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Colour Your Heart Healthy with These Antioxidant-Rich Red Foods

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Red is a colour commonly associated with passion and love, but red foods may have a direct effect on our heart health. Mother Nature made good use of her red paint brush, packing red foods with both flavour and colour.

The same pigments that give red foods their colour, called anthocyanins, are also responsible for a host of health benefits, including reduction of inflammation in the body, and have been shown to help with heart health, playing a role in better cholesterol and triglyceride profiles.

Certain red foods, such as tomatoes, contain lycopene, an antioxidant that helps prevent damage to cells from oxidation and has been shown to have a role in reducing cardiovascular risk factors including high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome.

Red foods such as cherries and cranberries are packed with free radical-fighting vitamin C, which helps protect cells from damage and also helps our body form blood vessels, cartilage, muscle, and collagen in bones. The colour red may actually have a more direct effect on our hearts by increasing our heart rates when we simply perceive the colour. Read on for red recipes sure to lift your appetite and make your heart happy.

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Tuna-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Romesco-Style Sauce

Tuna-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Romesco-Style Sauce
Spicy, Smoky Tomato-Braised Eggs

Cooked tomatoes are an excellent source of the powerful antioxidant lycopene. This simple yet luxurious dish is based on a dish from the south of Spain, similar to a North African shakshuka. The recipe draws on Spanish paprika and roasted red pepper for its smoky flavour. It’s a satisfying meal, equally at home on the dinner table as on the breakfast bar.

Roasted Root Vegetables with Pomegranate

Coriander- and cumin-seasoned winter root vegetables get a burst of juicy fresh flavour with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, packed with vitamins C and K. A bright burst of chopped cilantro finishes off this earthy dish. Double the recipe to serve a few more.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Sauce

This dish feels fancy but is a cinch to put together. A sweet sauce of frozen cherries with a splash of heart-healthy red wine brings a touch of luxury to a simply cooked lean pork tenderloin. Cherries, packed with vitamin C and polyphenols, have been shown to have effects on heart health, including reduced oxidative stress, inflammation, and blood pressure levels.

Cranberry Olive Oil Cake with Orange and Thyme

This moist plant-based cake, featuring flavours of orange and thyme, is punctuated by tart cranberries. Cranberries have long been known as a superfood with many health benefits, but in recent research cranberries have demonstrated an association with lower blood pressure, better cholesterol profiles, and with the management of other cardiovascular risk factors such as a high body mass index (BMI).

Heart-healthy herbs

Herbs and spices have been used as remedies for thousands of years. Here are some that evidence suggests may have beneficial effects for cardiovascular health.

Cayenne

Like paprika, hot and spicy cayenne contains capsaicin, which reduces inflammation, believed to be a factor in plaque buildup in blood vessels.

Cinnamon

This popular spice is high in inflammation-combatting antioxidants. Research involving people with type 2 diabetes found cinnamon to be associated with a reduction in cholesterol levels.

Coriander

The plant Coriandrum sativum produces the seeds we know as coriander, and the leaf which we refer to as cilantro. Both may benefit heart health and are associated with helping to lower cholesterol.

Garlic

If the flavour of this essential cooking staple isn’t gift enough, studies have shown that garlic may help lower blood pressure.

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Going Pro

You might think of protein as something you mainly get from a meal and, therefore, not a component of dessert. But, if you’re going to opt for dessert from time to time, why not consider working in ingredients that go big on this important macronutrient? It’s easier (and more delicious) than you may think! Protein is an essential part of every cell in your body and plays a starring role in bone, muscle, and skin health. So, certainly, you want to make sure you’re eating enough. And it’s best to spread protein intake throughout the day, since your body needs a continual supply. This is why it can be a great idea to try to include protein in your desserts. When protein is provided in sufficient amounts in a dessert, it may help you feel more satiated and help temper blood sugar swings. Plus, in many cases, that protein comes in a package of other nutritional benefits. For instance, if you’re eating a dessert made with protein-packed Greek yogurt, you’re not just getting protein; you’re getting all the yogurt’s bone-benefitting calcium and immune-boosting probiotics, too. Adding nuts to your dessert doesn’t just provide plant-based protein, but it also provides heart-healthy fats. Yes, desserts need not be just empty calories. Ready for a treat? These protein-filled desserts with a healthy twist are dietitian-approved—and delicious.