Valentine’s Day: Know health benefits of red foods for heart health and more

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Red coloured foods not only look vibrant, but are also healthy. This Valentine’s Day, eat red foods for heart and general well-being.

Red is celebrated globally as the colour of love, passion and desire. It is also linked to the heart. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, red becomes the dominant colour across clothes, flowers, decor and more. How about including red in your diet too? Let us tell you about the healthiest red coloured foods. Of course, the list does not include red velvet cake, but you can choose vegetables and fruits in red colour for healthy meals.

What are red foods?

Red foods refer to fruits and vegetables that showcase a red pigment, mainly due to the presence of compounds such as lycopene, anthocyanins, and betalains, says nutritionist Dr Rohini Patil.

Red foods have many health benefits. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What are the health benefits of red foods?

The compounds in the red foods contribute to the vibrant colour and bring along a host of health benefits.

1. Heart health

Red foods, particularly tomatoes, contain lycopene, known for its heart protective properties. Lycopene helps lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. A 2021 study published in Bioscience Research showed that potassium found in watermelon, another red food, helps combat heart disease and protects heart health.

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2. Cancer prevention

The antioxidants in red foods combat free radicals, says Dr Patil. They potentially reduce the risk of certain cancers, including breast and prostate cancer.

3. Improved vision

Red fruits like strawberries and watermelon are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. They promote eye health and reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration.

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4. Boosted immunity

The presence of vitamin C in red foods enhances the immune system. They help the body fight off infections as well as illnesses.

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5. Healthy skin

Antioxidants in red foods also contribute to skin health. They combat signs of ageing while promoting a radiant complexion.

6. Digestive health

Red fruits like raspberries and cherries are high in fibre. They aid digestion and promote a healthy gut, the expert tells Health Shots.

7. Anti-inflammatory properties

Red foods, including cherries and pomegranates, contain anti-inflammatory compounds. The red coloured-foods may help alleviate inflammation in your body.

8. Weight management

The fibre content in red foods helps in promoting a feeling of fullness. This in turn supports weight management efforts.

Woman biting a strawberry
You can make strawberry smoothies. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

How to include red foods in diet?

Here are some red vegetables and fruits that you can include in your diet.

  • Tomatoes: Use them in salads, soups, or enjoy as a snack.
  • Strawberries: Add strawberries to yogurt, or blend into smoothies.
  • Red bell peppers: They are perfect for salads, stir-fries, or as a crunchy snack.
  • Cherries: Enjoy cherries as a snack or add to desserts or in beverages.
  • Watermelon: Consume this fruit as a refreshing snack or blend into a hydrating smoothie.
  • Pomegranates: Sprinkle seeds on salads, make a juice or eat as a standalone snack.
  • Red apples: Slice and eat or add to fruit salads or in beverages
  • Raspberries: Top your yogurt with these fruits, or blend into a smoothie.
  • Cranberries: Add cranberries to salads, trail mixes, or enjoy as a juice.

Incorporate a variety of red foods into your daily diet, aiming for at least 2 to 3 servings per day, says Dr Patil. But mind you, excessive consumption of red foods may lead to gastrointestinal discomfort in some people.

Anyone with sensitivities to red fruits or vegetables should avoid them. Also, those with certain medical conditions, such as kidney stones or gastrointestinal issues, may need to limit their intake. Don’t go overboard with them, and maintain a balanced diet.

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