Are you worried about your heart? Don’t feel blue. Go red, and eat red food for your heart.
This novel idea comes from the American Heart Association, which recommends that men and women eat red-colored food to protect their hearts.
However, America’s short list of red food includes cherries and pomegranates, which are rarities here in the Philippines.
Check out this list of affordable, attractive and locally available red-colored food.
1. Red apples. Apples are rich in quercetins, a substance known to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and many cancers. Studies show that people who eat an apple a day have lower chances of getting lung cancer and Alzheimer’s disease when compared to non-fruit eaters. Even smokers who often eat apples can somehow minimize the risk of getting cancer. Apple skins contain pectin, which some studies show can lower bad cholesterol by as much as 16 percent. Apples may also prevent diabetes and childhood asthma. Eating the fiber-rich skin of the apple also has additional health benefits of having better skin, more regular bowel movement and lower risk for colon cancer.
2. Red watermelon. According to the US Department of Agriculture, watermelon may be beneficial for the heart and blood vessels. Researchers report that eating watermelon increases our body’s arginine levels, an important amino acid (Journal of Nutrition, March 2007). Arginine is a component needed to produce nitric oxide, a substance that relaxes the blood vessels, improves blood flow and may protect us from a heart attack and stroke. The deep-red watermelon variety contains the pigment lycopene, which may help prevent cancer and slow down aging. Lycopene helps counter the bad effects of free radicals circulating in the body, which causes our bodies to age.
3. Red grapes. Red grapes contain extremely beneficial compounds, such as flavonoids, quercetin and resveratol, found in red grape skin. Grapes also have lots of potassium, vitamins C and B. Some studies show that grapes can help boost your good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) and prevent blood platelets from clumping together and forming a deadly blood clot. Experts believe that the red and black varieties of grapes are more beneficial than the white and green varieties. Red grapes, in particular, have been found to have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties when tested in the lab. Don’t eat too much grapes though because they can pack in the calories. One serving of grapes is equivalent to around 10 pieces only, which is the recommended amount you can eat per meal.
4. Tomatoes, tomato sauce and ketchup. Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants, especially carotenoids (like lycopene) and beta-carotene. Some experts believe that lycopene is the most powerful antioxidant among the carotenoids. It’s also the secret ingredient that gives fruits and vegetables the orange-red color. Several studies have shown that eating tomato-based products is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer, heart problems and diseases of the digestive tract. Since lycopene is not produced by our bodies, we should get this by eating lycopene-rich food.
To bring out and absorb more of the lycopene, it is best to cook tomato products in a little oil, as compared to eating it raw. Cooked tomatoes such as tomato paste, tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce are best. Tomatoes are likewise valuable sources of vitamins C and E and potassium, too. According to Drs. Michael Roizen and Mehmet Oz, we should consume at least 10 tablespoons of tomato sauce a week or approximately 150 ml a week. Add tomatoes to your salad. Choose red spaghetti sauce instead of white sauce. (Skip the hot dog and meatballs.) Add extra ketchup to your sandwich. However, make sure to check your tomato sauce and ketchup label to ensure that there aren’t too many chemicals added to the main ingredient.
5. Strawberries. Strawberries, blueberries and cranberries are extremely healthy food. They contain substances called ellagic acid and polyphenols, which may help protect against cancer. Strawberries are packed with anti-oxidants, vitamins B, C and K, minerals, potassium for the heart and folate for the blood. Strawberries are quite low in calories, unless you submerge it in a pool of condensed milk. Fresh berries are ideal but frozen berries can also be eaten with similar health benefits.
6. Red wine. Aside from its alcohol content (which is really not beneficial), red wine also contains resveratrol and phytochemicals. As mentioned, these are the healthy substances found in red grapes, which can boost your good cholesterol and lower bad cholesterol. Moreover, many of the plant chemicals found in the grape skins (used for making red wine) may also prevent cancer. The key to drinking wine, of course, is moderation. Drink no more than half a glass of wine per day, especially for women. A word of warning: If you have a history of alcoholism in the family, or if you’re diabetic or pregnant, avoid red wine and just eat grapes instead.
Although not exactly red, here are four more healthy food:
1. Pinkish-red grapefruits can help lower cholesterol and are excellent as diet food.
2. Orange-red salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and proven to be good for your heart.
3. Red onions may be irritating to the stomach but can help lower cholesterol.
4. Red-purple cabbage contains lots of fiber to help in bowel movement.
Remember, if you want a healthy heart and body, go for the red!