative stress, which is linked to both a reduced risk of heart disease as well as dementia.
Cranberries: While making cranberry sauce is an easy way to eat red, cranberries are not just for Thanksgiving!
Over the years, cranberries have been given some high accolades, not for specific vitamins, but for the antioxidant content. A-Type proanthocyanidins are what cranberries are famous for. They helps prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall as well as from forming in the mouth. So cranberries can helping to prevent both urinary tract infections and gum disease. (Source)
While sweet cherries have just 18% of the daily value of vitamin C, they make up for it with their super rich polyphenol, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant content. All the antioxidants in cranberries also help with inflammation and thus are healthy for your heart too.
The downside of fresh cranberries are that they’re very tart, so most people eat them dried or in juice, which means they’re packed with sugar. Opt for small portions of cranberries in your cereal, yogurt or trail mix or choose a 100% cranberry juice that doesn’t have added sugar.
Beets: these tough root veggies top the chart for nutrients and health benefits.
The naturally present nitrates they contain have been shown to helping reduce blood pressure. (Source) Beets and their greens are also rich in potassium—which also help to lower blood pressure. Like other red and purple produce, beets are also rich in antioxidants, which protect your cells from damage and may protect you from heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Roasted beets are delish, but you can also use canned beets to add to a salad or marinate in a vinaigrette. Throw some in hummus or a smoothie for a pop of color and nutrition.
Tomatoes: The veggie that’s actually a fruit is one of the most versatile.
Showing up in fast food, soups, salsas, and dishes from almost every culture, tomatoes are known for being super rich in the carotenoid lycopene. You can add tomatoes to almost any meal, making it a quick way to eat red! Foods rich in lycopene may help reduce the risk for several cancers.
According to Penn State Extension, “Recent studies show that a diet rich in tomatoes lowers the levels of inflammatory stress markers noted in the development of cardiovascular disease. Regular intake of tomato products has been consistently associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease.”
With just 41 calories in a cup of canned tomatoes, they also boat vitamin C, A, vitamin B6 and potassium. Find more science about tomato and a free tomato cookbook here.
This year the American Heart Association is challenging everyone to Save a Life. Learn CPR. Women who have a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital are less likely to receive CPR from bystanders. We need more people to learn CPR; Take the CPR challenge!
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