Photo creation by Jo Ann Torre
Every Valentine’s Day we are reminded how wonderful it is to give and receive love. An almost 20 billion dollar industry, for 2016 in the United States alone, our priorities were jewelry, an evening out, flowers, clothing, candy, gift cards/gift certificates and greeting cards. Hey, I’m all for keeping the economy going and having some love-fun at the same time. But…..when it comes to keeping your ticker healthy, in addition to eating the “rainbow of colors” and engaging in healthy exercise, consider these lovely RED fruits and vegetables for the remainder of February. Eat raw and experiment cooking these red delights and start a year round healthy trend. It turns out that it’s not only “an apple a day, that keeps the doctor away.” Several other red-family fruits and vegetables may keep the doctor away, as well, and reduce the risk of heart disease. According to the Heart Foundation, “Heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women in the United States. It is an equal opportunity killer which claims approximately 1 million lives annually.”
Check out some recipes below using some of my favorite RED ingredients.
SO….WHY EAT RED? HERE’S WHY:
The following RED fruits and vegetables contain anthocyanins/betalain pigments, lycopene, resveratrol and other healthy nutrients. Although these fabulous red delights contain many more overall health benefits, today…I am concentrating on the heart in honor of St. Valentine’s Day.
Anthocyanins are a class of flavonoids which help give these foods their red color. There are studies that prove anthocyanins reduce blood pressure and they also work as an anti-inflammatory inside our arteries. Anthocyanins help protect the arterial wall so we develop less plaque, which helps protect our heart from damage. By nature, plants produce anthocyanins to protect against environmental stress, such as ultraviolet light, cold temperatures, and drought. These same phytonutrients protect humans against environmental stress in the body. Several studies have found an association between the consumption of anthocyanin-rich foods and cardiovascular disease (CVD) protection. Although more studies are needed to learn how and why anthocyanins may prevent disease, the findings, to date, are very promising. Consuming anthocyanins from several plant sources are highly encouraged by most health care professionals. Keep in mind: The darker the red/purplish color, the more anthocyanin the plant will contain. For example: A Red Delicious apple will have more anthocyanin than a Fuji apple. Choose organic over conventionally grown plants to avoid pesticide build up.
Lycopene – In addition to lowering the risk of prostate cancer by as much as 23%, studies have shown lycopene can reduce coronary disease by 26%. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant and a carotenoid, responsible for giving many fruits and vegetables – especially tomatoes – their red color. According to Gerard E. Mullin, M.D., of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and several other doctors and researchers, when lycopene is heated (as in cooking) it is better absorbed. Therefore, the lycopene in cooked tomatoes are better absorbed by the body than raw tomatoes. I cover all my bases by eating plenty of both raw and cooked.
Resveratrol – A flavonoid antioxidant present in red wine, grape skins, and red grape juice. Oxidative stress is considered to be an important factor associated with various cardiovascular disease conditions. Resveratrol, with potent antioxidant and free radical scavenging properties, has been proven to be a significantly protective compound in restoring normal cardiac health. Several research studies also demonstrated the reduction of the risk of coronary heart disease and hypertension. Some new studies are showing resveratrol having positive prebiotic activity, in the gut, resulting in extra cardiovascular benefits.
LIST OF RED HEART HEALTHY FOOD CHOICES
- Red apples
- Red cabbage
- Red carrots
- Pink grapefruit
- Red grapes/Red wine
- Red peppers
- Red potatoes
- Blood oranges
Enjoy these RED heart healthy recipes.
ROASTED RED PEPPER AND TOMATO SOUP
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3-4 red bell peppers
- 4-5 large tomatoes – peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika or plain paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon agave nectar or raw sugar
- 6 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
- Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 6 tablespoons sour cream, Greek yogurt, or non-dairy sour cream
- Roast peppers: rub oil on peppers and place under the broiler until almost blackened, turn to get all sides. Put into paper bag and seal. Let rest for 15 minutes, peel will come right off. Remove core and seeds. Chop peppers. Reserve one chopped pepper; set aside.
- Heat olive oil over moderate heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft but not brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato, bell peppers (except reserved), marjoram, paprika, and sugar. Cook over medium-low heat until all the tomato juices have evaporated, about 20-25 minutes.
- Stir in vegetable/chicken stock, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Bring to boiling, lower heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
- Strain soup, reserving broth. Place solids in food processor, or blender, and process until smooth. Add puree back into broth.
- Melt butter and stir in the flour, cook for 1 minute. Stirring slowly, add the broth and vegetable mixture. Add reserved chopped pepper and bring to boiling. Lower heat and simmer 10 minutes.
- Ladle into bowls and add 1 tablespoon of sour cream/yogurt to each bowl.
Yields 4 – 6 servings. Serve with a healthy salad and multi-grain bread.
POMEGRANATE APPLE CRANBERRY COBBLER
- 2 Red Delicious apples, sliced (approx 3 cups) Can use any red apple
- ½ cup fresh cranberries, halved
- ½ cup pomegranate seeds
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar or raw sugar
- 1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup multi-grain oats (I use Trader Joe’s organic multi-grain hot cereal oats)
- Coat (spray) an 8 x 11 baking pan or 4 individual ramekins; set aside.
- Egg white+1 teaspoon water; whisk with fork in a small bowl; set aside.
- Preheat oven 375 degrees F.
- In a small mixing bowl combine apples, cranberries, pomegranate seeds, brown sugar, lemon juice, spices, and salt; toss to combine.
- Set aside.
- Measure oats and put aside
- Add flour to apple mixture; toss to coat.
- Place filling in baking pan or ramekins.
- Evenly distribute oats over filling.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until top is golden brown.
- Serve warm with ice cream, non-dairy ice cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg.
Serves 4. Great dessert for the holidays and Valentine’s Day. A healthier choice.
Information and statements given here are for educational purposes and not intended to replace medical advice from your health care practitioner. If you have health concerns please consult your physician.