A Plate of Many Colors: Red Foods

A Plate of Many Colors

In an earlier post, we introduced the Plate of Many Colors, a concept to help guide you in making smart, healthy nutrition choices. The point is to move away from BROWN—the color of fried foods and other fast-food fare—and open your eyes, your mind, and your mouth to a more colorful array of foods including RED foods.

As promised, we’re continuing our series on colorful nutrition with today’s post all about foods that are RED. (To read our post about GREEN foods that are good for you, click here.)

Why RED is Right-On

RED is the color of blood and the heart; it represents passion, vitality, and health, the forces that keep us going strong. It should come as no surprise, then, that red foods are extremely beneficial for our bodies.

Like most plants, red fruits and vegetables are rich sources of vital nutrients called antioxidants that promote healthy cell function and help protect our bodies against external and internal threats. These antioxidants come from various kinds of phytochemicals, chemicals specific to plants that serve helpful functions like regulating cell growth and attracting pollinating insects. In the human body, scientists believe that antioxidants fight and even help prevent certain types of cancer by keeping cancerous cells from growing and multiplying.

RED Foods Round-Up

Research on antioxidants is still in the early stages, and most studies have shown that supplements of antioxidants like vitamin C and beta carotene don’t actually confer any health benefits. The only real way to reap the rewards of antioxidants and other beneficial phytochemicals is to make fruits and vegetables a regular part of your diet. With that in mind, here is our round-up of righteous RED foods whose benefits are currently backed by research:

Red onions are among the foods most densely packed with beneficial phytochemicals, including quercetin, which helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol in humans. Eating onions on a weekly basis has been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal, laryngeal, and ovarian cancers, and ½ cup of onion a day may reduce the risk of oral and esophageal cancers in particular.

Radishes contain sulfuric compounds called glucosinolates, which have been shown to inhibit the development and progression of prostate, bladder, colon, liver, breast, and ovarian cancers.

Tomatoes are very high in lycopene, an antioxidant that gives red foods their color. Tomatoes may reduce the risk of prostate, colorectal, lung, and breast cancers when consumed on a regular basis, and you don’t even have to eat them raw; you can get the same benefits from tomato-based juices and sauces, so choose marinara rather than alfredo.

Red wine contains resveratrol, an antioxidant powerhouse with a wide range of incredible benefits. According to some studies, resveratrol may prevent blood clots, reduce cholesterol, fight inflammation, decrease blood sugar levels, and lower the risk of developing diabetes.

Red potatoes are rich in vitamin B6, a nutrient that plays an important role in brain health by helping the body produce key hormones like serotonin (which regulates mood), melatonin (which promotes healthy sleep), and norepinephrine (which increases attention and alertness and enables the body’s “fight-or-flight” response in dangerous situations).

Raspberries have more fiber per cup than even broccoli or oatmeal. Fiber is crucial to comfort because it stabilizes blood sugar levels, slows the passage of food through the intestines, and absorbs water inside your stomach and colon—actions that help prevent hunger and keep your bowels working dependably.

Cranberries contain a class of phytochemicals called proanthocyanidins that may help protect against chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs) by preventing bacteria like E. coli from attaching to the lining of the urinary system. Studies have also shown that cranberries have anti-inflammatory properties that lower the risk of periodontal disease and stomach ulcers.

Start Seeing RED

When planning your diet, always remember that the only way to reap the benefits of the antioxidants found in red foods is to actually eat them! Fortunately, red foods are as rich in flavor as they are in nutrients, so you’re bound to find some that you really like. Aim for at least one serving of RED at breakfast, lunch, or dinner every single day, and you’ll be ready to go!

Author: Carla Spencer

Carla Spencer is a Registered Dietitian and founder of 2 Your Health. Her extensive career working with individuals with health challenges led her to create this site dedicated to helping people enjoy their lives while working to prevent or minimize the impact of kidney disease.

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