Healthy Valentine's Produce

February 14, 2012

Have a healthy and happy Valentine's Day with nutritional knockouts in red fruits and vegetables

This Valentine’s Day SupermarketGuru wants to highlight the many health benefits of red colored fruits and vegetables. The red color in fruits and vegetables shouts phytonutrients, such as lycopene, ellagic acid, quercetin, and hesperidin, to name a few. 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, and are beneficial for various ailments.

Tomatoes are a powerhouse of good things most notably, 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 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 quirkily given it vegetable status, thus continuing the seesaw definition of fruit/vegetable that has shadowed the red luscious tomato all these centuries.

Cranberry is most often thought to help ward away urinary infections and now comes even more good reasons to drink up – cranberry juice can increase levels of (good) HDL cholesterol and provide antioxidant benefits. In addition to cranberry juice, dried cranberries are also great.

Apples are great source of vitamin C and fiber. Vitamin C is essential in maintaining the health of capillaries and blood vessels, aids in the absorption of iron from plant sources and acts as an antioxidant, protecting the body’s cells from damage. Fiber keeps us fuller longer, and helps with detoxification and regularity.

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 and is perfect coupled with antioxidant rich dark chocolate.

Cherries, both tangy and sweet are one of the few food which contain a significant amount of melatonin, an antioxidant that helps regulate the body’s natural sleep patterns, prevent memory loss and more. Red tart cherries have also been found to contain anthocyanins, a phytochemical which helps decrease inflammation, as well as lower cancer and diabetes risk.

Aside from lycopene, watermelon is also a good source of 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.

Raspberries are a true nutrition powerhouse; regular consumption of raspberries is beneficial in inflammation, pain, 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; one cup contains 5244 IU. 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.

Go out there and enjoy these deliciously healthy red fruits and vegetables this Valentine’s Day.