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The red color in fruits and vegetables come from phytonutrients, such as lycopene, ellagic acid, quercetin, and hesperidin. These nutrients have been found to reduce the risk of prostate cancer, lower blood pressure, reduce tumor growth, lower LDL ("bad" cholesterol), scavenge harmful free-radicals, and support joint tissue. Red fruits and vegetables also boast significant levels of two powerful antioxidants, vitamins A and C, which may aid in preventing heart disease. Cherries, both tart and sweet, contain a significant amount of melatonin, an antioxidant that helps regulate the body’s natural sleep patterns and prevent memory loss. Red tart cherries have also been found to contain anthocyanins, a phytochemical that helps decrease inflammation, as well as lower cancer and diabetes risk.
Cranberries are packed with vitamin C. The berry is well known to help ward away urinary infections and now comes even more reason to drink up – cranberry juice can increase levels of (good) HDL cholesterol. In addition to cranberry juice, dried cranberries are a great addition to a healthy trail mix or atop plain yogurt.
Raspberries are another nutrition powerhouse: regular consumption of raspberries is beneficial in fighting inflammation, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, allergies and age-related macular degeneration. Their antioxidant property is one of the highest among fruits. They are also excellent sources of vitamin C and manganese and have a significant amount of fiber compared to other fruits.
Red bell pepper is a crunchy vegetable packed with vitamin A. It is also an excellent source of vitamin B6, an essential nutrient for normal brain development and function, and helps the body make the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine (influencing mood) and melatonin. Red peppers contain over 10 times the Vitamin C of green bell peppers.
Strawberries are another excellent source of vitamin C and manganese. Manganese is important in a variety of metabolic functions in the body- including: protection from free radicals, keeping bones strong, promoting optimal thyroid function, regulating blood sugar. This heart-shaped fruit is also high in fiber, iodine, potassium, folate, vitamin K, and magnesium .
Tomatoes are loaded with lycopene. Lycopene is a red pigment that has antioxidant properties and may in fact, be powerful anti-carcinogenic, as well as a good source of nutrition for eye and prostate health. Ironically, heating tomatoes, (tomato sauce, ketchup, and canned tomatoes) actually increases the levels of lycopene. The tomato is botanically part of the fruit family, Solanacea, but U.S. government agencies have quickly given it vegetable status, thus continuing the seesaw definition of fruit/vegetable that has confused many of us.
Watermelon is also a good source of lycopene, plus folic acid and vitamins B1 and B6. A cup of watermelon also contains 176 mg of potassium, which aids in optimal muscle and nerve function, lowers risk of blood pressure and more.
There you have it - some HEART-felt inspiration to eat red and keep your heart healthy and strong! Oh, and some red wine with dinner would also be a lovely addition to most meals…
Guest Blogger and Fitness Enthusiast