Food by the color…that’s an unusual grading system, but last month’s Washington Post – in honor of Valentine’s Day – sorted out some of the best of the reds. It made for an interesting and insightful survey.

Health columnist Jennifer Huget (Eat, Drink and Be Healthy) did the research, noting a wide array of good, healthy red options. Here’s a selection of her choices and assessments.

Beets: High in sugar, beets are low in calories. They help reduce inflammation that can contribute to heart disease. They are also a good source of folate (folic acid), which protects against birth defects, and they appear effective in fighting colon cancer. Commonly, beets are boiled, but they can be roasted or eaten raw, too. Huget notes that if you eat a lot of beets, your urine will turn pink or red (no harm).

Red bell peppers: A number of red foods are high in antioxidants that fight free radicals, which damage cells and can contribute to cancer or heart disease. Red peppers are one of them. These peppers are also rich in vitamins A and C and are one of the few sources of lycopene, which protects against prostate and pancreatic cancer.

Radishes: The common red radish packs lots of vitamin C, sulphur, iron and iodine. The white, daikon variety has even more nutrients.

Watermelon: If you’re dieting, watermelon can be a big helper. Mostly water but sweet, you can eat a lot, yet ingest relatively few calories. It is also a source of lycopene, vitamin C and vitamin A. The redder and riper the melon, the better the nutritional value.

Red onions: Rich in vitamin C and fiber, red onions help reduce the risk of stomach cancer and heart disease. They also supply chromium, which helps cells respond to insulin. The stronger the smell, the greater the nutritional value.

Pomegranates: Both the seeds and the juice have lots of vitamin C and other antioxidants that help protect against cancer and heart disease. The juice is believed to promote prostate health and proper erectile function.

Huget’s feature provides additional reviews of tuna, red quinoa, radicchio, raspberries, cherries, strawberries, red beans, red potatoes, apples, red wine, red grapes, tomatoes and cranberries.

The color of love, red is also a gateway to appealing, diverse food that is generally really good for you and good tasting, too. Do yourself a favor. Investigate and enjoy your red food options.

Additional and more general information about nutrition and fitness is available through the Fund’s pamphlets, Weight Matters and Becoming Physically Active. These can be ordered through the online catalogue.

[Steve Clark]