February is American Heart Month. It's the time of year dedicated to keeping the all-important organ in top shape.
Registered dietitian Pat Baird joined ABC 7 Chicago Saturday to discuss what the color of your food means for your heart's health.
The pigments in red, green and yellow foods contain antioxidants that protect cells from damage.
Anthocyanin gives red, blue, purple color to blueberries, red onions, kidney beans and tomatoes. The latest research in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" showed that adding a cup of blueberries reduced the risk of heart attack and stroke, and blood flow and elasticity of blood vessels improved. This research adds to the growing evidence that blueberries can be part of a healthy eating pattern to improve heart health. They're easy to add in smoothies, yogurt parfaits, salads and more.
Carotenoids show as bright red, yellow and orange in foods. They improve immune function and lower risk of vision problems and cancer; some convert to vitamin A and are best absorbed with fat. Choose carrots, avocados, tomatoes, summer squash and kale, but canned, fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables provide benefits.
Curcumin in tumeric gives tumeric its distinctive color and flavor. Tumeric is now being studied for its role in osteoarthritis, diabetes and obesity. There are other compounds in tumeric that appear to inhibit bacteria and fungi in the body.
Baird said to be sure to include color in every meal, and snacks, visit farmers markets, wash and prep veggies ahead to make it easy and keep lots of frozen fruits and veggies on-hand for variety.
Show some extra love to your heart for American Heart Month, try these colorful foods