When you celebrate our country’s independence on July Fourth, do you wear red, white, and blue? Did you know you can celebrate by eating red, white, and blue every day? I encourage you to do that because red and blue vegetables and fruits get their color from their health-promoting antioxidants. Listed below are red, white, and blue foods to include in your diet all summer long. To get you started, I have provided a recipe for a summer vegetable salad. Feel free to customize it based on the vegetables you have on hand and your taste preferences.
Lycopene is the health-promoting antioxidant that gives tomatoes and watermelons their vibrant red color. Research shows lycopene may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. In addition, lycopene can neutralize free radicals implicated in heart disease, atherosclerosis, and even breast cancer. Improve the bioavailability of the lycopene in tomatoes by cooking, pureeing, and including some healthy fat. A marinara sauce made with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and onions makes for an ideal combination.
Strawberries, raspberries, and ripe bell pepper all get their vibrant red color from the powerful antioxidant anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are one of the most widespread families of natural pigments in the plant kingdom. Human studies suggest that anthocyanin helps reduce the risk of heart disease, cognitive decline and cancer.
Despite their pale color, onions are packed with vitamins, minerals, and a multitude of phytonutrients. In addition, the allium family of vegetables, including onions, leeks, shallots, and garlic, are rich in disease-fighting sulfur compounds that positively influence hormones, immunity, and gut health. Strive to eat one-third cup of chopped allium vegetables each day. Enjoy them in salads, sandwiches, soups, stews and casseroles.
Another white vegetable is cauliflower. The sulfur-containing compounds in cauliflower (and other cruciferous vegetables) are known to promote the health of our cardiovascular, digestive, immune, inflammatory and detoxification systems.
Blue (or Purple)
The intense color of blueberries is provided by the same powerful antioxidant that gives strawberries, raspberries, and red bell pepper their red color. The multiple health benefits of anthocyanin are reason enough to enjoy blueberries (fresh or frozen) year-round. Besides awesome anthocyanin, blueberries provide 15 other antioxidants which can enhance your health as part of a diet comprised primarily of nutrient-rich plant foods.
Though often called “red,” purple cabbage and purple onions are a fantastic source of anthocyanin along with numerous other health-promoting nutrients, including those found in green cabbage.
Have you tried purple potatoes? If not, seek them out in the produce department. While they are good sources of fiber, potassium, and vitamin C, the color adds a dose of anthocyanin.
Nancy Teeter is a registered dietitian and SaddleBrooke resident. Though she is mostly retired, she loves sharing her nutrition knowledge with readers.