Today is a holiday for many Missourians - it's the St. Louis Cardinals home opening day. The Cardinals red colors are a good reminder to eat some red fruits and vegetables. Here are some to try:
- Sweet red bell pepper. Most of us reach for a green bell pepper because they are readily available and usually more inexpensive. But, did you know that a red bell pepper has more vitamin C than an orange? Just one half cup of red bell pepper has about 95 mg of vitamin C, whereas a medium orange only has 70 mg. They also have potassium, folate, and fiber.
- Tomatoes. All tomatoes are a good source of lycopene, but actually cooked tomatoes products have more (like pasta sauces, canned tomatoes, tomato paste) because cooking actually increases the amount of lycopene. Tomatoes also have vitamin C, but cooking destroys that nutrient, so it's best to eat some raw tomatoes and some cooked tomatoes to get the best of both worlds. Tomatoes also have potassium, magnesium, and fiber.
- Radishes. Radishes also have vitamin C, as well as potassium and folate. Radishes are in season starting in April, so the best quality and best prices will happen this time of year, and also in the fall.
- Strawberries. Strawberries are in season starting in May, so expect prices to decrease and quality to increase. Strawberries provide us with vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
- Beets. Beets are also in season starting in May (and in the fall too). They are a good source of folate, potassium, magnesium, and fiber.
- Cherries. Cherries aren't in season until later in May. They are a great source of vitamin C and fiber.
- Apples are in season starting in May, but you can usually find good quality and reasonably priced apples year-round. They have vitamin C, fiber (more if you eat the peel), and potassium.
- Watermelon. You will have to wait until later in the summer (August) for watermelon to be in season. Watermelon is a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as potassium and magnesium.
As you can see above, all red fruits and vegetables are good sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that protects our cells from damage and may help prevent cancer. Vitamin C is also important for healing, healthy skin, bones, and teeth, red blood cell formation, and helping with iron absorption.
Potassium is important for fluid balance and maintaining a healthy blood pressure level.
Folate (or folic acid) is a B complex vitamin that helps with red blood cells and DNA, but is really important for preventing neural tube birth defects.
Magnesium is important for healthy bones and teeth, muscular contraction, nerve transmission, and energy metabolism.
Vitamin A is necessary for healthy vision. It is also necessary for healthy skin, eyes, bones, and teeth. You may also hear vitamin A referred to as beta carotene or carotenoids, because that is the form you find in many fruits and vegetables, but the body can convert it to vitamin A.
Fiber helps keep us regular and helps lower blood cholesterol.
Help cheer the St. Louis Cardinals to a win and remember to eat plenty of red fruits and vegetables!