Bright Red Color Comes from Heart Healthy Antioxidants
Both lycopene and anthocyanins are found in plants and play a role in providing fruits and vegetables with color—specifically red tones. They also show antioxidant activity, which means that they can prevent or slow cell damage. Antioxidants can specifically protect against free radicals, which is an unstable molecule that may increase risk of disease. The amount of lycopene and anthocyanins found in plants increases as the plant ripens.
You may have heard of lycopene—most commonly associated with tomatoes, this bright red pigment is an antioxidant compound found in the carotenoid group of phytochemicals (compounds found in plants). Studies have shown that lycopene may play an important role in blocking cancerous cell growth and reducing cardiovascular disease.
Anthocyanins are also a color-providing pigment, and they belong to the flavonoid group of phytochemicals. While scientists are pursuing further research in this difficult-to-study area, research does show important links between a high intake of fruits and vegetables and lowered risk of coronary heart disease. Anthocyanins are thought to decrease atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty deposits in artery walls, and may prevent blood clot formation.
What Red Fruits to Add to Meals
Try adding these rouge-colored fruits into your diet, and reap the heart-healthy benefits lycopene and anthocyanins can provide:
Tomatoes. These guys top the list. A richest source of lycopene, this popular fruit also provides a ton of vitamin C, and a bit of vitamin A, potassium, fiber and alpha- and beta-carotene.
Strawberries. Known to contain higher concentrations of phytochemicals (plant chemicals that are good for your health), strawberries are good source of anthocyanins. And just one cup will give you 150 percent of your daily value of vitamin C.
Cranberries. Another source of anthocyanins, cranberries are second only to blueberries in antioxidant power. You’ll also get around 18 percent of your daily value of fiber with just one cup.
Watermelon. One slice of this juicy fruit has around 13 mg of lycopene, which is double the amount that some lycopene supplements offer.
Pink Grapefruit. Just a half of grapefruit can deliver 17 mg of lycopene, and this tart citrus offers an excellent amount of vitamin C, around 75 percent of your daily-recommended intake.