February: The Month for Red

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Red is a common color to see in February. It is worn on the first of the month to raise awareness of women’s heart health during American Heart Month. And, it is also a popular color for Valentine’s Day decorations. In theme with heart health and the color red is the topic of anthocyanins. Examples of foods high in anthocyanins include strawberries, blueberries, grape juice, red wine, eggplants, red cabbage, and sweet cherries.

Anthocyanins give plants their bright red to blue-violet color. These phytonutrients are produced by the plant for protection and also provide protective benefits to us when we consume them. Research suggests that those who frequently consume foods high in anthocyanins may have a decreased risk of heart disease. This may be due to the variety of anthocyanins as well as the other nutrients offered through these foods. Because of this, it is recommended to consume anthocyanins through food rather than supplementation.

Anthocyanins decrease with storage time after harvest. Freezing can help slow and preserve these nutrients. Because of this, many people who are interested in increasing their consumption of anthocyanins suggest adding frozen berries to smoothies. Try growing and freezing your own to be enjoyed throughout the year!

If you plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day, try adding some red fruits or vegetables to your plate. Not only will it be in theme for the holiday but it will also promote the health of your heart! As more research emerges in this area, we will better understand the complete health benefits associated with anthocyanins. In the meantime, it is recommended to continue to eat a variety of different colored fruits and vegetables daily. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that adults eat 2½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day for a healthy eating pattern.

N.C. Cooperative Extension in Lee County’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN at 919-775-5624.