Throughout the series I have highlighted particular foods by calling your attention to their color, that’s because every color of the food rainbow offers a unique mix of nutrients that will improve your health. The colors provide evidence that antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are present. Color also alerts us to fluids and fiber, two of the main aids to digestion. The pigment that gives your favorite fruits and vegetables their colors, actually stores many of the nutrients. Mixing up the menu couldn’t be simpler because each color provides similar benefits, so you can mix and match a variety of foods to decrease boredom. So far we’ve explored green, white and orange foods, this time we examine scintillating reds! Some of my favorite foods are spring and summer staples, like tomatoes and strawberries. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a powerful anti- that we discussed last month. I recently learned that heating tomatoes in tomato sauces increases the levels of lycopene. Eat One Like an Apple! Sprinkle some sea salt on it and let the juice dribble down your chin; savor it!
While tomatoes are quite common for a lot of us, I encourage you to try something different, red cabbage. The taste is more or less an acquired one, but it has added nutritional benefits as compared to green cabbage. It has a distinct flavor and the red/purple color of a head of this cabbage displays it’s concentration of anthocyanin polyphenols, these help it earn its significantly higher amounts of phytonutrients. Anthocyanin pigments are of great interest to researchers because of their health benefits as dietary antioxidants, as an anti-inflammatory, and their protective, preventative, and therapeutic roles in many human diseases.
According to World’s Healthiest Foods, a recent study showed that a 100 gram (about 3 ounces) serving of raw red cabbage delivers 196.5 milligrams of polyphenols, of which 28.3 milligrams are anthocyanins. Green cabbages yielded much less per 100 grams: 45 milligrams of polyphenols including 0.01 milligram of anthocyanins. The vitamin C equivalent, a measure of antioxidant capacity, of red cabbage is also six to eight times higher than that of green cabbage. Red cabbage is one of the most nutritious and best tasting vegetables around” It’s low in fat has anti-aging effects, is good for the eyes and skin, boosts immunity, cleanses the body, possesses anti-cancer properties, prevents osteoporosis, reduces Alzheimer’s risk, treats ulcers. Get a double dose of red by braising this cabbage with apples or with red wine and onions.
One of my favorite vegetables to snack on is red bell peppers. “They are packed with vitamin A, vitamin B6, ascorbic acid and a higher level of free radical scavenging activity, than green or yellow ones. In comparison with some other pepper varieties, bell peppers may not earn much in the “hotness” category. When it’s red, it may be sweeter, as are some yellow and orange varieties. The heat of peppers is measured in “Scoville heat units.” A green pepper scores a zero on the scale, jalapeño peppers earn around 2,500-4,000, and Mexican habañeros 200,000 to 500,000 units.” (World’s Healthiest Foods) The highest amount of Vitamin C in a bell pepper is concentrated in the red variety. Red bell peppers contain several phytochemicals and carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene, which lavish you with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and the capsaicin in bell peppers has multiple health benefits. Studies showed that the vitamin K (phylloquinone) content in peppers, including hot varieties, may affect blood coagulation, and may also play a role in protecting against osteoporosis, since patients with reduced bone density show lower levels of this nutrient. As with many fruits and vegetables, cooking brings out more nutrients; sautéed peppers contain higher amounts of vitamin K than raw peppers.
Bell Pepper Fun Facts: Peppers are members of the Solanaceae or Nightshade family, a wide-ranging species with more than 2,000 types of plants, some of them edible, some ornamental, some medicinal, and others poisonous. Bell peppers are related to tomato, potato, tobacco, eggplant, and petunia. (Epicurious)
Raspberries are a sweet treat that reduces inflammation, pain, cancer risk, heart disease risk, diabetes risk, allergies and age-related macular degeneration. A raspberry contains 200 molecules that contribute to its distinct raspberry flavor. One of those, raspberry ketone, was singled out by food manufacturers decades ago for its potent smell. Berry flavored candy, soaps and candles made today likely use raspberry ketone. The raspberry ketone has gotten more attention recently as a weight loss aid. Some preliminary studies have been done to look at raspberry ketone as a weight loss aid, granted, none of these were done in humans. However, the studies on mice or cells have indicated the potential for weight loss from these bite sized berries. About a decade ago there was study on mice fed that had high-fat diets. It was found that raspberry ketone prevented weight gain in the liver and visceral fat (“belly fat”) that surrounds organs, according to the paper in the journal Life Sciences.
Another study showed raspberry ketone increased the breakdown of fat molecules that are in fat cells. In the journal Planta Medica, a 2010 study discussed evidence that also found raspberry ketone spurred fat cells to secrete more of the protein adiponectin. Low levels of adiponectin in the body are more common among people who are obese, and those with type 2 diabetes.
Just think of all the wonderful dishes you can create this summer when you add reds to your menus. Whether it’s mild, sweet, or hot, you are serving up, these foods add a beautiful dimension to dishes that may otherwise be bland and colorless. With the impressive amounts of vitamin A, C, K, thiamin, niacin, folate, copper and magnesium they offer, there’s no question – it’s well worth trying all of these foods.