National Nutrition Month 2011: Red and Black

As I mentioned last Monday, March is National Nutrition Month. The theme is “Eat Right With Color”. In general, the more colorful your meals are, the more nutritious they will be. Each week we will highlight a few different colors…beginning with red and black!

Tomatoes: Tomatoes are usually well liked and easily added to sandwiches, salads, pastas, etc… They are a great source of vitamin A and vitamin C. You may have heard that red tomatoes are high in lycopene; an antioxidant that may help protect against cancer. The lycopene in cooked or processed tomatoes (canned tomatoes, tomato puree, tomato juice, tomato sauce) is absorbed more easily. Lycopene is what gives the tomatoes their red color. Therefore most other red colored fruits or vegetables are also great sources of lycopene.
Red Bell Peppers: Bell peppers are easily my favorite vegetable. They are so versatile and come in many different colors, but red are my preference. One small pepper is only about 20 calories but loaded with vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and folate.
Beets: As much as I hate to admit it, I was well into my adult years before I realized that beets didn’t just come in a can. Better late than never! Fresh beets are amazing and are especially tasty when roasted. Cooked beets are a great source of folate and the cooked beet greens are high in vitamin A, vitamin C, riboflavin and magnesium. Two colors for the price of one!
Cherries: I have to admit, this is one fruit I have never enjoyed eating. I wish I did though because they are excellent sources of vitamin A, vitamin C and a certain phytochemical called terpenes which may help to reduce risk for certain types of cancers. They are also fun to eat with their long stem and pit in the middle. And don’t they just scream summer?
Watermelon: As with tomatoes, watermelon is a great source of lycopene. As the name implies, 92% of the fruit is water which makes it great hydration for summer. It is also very low in calories: 1 cup is only 48 calories.
Blackberries: As with most berries, blackberries are a great source of vitamin C. They are also very high in fiber because of their seeds. They contain ellagic acid, a phytochemical that may help prevent cancer. Don’t forget about blackberries when you pick up your other berries this summer!
Black Rice: Also known as forbidden rice, this grain is becoming much more popular. It is a bit chewier than brown rice but with the same nutty flavor. And did you know that 1 tbsp of black rice has as many antioxidants as a serving of blueberries? Variety in color doesn’t just apply to produce! Look for different colored grains such as black rice, black quinoa, red quinoa and red lentils.
Black Beans: The darker the bean’s coat, the higher in antioxidants. Like most types of beans, black beans are high in fiber, protein, folate, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Replacing meat every once in a while with beans will give you an extra boost of fiber and phytochemicals that aren’t found in meat while still providing plenty of iron and protein. Beans are also high in fiber and water content, two nutrients that help you feel fuller longer. This may aid in weight loss.
There are also red apples, strawberries, raspberries, black tea, olives, black grapes…the list goes on! Each food has its own nutritional profile. Eating a wide variety of colors will allow you to reap the benefits of their unique characteristics.
Emily Fonnesbeck RD,CD