by Melissa Chichester
With Valentine’s Day and Heart Health Month just around the corner, now is the perfect time to get caught up on some of the most nutritious red fruits and vegetables. Red fruits and vegetables get their vibrant colors from plant pigments called carotenoids. Carotenoids are fat-soluble and are comprised of not only red but also yellow and orange pigments. You might recognize one of these carotenoids already, called lycopene, which is found in tomatoes. Now, let your diet get caught red-handed by these nutritious foods!
Whether they are sweet and mild or hot and spicy, red peppers have multiple benefits. They are a good source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C, and tend to be on the sweet side with little spice. Red peppers even contain more Vitamin C than oranges. They are also a source of fiber. Spicy peppers, such as cayenne peppers and serrano peppers contain capsaicin, a beneficial phytochemical.
Imagine plucking a big fat strawberry right from the vine, early in the morning before the dew has evaporated. Sink your teeth in and enjoy its slightly tart, slightly sweet taste. When you do, you’ll be getting a big intake of Vitamin C. Plus, strawberries contain fiber, and polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant found in plants.
Tomatoes are one of the most versatile foods out there. You can enjoy them alone, eat them in chili, on tacos, burgers, soups, and of course, we can’t forget pasta sauce and Italian cuisine. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a naturally occurring red and pink pigment found in plants. Lycopene provides antioxidant support. Antioxidants help cells fight free radicals in the body. Beyond its antioxidant benefits, lycopene also plays a role in heart health and prostate health.**
The radish doesn’t get enough attention when it comes to nutritious cruciferous vegetables. Radishes are a good source of Vitamin C and they do not contain fat. Plus, they have minimal calories and a slightly spicy taste. Radishes also contribute to your fiber intake, which is essential for healthy digestion.
Cranberries are more than just a tasty Thanksgiving side dish. They should be consumed more for their nutritious benefits. Cranberries are comprised mostly of water and carbohydrates; however, they contain many essential vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, manganese, and magnesium. Cranberries also contain beneficial antioxidants and fiber.
Before you stock up on cranberry juice, note that raw cranberries have more nutritional value than cranberry juice and dried cranberries due to potentially added sugars. Cranberry is known to nutritionally support urinary tract function in both men and women.**. Cranberries help cleanse the urinary tract, helping remove unwanted compounds to clear the way for healthy urine flow.** They also help maintain bladder health.**
Another delicious red berry, raspberries contain anthocyanins that function as antioxidants. They also contain another antioxidant called ellagic acid, and Vitamin C. In addition, raspberries are low in calories and contain fiber for digestion, plus other vitamins and minerals, including manganese, Vitamin K, and potassium. Another fun fact about raspberries is that they are part of the rose plant family.
Pomegranate is a fruit that resembles an apple but is loaded with hundreds of seeds that are edible (unlike the peel). This fruit is rich in nutrients, including fiber, protein, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, and potassium. Pomegranates also contain important polyphenols that help support antioxidant health and help scavenge cell-damaging free radicals.**