On Valentine’s Day, we think of all things red, so why not red phytonutrients?
Today, on the day we celebrate love and are delight in all things red, I’d like to offer a fun challenge – one that will show your body (and brain and heart) some love and care.
The next time you find yourself in the produce section of your grocery store, take a full minute to stop and look around at all of the vibrant colors you see. How many colors can you find? What are the most dominant? Which ones pop out at you?
Do you ever think about the colors of your food? There is good science behind “eating the rainbow” – and I’m NOT talking about Skittles! The compounds in plant foods that give them colors (as well as tastes and smells) have powerful health-promoting properties. These compounds, called phytonutrients, are sometimes also referred to as phytochemicals or plant nutrients.
Red foods found in nature are rich in phytonutrients that can promote healing, reduce inflammation, and slow the aging process.
Lycopene, Anthocyanin, and Fisetin are just three of the many compound that pack a powerful red punch in protecting our cells, preventing disease, reducing inflammation, boosting our immune systems, and promoting healing.
Lycopene: You’ve probably heard about this famous player found in red foods like tomatoes and watermelon. Also found in pink grapefruit, this fat-soluble phytonutrient may protect against various cancers (including breast, prostate, and and skin) and is also beneficial for heart health. Be sure to include some healthy fat (think avocado, olive, or coconut oil) in your meal when eating these delicious foods to for maximum absorption.
Anthocyanins: Pronounced \an(t)-thə-ˈsī-ə-nən\, this powerful red compound is found in red berries, red apples (with the skin), red beans, beets, and red onions. Eating foods that include anthocyanin may aid in cancer prevention as well as brain and heart health.
Fisetin: pronounced \ fə̇ˈzetᵊn \, this red phytonutrient, found in strawberries, grapes, and apples, has anti-cancer, anti-aging, and anti-inflammatory properties.
These are just three of the many compounds that science has discovered in red plant foods. There are so many others that we know of and, I believe, we are just scratching the surface in our understanding of how God made plants to work in our bodies.
Eating just one or two servings of red plant foods a day can make a big difference in our health.
You may have already heard me wax (un)poetically about the tasty benefits of pomegranates and ways to enjoy them more.
Here are some other ideas to put more red on your plate this week:
- Combine some cherry tomatoes, red onion, and sliced cucumber in a bowl, then drizzle with a little olive oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, salt, and pepper. Store in the fridge for an easy side or snack. Add some beans and a little feta cheese for a delicious lunch!
- Roasted beets are now commonly found in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. They’re an easy, nutritious, and delicious addition to your salad or smoothie
- Don’t forget the berries! Frozen berries make getting a serving a day of these nutritional powerhouses more affordable and easier than ever. Toss into oatmeal, a smoothie, mix with yogurt, or just eat them as they are! My daughter puts a small container of frozen berries in her lunch box. By the time she’s ready to eat them, they’re thawed and ready to enjoy with a spoon.
- And you already know the benefits of an apple a day!
I hope you’ll look for some red the next time you’re in the grocery store, take them home, and enjoy the deliciousness of all of those phytonutrients. Your heart (and brain, body, and tastebuds) will thank you.
Photo by Thomas Martinsen on Unsplash