You’ve heard that you should pack your diet with colorful fruits and vegetables as brightly-colored produce delivers disease-fighting phytochemicals. In fact, the USDA tells us to pay particular attention to orange and red and dark green produce—and get more of those into our diets. Here are 5 healthy red foods to help you get your fill.
Rich in antioxidants, such as anthocyanin (believed to reduce pain and inflammation), cherries have been purported to fight myriad diseases, including diabetes, cancer, arthritis and gout. Cherries are also a good source of fiber, potassium and vitamin A.
A near-icon of fertility in much of its native range (Iran to the Himalayas), the pomegranate also has come to represent good health. Studies have shown that the fruit may help to reduce the buildup of plaque in arteries and lower blood pressure. Other research hints that pomegranate juice may help manage prostate cancer, diabetes, arthritis and erectile dysfunction. Experts believe that pomegranate’s benefits come from its powerful punch of polyphenols—including anthocyanins (found in blue, purple and deep-red foods) and tannins (also found in wine and tea).
With an earthy flavor that gets supersweet when cooked, beets are very nutritious: 1/2 cup of cooked beets has just 29 calories but boasts 2 grams of fiber and provides 19 percent of the daily value for folate, a B vitamin needed for the growth of healthy new cells. Plus their beautiful color comes from betanin, a phytochemical that’s thought to bolster immunity. Roast them, pickle them or shred them raw and dress them with citrus for a refreshing salad in these 4 quick and easy beet recipes.
Capsaicin, an antioxidant in chiles, thwarts food spoilage and may protect blood vessels. It also makes peppers hot—in more ways than one (hence the spicy folklore that piquant peppers rev up sexual desires). Studies show that capsaicin increases the body’s metabolic rate and may stimulate brain chemicals that help us feel less hungry. In a 2005 study in the International Journal of Obesity, people ate 16 percent fewer calories at a meal if they sipped tomato juice spiked with hot-pepper extract (versus plain tomato juice) a half hour earlier.
A terrific source of vitamin C with a touch of vitamin A, potassium and fiber thrown in for good measure, tomatoes don’t just taste great, they’re also good for you. (Hard to believe that at one time they were thought to be poisonous!) Tomatoes are also rich in lycopene, an antioxidant that fights skin aging and may be beneficial against cancer and heart disease.