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Beyond Trim

Decorate Your Plate with Red and Green Foods

When it comes to holiday decorations, I like the classic combination of red and green and it occurred to me that those were also great colors to focus on if you are trying to eat healthier.

I’ll start with the greenery. Dark green leafy vegetables might just be the healthiest food on earth, and we should try to include them in our diet on a daily basis. Besides being very light in calories (i.e. two cups of baby spinach has less than 20 calories), they are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.

One of the most beneficial aspects of consuming greens is that they create nitric oxide as they are chewed. Nitric oxide is a gas that acts as a vasodilater. That means that it keeps the walls of your blood vessels healthy and flexible; allowing them to expand and contract more easily. This helps with your blood pressure and helps to resist the formation of cholesterol plaques.

Choose dark green leafies like spinach, collard greens, swiss chard, broccoli, romaine lettuce, turnip greens, arugula, kale, bok choy, and brussels sprouts and try to eat a variety. You gain an added benefit with leafy vegetables that are also cruciferous (kale, arugula, brussels sprouts) as cruciferous vegetables contain cancer fighting chemicals.

A daily salad is a great way to get your greens, or you can add a side of broccoli or Brussels sprouts to any meal. I also like to add baby spinach to smoothies, mashed potatoes, and spaghetti sauce.

On the red side of the equation, it’s the berries that move to the top of the list. Like the greens, they are light in calories and high in fiber. The dark red (or purple, or blue) color of berries indicates the presence of anthocyanins, a family of pigments that have been studied and show proven health benefits. Anthocyanins are cell protective, antimicrobial, improve visual health, and neurological health.

At this time of the year cranberries are a natural, but the highest concentration of these chemicals may be found in the darkest berries like blueberries and blackberries. And while we don’t think of them as berries, cherries and grape contain these compounds as well. Other red/purple foods that contain anthocyanins include red cabbage and purple potatoes.

Whether it’s fresh or frozen it’s easy to eat berries in some way every day. Add to oatmeal or cereal, toss in salads, or eat a handful as a snack. And if you’d like a recipe for a sugar free cherry/cranberry sauce, head to the CGH website and look for the What’s Cooking CGH videos on our YouTube channel, or click here.

I hope I’ve inspired you to include healthy green and red foods in your diet. They are truly the gift that keeps on giving in terms of your health.