Janelle Glick – a dietitian with Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health – always recommends that people eat fresh, raw fruits and vegetables in order to get the most nutrients and antioxidants.
“Fresh is really better,” said Glick. “Frozen would be the second best because it’s taken from the fields and harvested and frozen right away.”
Raw is great, but again, the important thing is to get five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. And adding fruits and vegetables to smoothies or sauces is a great way to mix it up.
“Usually we think of processed foods as a bad thing,” said Glick. “But when it comes to tomato products like tomato paste and even ketchup – though ketchup has a lot of sugar and sodium added to it – but, tomato paste, specifically is really rich in lycopene.”
Lycopene is one of the main antioxidants found in red fruits and vegetables. And the lycopene in tomatoes provides a significant source for most people.
“If you’re having a plate of spaghetti with sauce on it, you’re also getting a lycopene in there,” said Glick.
This is good news for pasta fans, but eating a heaping plate pasta and tomato sauce everyday isn’t necessarily the healthiest option. Luckily, lycopene is found in many red-colored fruits and vegetables including pink grapefruit and watermelon. (Men may want to make sure to include tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon in their diet as lycopene specifically helps to fight prostate cancer.)
Red fruits and vegetables are also rich in anthocyanins (you may remember those cancer-fighting antioxidants from the blue foods installment of the color series). Strawberries, red grapes and raspberries are all rich in anthocyanins.
But that’s not all that red foods can do. Cranberries are helpful in fighting urinary tract infections and apples have a phytonutrient called quercetin which has antioxidant anti-inflammatory properties. Other healthy red options include beets, red peppers, cherries, pomegranate and red onions.