Nutritious, Delicious Ways to Go Red

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February 1, 2018

Nutritious, Delicious Ways to Go Red

Have you heard of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign? Each February, women around the country put on red dresses to promote heart disease awareness. But there’s no reason to stop with your wardrobe. Dress up your plate with red-hued foods every day. Read on to discover the heart-disease-fighting effects and other health benefits of many red foods.

Cranberries

Compounds called proanthocyanidins in these tiny, tart fruit inhibit bacteria from adhering to the bladder. “This process may reduce your risk for urinary tract infections, particularly if you are prone to recurrent episodes,” says Valaine B. Hewitt, MD, FACC, cardiologist at Holy Redeemer. Cranberries also boast another compound, resveratrol, which has been found to reduce blood pressure.

Go red by: Tossing dried cranberries in your salad; spreading cranberry sauce on sandwiches; or drinking 100 percent cranberry juice.

Tomatoes

A natural pigment called lycopene lends tomatoes their rosy hue. “Some studies suggest that lycopene, found in tomatoes, may decrease the risk for certain cancers, including prostate and ovarian, in addition to decreasing the risk for heart disease,” says Dr. Hewitt. Don’t think you only need to eat them fresh off the vine. Your body actually more easily absorbs lycopene from processed tomato products, such as paste and sauce.

Go red by: Chopping tomatoes into salsa; stuffing them into omelets; or making your own sauce with low-sodium canned tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, garlic and spices.

Cherries

All cherries contain compounds called antioxidants that zap stress-inducing free radicals. But tart cherries deliver even more than their sweet counterparts. The result? “Some people who eat them feel less pain from arthritis, gout, and after exercising,” says Dr. Hewitt. “Cherries consumed before bed may also improve sleep in some people.” That’s thanks to high levels of the drowse-inducing hormone melatonin.

Go red by: Drinking tart cherry juice; baking dried tart cherries into cookies and muffins; or stirring frozen cherries into oatmeal as it cooks.

Red bell pepper

A single bright pepper contains your entire daily dose of vitamins A and C. “The high concentration of these vitamins could offer better protection from infection and faster wound healing,” says Dr. Hewitt.

Go red by: Slicing raw peppers and serving in a pita with hummus; roasting and adding to sandwiches; or sautéing them into a stir-fry.

Chili peppers

These spicy kickers contain capsaicin, a compound that may improve digestion. A word of caution, however, to patients with reflux: Capsaicin may intensify heartburn in sufferers. Chili peppers are also a good dose of vitamins A and C. Topical capsaicin is also used in arthritis to calm inflammation, and small studies show benefit in allergic rhinitis when the compound is used topically in a specially formulated spray.

Go red by: Sprinkling dried chilies and a twist of lime on Mexican dishes; chopping fresh jalapenos into salsa; or cooking peppers in a steaming pot of soup or chili.

Strawberries

These berries pack more than 150 percent of your required immune-boosting vitamin C for the day. At 50 calories per eight medium berries, they serve as a guilt-free dessert.

Go red by: Blending frozen strawberries (make sure there’s no added sugar) into smoothies; serving them on sandwiches with peanut butter; or topping a salad with a touch of their sweetness.

Learn more about healthy eating tips here, and what you can do for your heart health with our cardiology department here.

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