Christine J. Patrick, County Extension Agent – EFNEP
During February, we observe American Heart Month. Do your heart a favor by exercising regularly and eating healthful foods, including plenty of deep red and bright pink fruits and vegetables every day. The “red” color group of fruits and vegetables is rich in many health-promoting and disease-fighting phytochemicals, such as lycopene and anthocyanins. These antioxidants promote a healthy heart, memory, and urinary tract and lower your risk for certain cancers (e.g., prostate cancer).
Deep red and bright pink fruits and vegetables include tomatoes and tomato products (e.g., tomato juice, spaghetti sauce, and pizza sauce); red bell peppers; red onions; beets; red cabbage; radishes; red kidney beans; apples; red and pink grapefruit; red grapes; strawberries; cherries; watermelon; raspberries; cranberries; red pears and pomegranates.
Here are some ideas for serving nutritious meals and snacks that include deep and bright pink foods in February and throughout the year:
- Top your oatmeal with a heart shape made of dried cranberries or dried cherries.
- Enjoy a pink or red grapefruit half. Sprinkle it lightly with brown sugar if you prefer.
- Make heart-shaped muffins by filling the muffin cups ½ to ⅔ full of batter and inserting a small ball of tin foil between the muffin pan and liner. Bake as usual.
- Make a raspberry smoothie in the blender by combining ¾ to 1 cup vanilla-flavored yogurt and frozen raspberries, adding a few tablespoons at a time. After blended to desired consistency, you may add one or more teaspoons of sugar or no-calorie sweetener.
- Toss a salad with some red bell pepper, red onion, radishes, and cherry or grape tomatoes, if you prefer coleslaw, chopped red onion, red pepper, and apples to red cabbage.
- Nibble on red grapes, a juicy red apple, or a red pear.
- Make Rosy Cinnamon Applesauce by combining the following: 1 24-ounce jar of unsweetened applesauce; 1 tablespoon cinnamon “red-hot” candies, and ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon. Heat the mixture in a saucepan over medium heat for 3 minutes or until the candies are melted. Serve warm or cover and refrigerate to serve chilled, making five ½-cup servings.
- Serve a pink treat, such as frozen strawberry yogurt or vanilla pudding, to which a few drops of red food coloring have been added.
Less than one in four South Carolinians eat at least five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Strive to eat 2 cups of vegetables and 2½ cups of fruit daily. Choose many different ones in various colors because no single vegetable or fruit has all the nutrients you need for good health. To further reduce your chances of heart disease, eat a variety of whole grains, lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, and fat-free and low-fat dairy foods. Stay physically active, maintain healthy body weight, and normal blood cholesterol levels, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
For related information, visit the HGIC webpage. Refer to HGIC 4016, Focus on Fruits; HGIC 4017, Vary Your Veggies; HGIC 4064, Antioxidants and HGIC 4090, When It Comes to Chocolate, Choose Dark.
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