8 red foods your heart will love

By Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD

Normally we are encouraged to “eat a rainbow” of colorful fruits and vegetables. However, “seeing red” will be very popular in the coming weeks thanks to the beloved holiday of Valentine’s Day. However, February is also American Heart Month making it a perfect time to add in heart healthy red foods into your daily diet.

Here are 8 red foods along with recipes to celebrate eating red for good heart health:

1. Tomatoes

Available year round, tomatoes are always a top pick in a well-rounded diet. These vine-grown fruits are an excellent source of the antioxidants vitamins C and A and a good source of potassium, vitamin B6, folate, and thiamin. Tomatoes are also known for containing an important phytonutrient called lycopene, giving tomatoes their beautiful red hue. Research has also shown lycopene can help reduce the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer. Studies have shown that women with the highest intake of tomato-based foods have greater protection against heart disease. Try cooked tomato products such as tomato sauce and tomato paste – cooking intensifies the potency of lycopene.

Recipe: Homemade tomato sauce

2. Strawberries

Whether fresh or frozen, strawberries are always a welcome addition to a meal or snack. Looking for a food boosting vitamin C? Eating eight strawberries is your answer as they provide more vitamin C than an orange. These tantalizing berries also have been shown to reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol as they help reduce inflammation in the body thus reducing heart disease.

Recipe: Stuffed roasted strawberries

3. Red-skinned potatoes

Try not to think of red-skinned potatoes as simply a starchy side that pairs perfectly with any entrée. Surprisingly they are jam-packed with fiber, vitamins, and plenty of minerals. Did you know potatoes are cholesterol-free, a good source of fiber and potassium, low sodium, and an excellent source of vitamin C – all heart healthy attributes. Whether boiled, baked, or mashed they always taste great.

Recipe: Oven-roasted red potatoes with rosemary and garlic

4. Red bell peppers

This is an amazing food for heart health. Doesn’t matter if you prefer sweet or spicy red peppers – both have a variety of powerful antioxidants shown to fight heart disease.
Red bell peppers are chock full of the phytochemical lycopene, which is not found in green peppers, they are also a good source of cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber. The powerful antioxidants vitamins A and C are also found abundantly in this ruby red veggie. Chile peppers like red habanero and Serrano contain the phytochemical capsaicin, shown to reduce inflammation, relieve arthritis and headaches.

Recipe: Roasted red peppers

5. Raspberries

These delicate beauties contain the plant compound anthocyanins, shown to reduce inflammation reducing the incidence of heart disease. Another important substance found in this fruit is quercetin which may slow down cancer growth. Can be eaten fresh, frozen, or blended into a smoothie.

Recipe: Raspberry-vanilla smoothie

6. Watermelon

There’s a reason why this melon is prefaced with the word “water” – it’s has a 92 percent water content making it ideal for keeping hydrating on a hot summer day. This summertime favorite is also packed with antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamin C and lycopene, all important compounds for lowering the risk of heart disease.

Recipe: Jicama and watermelon salad

7. Tart cherries

Tart cherries bright red color comes courtesy of the antioxidant anthocyanin. This powerful substance has unique health promoting properties from anti-inflammatory along with heart health benefits to reducing post-exercise muscle and joint pain.

Recipe: Pork medallions with cherry sauce

8. Red grapes

Well-known for their heart health capabilities, red grapes are rich in antioxidants and fiber helping to reduce heart muscle damage related to a high-sodium diet. Red grapes also have been shown to reduce blood triglyceride levels, LDL cholesterol and to improve blood vessel function. Always a perfect snack, show some love to your heart by stocking up on red grapes today.

Recipe: Red grape soup

Cheryl Mussatto is a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. She can be reached at www.eatwell2bewellrd.com or connect with her on Facebook at “Eat well 2 be well, Cheryl Mussatto, Registered Dietitian.”

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