It’s “Heart Health Month,” meaning this month is ablaze with the color red. The purpose of the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” movement is to call attention to the fact that heart disease is the number one killer of women and men. Take care of your heart and tap into the heart-healthy power of eating red to garner the healing power of this fabulous group of nutrition powerhouse foods. Red is the new green, at least as far as heart-healthy eating goes.
Top Five RED Foods to Eat for a Healthy Heart
The bright hue of red foods (and no, I don’t mean the Red Hots candy you ate as a kid) is a sure sign the food is packed with a lot of disease-fighting antioxidant plant chemicals. The specific phytochemicals include some names you may have heard before: lycopene, carotenoids and resveratrol. Here is a list of the top five RED foods you should be eating on a regular basis to keep your ticker strong:
Tomatoes and cooked tomato products such as tomato sauce and tomato paste are high in the powerful antioxidant, lycopene. Lycopene is a plant pigment responsible for the deep red color of tomatoes. Lycopene has numerous health benefits, most notably the ability to ward off prostate cancer in men. When it comes to heart health, lycopene stops LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, from becoming oxidized by so-called “free radicals.” This prevents the formation of arterial plaque. Cooking tomatoes has been shown to increase the amount of lycopene that the body can absorb by breaking down plant cells that trap the substance. So eat that tomato sauce!
#2: Red bell peppers
Who knew? One red bell pepper has three times the vitamin C of an orange. Red bell peppers are also packed with other antioxidants as well as fiber, which functions to keep your intestines in good shape and to lower your cholesterol. Try snacking on red pepper with a hummus dip.
Reddish purple beets are chock full of plant chemicals called anthocyanins, which give them the deep red color. Anthocyanin pigments and the associated flavonoid polyphenols have demonstrated the ability to protect against a myriad of human diseases, and anthocyanins are also powerful antioxidants that can protect the heart.
An apple a day truly does keep the doctor (cardiologist) away. Sometimes, the best heart medicine is the kind you can get in your produce section. Apples contain a large amount of pectin, a soluble fiber, which blocks cholesterol absorption in the gut and encourages the body to excrete the cholesterol. Apple peels are also packed with polyphenols, antioxidants that prevent cellular damage from free radicals. So, don’t toss the peel.
#5: Red wine
Red wine is liquid heart medicine. Studies have shown that drinking one glass a day with a meal promotes clear, healthy arteries. Make sure to go red and not white when you choose your wine as red contains the powerful antioxidant resveratrol as well as flavonoids, both of which partner together to ease arterial inflammation. Your best bet for maximum antioxidant power is to drink either pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon. Remember, one glass a day is all you need, any more could cause health problems. Don’t drink alcohol? Try a small glass of 100 percent Concord grape juice instead. And don’t forget to pair your vino with some super-heart-healthy dark chocolate as a real treat this month of love!
Do your heart a favor and “Go Red!” this month by including these heart-healthy red foods into your daily diet. Add some of these foods to your meals and you’ll surely be giving your heart the gift of health this Heart Health Month.
Janet Bond Brill, PhD, RD, LDN is author of the books, “Prevent a Second Heart Attack, 8 Foods, 8 Weeks to Reverse Heart Disease” (Random House/Crown Publishing 2011) and “Cholesterol Down: 10 Simple Steps to Lower Your Cholesterol in 4 Weeks Without Prescription Drugs” (Random House/Crown Publishing 2006). She is a leading diet- and nutrition writer, educator and practitioner. She consults for the health- and fitness industry, specializing in cardiovascular disease prevention. For more information, please visit: www.DrJanet.com or www.PreventaSecondHeartAttack.com
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