11 Red Vegetables with Health Benefits
Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, R.D., L.D. — By Mandy Ferreira — Updated on February 21, 2018
Kale isn’t the only healthy vegetable out there. According to the Mayo Clinic, red vegetables, like tomatoes and bell peppers, may help reduce the risk of diabetes, osteoporosis, and high cholesterol.
The phytonutrients that give these ruby beauties their color also come with powerful health benefits. Deeper colors, like the dark hue of beets, usually means that the vegetable is richer in these phytonutrients including antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. These nutrients have been shown to help prevent cancer, fight chronic illnesses, and strengthen the immune system.
Red vegetables get their hue and nutrition boost from lycopene and anthocyanin. Lycopene is an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce heart disease risk, protect the eyes, fight infections, and protect against damage from tobacco smoke.
Researchers are also studying its potential protection against prostate cancer and other tumors. Anthocyanins are believed to protect the liver, improve eyesight, and reduce blood pressure and inflammation.
Despite their benefits, 95 percent of adults don’t get enough red and orange vegetables, according to the National Cancer InstituteTrusted Source.
According to the USDA, beets are one of the most antioxidant rich vegetables. They are also a great source of potassium, fiber, folate, vitamin C, and nitrates. According to a recent study, the earthy vegetable may lower blood pressure, improve blood flow, and boost athletic endurance.
For best results, try roasting beets with a little heart healthy oil and sauté the greens for their high concentration of vitamins A, C, and K. You can also drink their juice, but researchers recommend being careful of consumption. Drinking beet juice daily can be too much of a good thing. Instead, opt for eating beets only a few times a week and mixing beet juice with other fruit and vegetable juices to enhance the flavor, add more nutrients, and prevent over-consumption.
2. Red cabbage
While it can appear more purple than red, this cabbage shares many of its benefits with its cruciferous siblings like kale, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Its deep color comes from anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that may decrease the risk of brain disorders, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, according to a recent study.
Red cabbage is packed with vitamins and minerals. A single cup has 85 percent of your daily requirement for vitamin C, 42 percent of vitamin K, and 20 percent of vitamin A. It’s also a great source of fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese.
Eat red cabbage raw to get the most flavor and nutrients, according to a recent study. You can also cook it, but be sure to steam it with little water and a short cooking time to retain as much anthocyanin, glucosinolates, and other nutrients as possible. For an extra boost of good bacteria, you can also ferment the cabbage.
From pasta sauce to fresh caprese salad, tomatoes provide hidden benefits. Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, vitamin C, and potassium. According to the National Institutes of Health, around 85 percent of the lycopene in our diets is from fresh tomatoes and tomato products.
While all varieties provide nutritional benefits, tomatoes cooked with a little bit of oil make it easier for the body to absorb lycopene.
- Red bell pepper
These sweet veggies have your daily dose of vitamin A, triple your daily dose of vitamin C, and only 30 calories. They are a great choice for healthy immune function and radiant skin. Their high concentration of vitamin C helps to protect from infection. Munch on them raw or cooked to get their vitamin B6, vitamin E, and folate.
These spicy roots are also in the cruciferous family. Radishes add more than a peppery bite. They are a good source of vitamin C, folate, and potassium, and at only nine calories in a half cup, radishes make a great snack. Unlike the cookies around the office, their fiber will help you feel full and satisfied. While they have the most vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants raw, they are also nutrient-packed and gut-healthy pickled.
- Red chili pepper
Spice things up and fight inflammation with red chili pepper. You may feel the burn, but the capsaicin in the pepper may help reduce pain. Researchers are also looking into capsaicin for cancer-fighting compounds.
A single ounce of the hot stuff has two-thirds of your daily requirement for vitamin C, in addition to magnesium, copper, and vitamin A.
Dark-leafy greens are all the rage these days, but this one is well deserving. A single cup of radicchio has more than your daily dose of vitamin K. It also provides folate, copper, manganese, and vitamins B6, C, and E.
- Red leaf lettuce
Much like radicchio, red leaf lettuce is full of nutrients that may help protect against cancer and slow aging, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. After potatoes, lettuce is the most popular vegetable in the United States.
Red and dark leafy greens are generally higher in nutrients like antioxidants and vitamin B6 than their lighter counterparts. A cup of shredded red leaf lettuce has nearly half of your daily requirements for vitamins A and K. Its leaves will also help you stay hydrated – it’s made of 95 percent water.
Just because it’s often included in dessert, doesn’t mean rhubarb isn’t good for you. Rhubarb has calcium, potassium, vitamin C, and nearly half of the recommended amount of vitamin K in a cup. Choose rhubarb without lots of sugar to get the most health benefits.
- Red onion
While you may not like to bite into this sweet onion raw, including it in your cooking can add an extra bonus of nutrition. Red onion contains organosulfurs, compounds that are found in garlic, leeks, and onions. These phytochemicals may improve the immune system, reduce cholesterol production, and support the liver.
Allyl sulfides also help to fight cancer and heart disease according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the fiber in red onion supports a healthy gut.
- Red potatoes
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating potatoes, leafy greens, and tomatoes to increase your intake of potassium and to balance your blood pressure. Red potatoes are high in potassium, vitamin C, thiamin, and vitamin B6.
No matter how you like to eat your spuds, don’t toss the skins. Potato skins are rich in fiber and they also contain many vitamins. Red potatoes in particular contain many phytonutrients that give the skin its pink or red color.
Red vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. Be sure to include them daily, but don’t forget to eat the whole rainbow. According to the USDA, people who eat a wide variety of vegetables and fruits have a lower risk of some chronic diseases.
Don’t forget to eat the skins of vegetables to get their cancer-fighting phytochemicals and all of their nutrients. While there are supplements available for many of these phytochemicals like lycopene, research has shown that these are not as effective. Eat the whole vegetable to get the benefits.
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