This auspicious colour is said to attract good luck during the Lunar New Year, but did you know that it also does wonders for your overall health?
When it comes to nutrition, red is the new black. Not only do heart-healthy crimson-coloured foods brighten up our dishes, they also come with a heap of benefits. As the saying goes, health is wealth. And as we ring in the prosperous Year of the Pig, there’s no better time than now to celebrate eating red for good health!
Tomatoes get their beautiful red colour from an antioxidant called lycopene, which has been linked to many health benefits, such as reduced risk of heart disease and cancer. Lycopene is also good for your eyes, but that’s not the only eye-protecting nutrient in tomatoes; they contain beta-carotene and lutein as well. According to research, these nutrients support vision and protect against eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration. Low-carb, and low-calorie, a single tomato can provide about 40 per cent of the daily recommended minimum of vitamin C. This amazing vegetable is chocked full of nutrients like vitamin A (which supports immunity, vision, and skin health); vitamin K (which is good for your bones); and potassium (a key nutrient for heart function, and the maintenance of healthy blood pressure).
Bell peppers not only add a lovely pop of colour and crunch to salads and pizzas, they also taste yummy roasted. Low in calories (one cup amounts to only about 45 calories), capsicums contain several phytochemicals and carotenoids, particularly betacarotene (which provides a ton of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits). Amongst all the bell pepper varieties, red capsicums carry the highest amount of vitamin C. Bell peppers contain an active component called capsaicin (which is what makes them hot). Studies have shown that capsaicin reduces bad cholesterol, controls diabetes. Used topically, capsaicin aids in the control of peripheral nerve pain and eases inflammation (you’ll find capsaicin as an ingredient in many over-the-counter topical pain-relief cream, lotions, and patches).
High in folic acid, vitamin C, and bioflavonoids (beneficial for eye health, as well for keeping your veins and arteries healthy), this well-loved fruit is great for cleansing and detoxifying the system. With a glycemic index of 40 (low-glycemic foods generally are defined as those with a glycemic index of less than 55), strawberries also help to regulate blood sugar levels, thanks to the high concentration of fibre in its skin. Anne Van Beber, PhD, a professor and the chair of the department of nutritional sciences at Texas Christian University, explains, “You eat a lot of fibre-rich skin when you eat berries. This helps regulate blood sugar and keeps it more level, avoiding spikes and dips.” A fantastic source of antioxidants, strawberries protect you against free radicals and support the immune system. Incorporating strawberries into your diet is easy – use them as toppings for your pancakes or low-fat yoghurt, or simply munch on them as a refreshing mid-day snack!
This antioxidant powerhouse is one of the world’s most consumed berries for good reason – high in phenols, plus vitamins A and C, raspberries have been shown to provide our eyes with protection against UV damage, as well as safeguarding the health of eye membranes. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has also linked the intake of flavonoid-rich foods like raspberries with a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease. According to the study’s lead researcher, Aedin Cassidy, Ph.D., a nutrition professor at Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, a “regular, sustained intake of anthocyanins from berries can reduce the risk of a heart attack by 32 per cent in young and middle-aged women.” Thanks to their potassium content, raspberries help to regulate heart beat and blood pressure. They are also rich in minerals like manganese, copper and iron (which produce red blood cells).
You’ve probably heard about how resveratrol, found in red wine, activates a protein that acts as an anti-ageing agent and improves overall health, thus promoting longevity. And according to a study conducted at the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, people who drink a glass of red wine a day are less also likely to develop dementia, especially Alzheimer’s. This is due to chemicals in red wine which prevent the brain’s neurons from dying off, effectively protecting against dementia and slowing the onset of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. There’s no doubt that red wine is a better choice compared to white wines or cocktails, but before you get carried away, keep in mind that the key to reaping these health benefits lies in moderate drinking (this translates to a glass a day for women, and two glasses a day for men). And here’s another reason to raise a glass – red wine is actually good for your teeth! Spanish scientists dipped cultures of bacteria responsible for dental diseases into various liquids, and found that red wine was the most effective at removing the bacteria. Let’s make a toast to a cavity-free life.