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Eat a Rainbow – See Red

Last week we talked about adding GREEN fruits and vegetables to your diet as a means of obtaining vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients necessary for good health.

This week in our “Eat a Rainbow” series, we are talking about the RED group. The red group also includes pink fruits and vegetables, like pink grapefruit and watermelon. Red/pink fruits and vegetables contain the antioxidants: anthocyanin, lycopene and beta carotene as well as vitamin C. Nutrients that have a variety of benefits to our health and appearance :

  • Anthocyanins: Anthocyanins are part of the group of antioxidants called, flavonoids. These powerful antioxidants are thought to help prevent cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, vision loss, neurological disorders (like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and memory loss), as well as improve immune function and energy levels.
  • Lycopene: Lycopene is another powerful antioxidant, hailing from the carotenoid family. It can help prevent or slow the progression of certain cancers such as: prostate, breast, and lung cancers, as well as help protect against heart disease, neurological impairment, cataracts, and sunburn.
  • Beta carotene: Beta carotene is another antioxidant from the carotenoid family. It provides many of the same benefits of lycopene and can also help improve the health and appearance of the skin.
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is most well known for its ability to boost the immune system and help ward off colds and flus. But, vitamin C is also an antioxidant that can help prevent certain cancers, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases. In addition, vitamin C helps promote healthy skin by slowing the aging process and supporting collagen production.

It is important to remember that some vitamins, minerals, and other compounds found in these fruits and vegetables can interfere with certain medical conditions and medications, so it is best to talk to your medical professional about which red fruits and veggies are safe for you to include in your diet.

Fruits and vegetables in the red color group can help prevent cancer, reduce the risk of heart disease, support eye health, boost the immune system and promote healthy, youthful skin. They are a delicious addition to your daily diet and adding 1-2 servings per day can help ensure you meet the minimum daily requirement for 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

Check out these recipes designed to help you add more RED to your diet:

Rustic Marinara Sauce

Watermelon Quinoa Salad


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Rustic Marinara Sauce

Whether it’s whole wheat spaghetti, rice penne, shirataki noodles, or spiralized zucchini almost everyone loves a bowl of “pasta” topped with tomato sauce. Sadly, most store bought sauces are full of sugar and preservatives. But, why buy from the store when making your own tomato sauce is quick and simple. This Rustic Marinara sauce is delicious, and it only takes about 1 hour to make. It can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week and frozen for 3-4 months.

I love this recipe because it is hearty and full of vegetables. Roasting the vegetables, rather than cooking them down in a kettle, adds a caramelized flavor that sets this sauce apart.

No matter what you put them on, homemade tomato sauces are full of nutrition. Tomatoes contain lycopene, beta carotene, vitamin C, potassium, and folate among other vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. Cooking tomatoes makes lycopene more available to the body, so enjoying a homemade tomato sauce is a great way to get this nutrient into your diet.

Rustic Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 pound zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 pound yellow squash, chopped*
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine or water, if desired
Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Combine tomatoes, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, onion, garlic and basil in a large bowl. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Place all ingredients on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
  • Roast vegetables in the oven for 10 minutes, stir and roast and additional 10-15 minutes until vegetables are soft and caramelized.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool for 15-20 minutes.
  • Place 1/2 of the vegetables in a food processor or power blender and process until smooth.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of wine or water to mixture and pulse to combine.
  • Remove to a bowl and add the remaining vegetables to the sauce and stir to combine.
  • Use over pasta, spaghetti squash, spiralized vegetables or on top of bruschetta.
  • Store extra sauce in the refrigerator or freezer.

This recipe produces a chunky sauce, so if you like a smoother sauce simply purée all of the roasted vegetables to your preferred consistency.

*If you are not a fan of yellow squash, try adding 3/4 cup of chopped carrot instead. Actually, feel free to experiment with any vegetables of your choice. I like spinach and eggplant in this recipe as well.