As it turns out, natural hues such as blue, yellow and red in your food usually mean higher levels of antioxidants. “Your diet needs to be colorful,” Niedert explains. “The more colors you have, the better off you are.”
Take berries. In a recent study of adults 50 and older, those who committed to eating 1 cup of blueberries every day for six months showed improved vascular function and higher levels of heart-healthy HDL cholesterol. The study’s authors credit a deeply colored antioxidant called anthocyanin, which which is also found in cherries, raspberries, and blackberries.
Betalain is another powerful pigment. It’s responsible for making beets red, and a study published last year discovered that it could help those with coronary artery disease improve their heart health by lowering bad LDL cholesterol and skimming out homocysteine, an amino acid that can damage the lining of arteries.
The truth is, you’d be hard-pressed to find a colorful fruit or vegetable that doesn’t offer some kind of heart-protecting benefit. Lycopene (the red pigment in tomatoes) and beta-carotene (which turns carrots orange) which have both proved to be cardiovascular heroes. Curcumin, the compound that gives turmeric its sun-colored glow, has been shown to increase blood vessel function by 3%. The point here is that if your plate is a sea of beige-the lifeless color of fried chicken, Tater Tots and dinner rolls you’re doing your heart a disservice. Research keeps confirming that eating produce such as bright bell peppers, purple cabbage and yellow squash can keep your ticker strong.
And, no artificial colors don’t count. Sorry, Froot Loops.