The power of red: Good for you and delicious

Today is the ultimate special heart day and month – red for Valentine’s Day as well as American Heart Month. Red is a color that deserves a special place in your life daily. Consider including red foods in your day.

Here is a list of 10 super foods that contain high-quality vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients. One common nutrient in most of the foods listed is lycopene – a carotenoid that produces the red color naturally found in foods. It helps prevent heart disease, or atherosclerosis (particularly for women); as well as cancers of the prostate, breast, lung, bladder, ovaries, colon and pancreas. Surely, you can find options from this list to add to your daily intake to help you and yours live, laugh and love longer.

Tomatoes: Packed with vitamins, minerals and lycopene. Tomatoes are a great source of potassium and vitamin C, but the biggie is lycopene. This is one item where canned is more beneficial than fresh. Foods such as canned tomatoes, tomato juice and tomato sauce contain not only a higher concentration of lycopene, but processing has made it easier for the body to use it. I do, however, recommend using the low-sodium varities.

Red chile peppers: Contain capsaicinoids that bring flavor and heat to chile peppers as well as carotenoid pigment. Capsaicin is a powerful anti-inflammatory, and recently, a university Hong Kong found that high capsaicinoid intake resulted in lower levels of LDL cholesterol in rats studied.

Pomegranate seeds, strawberries and cherries: They not only contain lycopene and phenols. The deep, bright color is from anthocyanin, another powerful antioxidant for heart health that also decreases muscle and joint inflammation. Pomegranate seeds and strawberries contain high levels of vitamin C as well.

Red bell peppers: These are a particularly good choice for heart health because they are an excellent source of soluble fiber, are low calorie and full of lycopene (not found in green peppers). They are a source of antioxidants vitamins A and C as well as an excellent source of potassium (162 milligrams per cup). Potassium intake in the diet helps lower blood pressure.

Red grapes and red wine: Rich in antioxidants and soluble fiber, red grapes have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation and reduce heart muscle damage related to a high-salt diet. They reduce blood triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels and improve blood-vessel function. Red wine, de-alcoholized or not, contains polyphenols. Moderation is important: 4 ounces for women and 8 ounces for men of red wine daily is all you need to reap benefits.

Red salmon: An excellent source of the coveted omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce cardiac inflammation and decrease risk of blood clots. The darker red color is found more in wild-caught salmon as well as higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids. Whether wild caught or farm raised, the benefit is pronounced.

Apples: One a day keeps the doctor away. Maybe. In any case, it won’t hurt. Not only is the fresh apple an excellent source of soluble fiber, it contains the phytochemical quercetin – a natural anti-inflammatory agent to prevent blood clots. The pectin from under the peel has been found to level blood sugar and decrease cholesterol/triglyceride levels (though more human-based studies are needed).

Red is a powerful color for so many reasons.

ricekw@co.laplata.co.us or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.

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