It’s that time of the year when recipes show up that are patriotically red, white and blue — like this Red, White and Blue Smoothie, which you should definitely make. Showing your stripes in the colors you eat is also good for your health (I’m talking about plant-based foods here — not red, white and blue cheesecake!).
Plant-based foods get their colors from phytochemicals — various compounds linked to a raft of health benefits. So I’m going to tell you about the phytochemical cocktail that adds color and nutrition to red, white and blue foods.
RedRed-colored fruits and veggies get their crimson hue from lycopene (in lighter red foods like watermelon, pink grapefruit and tomatoes) or anthocyanins (in deeper red and purple foods like beets, raspberries, red cabbage and red wine). Lycopene may lower your risk of certain kinds of cancer, while anthocyanins have heart-healthy benefits — they’re tied to lower blood pressure.
While refined sugar and flour have given white foods a bad rap, white-colored whole foods do have health benefits. Garlic, onions, leeks and scallions all contain allicin — a phytochemical thought to protect against heart disease and cancer. It works by fighting bacteria, viruses and fungi. As for white potatoes, they’re a great source of potassium and vitamin C, provide 20% of your daily dose of fiber and a medium-sized one has only 147 calories.
There aren’t all that many blue foods out there. But what foods there are — blueberries, blackberries — get their hue from anthocyanins. These compounds help keep your brain and heart healthy. Anthocyanins are also found in deep purple and black foods, like black beans, eggplant skin and black rice.