What’s the deal with the color red in our foods like pomegranates? The colors of the fruits and vegetables serve many purposes. When I first started doing meal prep, I added colorful vegetables to my meals simply because I liked seeing colors on my plate. I talked about this approach to cooking and the history of My Body My Kitchen in a very vulnerable conversation with Alison Desir (mental health counselor and athlete) in her podcast “Find Meaning on the Run”. You can listen to the complete conversation on SoundCloud or iTunes.
In addition to adding aesthetics to our meals, colors also tell us what vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients are in produce. The more colors you incorporate into your regular diet, the more likely you are to be getting all micronutrients and phytonutrients you need. For now, let’s talk about the color red.
What makes food red?
Foods that are red (or even blue/purple) get their vibrant colors from one the following natural pigments: anthocyanins, betalains or lycopene. These pigments are not only beautiful, but they possess antioxidant properties that can be helpful in preventing cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Lycopene (a type of carotenoid) has shown to be potentially effective in prohibiting cell growth breast cancer and prostate cancer. Anthocyanins (a type of flavonoid) have shown anti-proliferative activity for multiple types of cancer cells. Keep in mind though, it may be too soon for us to conclusively say that these phytonutrients will absolutely and definitely prevent cancer and cardiovascular diseases; we need more scientific studies.
Anyway, here’s a short of list of foods that contain anthocyanins, betalains and lycopene.
- Anthocyanins foods: black currants, blueberries, blackberries, red cabbage, raspberries, purple sweet potatoes, pomegranate
- Lycopene foods: tomatoes, watermelon, red bell peppers, red cabbage, grapefruit
- Betalains foods: Beets, amaranth, cactus pears
Let’s get cooking. Here is a simple salad recipe that is sure to be put a smile on your face. It features two red ingredients–pomegranates and red onions. The red color in both these ingredients are from anthocyanins. I think this salad would work great for meal prep or a holiday meal where you are looking for a new way to use fall ingredients. Try it and let me know what you think.
Prep Time: 10minutes . Cook Time: 30+minutes . Yield: Serves 6
2 Lbs Sweet Potatoes, washed
1 Pomegranate, peeled
1/4 Cup Red Onions, minced
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1/4 Cup Pecans, chopped
1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
1 Lbs String beans, cooked
2 to 3 Sprigs of Rosemary, minced
3 Tbsp Olive oil
1-2 Dashes of Cayenne Pepper
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add sweet potatoes and cook for 20 to 45 minutes until soft (larger potatoes take more time). Set aside and let cool for a few minutes. Optional: After the sweet potatoes cool you can peel them if you prefer to remove the skin.
2. Cut sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes.
3. Cut open pomegranate and remove seeds. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, rosemary, cayenne pepper, salt and black; mix well.
4. In a large bowl combine sweet potato, pomegranate seeds, bell peppers, pecans, string beans and red onions. Pour olive oil dressing into bowl with sweet potatoes. Toss well, taste and add additional spices and salt if desired. This salad can be served warm or cold.