Be they scarlet, vermillion, or ruby red, these plants have an abundance of antioxidants that support the immune system and prevent inflammation.
Vivid red foods are sending your eyes an important message that they’re full of gut stuff. There are phenols and polyphenols, both aromatic organic compounds, as well as contain carotenoids, bright pigments that also help prevent cell damage.
Studies into these phytochemicals indicate that they have antioxidant (to protect from free radical damage) and anti-inflammatory properties. They also support general immune system health, modulating its activities so it reacts appropriately to stressors in your daily life.
However, it’s not as simple as it seems, so we asked an expert to explain, and who better than Miguel Toribio Mateas, a nutritionist and clinical neuroscientist specialized in the gut-brain axis?
“Plant polyphenols sound ideal, but the reality is that they have very low bioavailability, so they’re hard for the body to use as antioxidants directly,” says Miguel, but he doesn’t want that to get you down.
Because this is precisely where Miguel gets excited: “This is the cool thing — even the tiniest fraction of a food polyphenol has the ability to tell cells to produce their own antioxidant and detoxifying products.”
He doesn’t stop there: “Scientists now agree that a combination of polyphenols from different sources, such as foods with different color skin and flesh, is the best way to keep communication going between food and cells, and that the result is better cellular protection.”
Let’s dig into the specific phytochemicals in red foods and what they do for your body, the gut microbiome, and inflammation.
Here, we turned to our expert once again for clarity: “The color and flavor of fruits and vegetables are partly attributed to the kind of polyphenols they contain. For example, lycopene helps make tomatoes red, and anthocyanins contribute to the hue of raspberries and strawberries.”
He also points out that “some fruits like pomegranate, strawberry, raspberry, are natural sources of ellagitannins, which are metabolized in the gut by intestinal microbiota.” This is a win-win situation for your gut bacteria and your body.
Phytonutrients in red foods
“When you eat these foods, all of which contain some version of a red pigment, your gut bacteria will help you release a more digestible version of ellagitannin that your cells can do stuff with.”
Uh, amazing right?!! Now that your eyes now know what to look for, you’ll now notice a plethora of red foods begging to find a home in your belly. Indeed, there’s an array of scarlet delights ripe for the picking and perfect for many meals.
Get some more color in your belly with vibrant red foods. They’re delicious and they’ll make you look like a pro in the kitchen.