There are something about red foods that are so striking that we are compelled to feast with our eyes long before actually tasting the food.
In fact, human color psychology suggests that the color red may stimulate our appetite in addition to capturing our attention. This is why so many restaurants in the food industry tend to leverage red colors in their branding and décor.
But why do we seem to be hardwired to pay attention to this captivating pigment?
Well, when it comes to nutrition, red fruits and veggies stand out for a pretty important reason – they are filled with phytonutrients.
Let’s discuss why naturally red foods are an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. We’ll also explore some different red recipes that we can use to impress our guests!
Why Are Some Foods Red?
‘Lycopene’ is a plant compound which gives red fruits and vegetables their characteristic color. Lycopene is a member of the carotenoid family. Carotenoids are fat soluble, that is, they are best absorbed when consumed with fats.
‘Anthocyanin’ is a water-soluble compound which can also give fruits and vegetables a red hue. It is a member of the flavonoid family and is primarily contained within the outer layer/skin of berry-like fruits.
In addition, Anthocyanin is the plant compound responsible for purple, blue, and pink foods.
What Do Red Food Do for the Body?
Both lycopene and anthocyanin are antioxidants that help the body to reverse oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is caused by free radicals inside the body and can lead to a host of health problems.
For example, high levels of oxidative stress have been linked to high cholesterol and an increased risk of heart disease. It has also been linked to an increased risk of diabetes.
Red foods provide a wide array of vitamins and other nutrients required by the body to build the immune system and fight off diseases. Red foods also have an effect of lowering blood pressure.
Red Foods That Are Naturally Red
Knowing that naturally red foods are good for you is only half the battle, the other half is choosing the right ones for you and eating them every day! We’ve listed 6 red fruits and vegetables for you, based on the following criteria: taste, access, and nutritional value.
Ripe strawberries are mouth-watering, juicy, sweet, and slightly tangy. Strawberries are also excellent sources of potassium, vitamin C, and folate. Looking for a fun and unique way to use strawberries? Try our recipe for red, white, and blue chocolate-dipped strawberries.
Watermelons are even sweeter and juicier than strawberries. Watermelon is also packed with nutrients such as magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin A, and potassium.
Red grapes are sweet, juicy, and mellow in flavor. Red grapes are also packed with nutrients such as: vitamin K, thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamin B6.
Blood oranges have a sweet citrus flavor that is heavily reminiscent of raspberries due to an underlying tartness.
Similar to a regular orange, blood oranges are high in dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamins such as vitamin C and vitamin A. However, unlike regular oranges, blood oranges have a strong red pigment on the interior.
Raspberries have a slightly sweet aftertaste but are primarily tart in nature. Raspberries contain an array of vitamins and minerals such as: calcium, manganese, vitamin K, and vitamin B6.
Tomatoes have a layered flavor profile, but can generally be described as having a sweet, yet sour taste. They are a good source of vitamin e, vitamin c (if eaten raw), potassium and lots more!
If for some reason your grocery store has a shortage of real tomatoes, then a quality canned tomato is the next best option. And if you’re looking for a quality tomato paste substitute, we’ve got you covered.
Beets have a sweet, robust and earthy flavor. Beets provide a wide range of health benefits. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber, zinc, iron, Vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.
Cooked red potatoes have a mild, earthy, buttery flavor. They are extremely high in potassium, vitamin B6, and magnesium. The thin little skins of red potatoes provide an excellent source of nutrients. Try making these garlic mashed potatoes that use red spuds.
Bell peppers have a bitter taste that is also very grassy. They tend to be less bitter than the other varieties. Red bell peppers are also one of the best sources of potassium and vitamin C. If you’re ready to get cooking with red bell peppers, our Chipotle fajita veggies recipe is delicious!
Red onions have a spicy flavor when eaten raw in salads but become sweeter in taste when cooked. Red onions also contain vitamin C, potassium, calcium, and iron.
Kidney beans have a mild, meaty, earthy flavor. They are great sources of dietary fiber, potassium, folate, and vitamin K. Looking for a great recipe that uses kidney beans? Try our slow cooker chili.
Quinoa has a ton of health benefits. Red quinoa has an earthy, nutty, buttery taste. It is a very good source of manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and folate. One cup of red quinoa serves more than 7 grams of protein.
And before you go and say that quinoa isn’t a vegetable, let me blow your mind. Quinoa is actually a member of the beet, spinach, and chard family. Though usually prepared like a grain, Quinoa is the seed of the Chenopodium plant. The more you know, right?
Cranberries are bright red, small, and slightly tart berries that are native to North America. Often associated with holiday feasts and the iconic cranberry sauce, these berries are much more versatile than one might initially think. Beyond sauces and jellies, they’re also popular in baked goods, beverages, and salads. You can even put them is smoothies! Their vibrant hue can be attributed to the rich antioxidants they contain, especially proanthocyanidins, which are believed to offer a host of health benefits. Additionally, cranberries have long been linked to supporting urinary tract health.
Red Delicious Apples
The Red Delicious apple, with its deep crimson skin and iconic five bumps on the bottom, is one of the most recognizable apple varieties in the world. Its tall and elongated shape sets it apart from its apple cousins. Upon biting into its glossy skin, you are met with a mildly sweet flavor and a slightly grainy texture. Originating from Iowa in the late 1800s, the Red Delicious quickly gained popularity and became a staple in lunchboxes and fruit bowls, thanks to its vibrant color and its reputation as a great snacking apple.
Gala apples are a delightful treat with a balanced sweet-tart flavor that’s universally loved. They flaunt a beautiful reddish-orange skin striped with bold yellow undertones. Originating from New Zealand in the 1930s, Gala apples have become one of the most widely grown apple varieties globally. Their fine-grained, crisp texture makes them perfect for both snacking and cooking. Whether you’re biting into one fresh from the orchard or baking them into a sumptuous apple pie, Galas never disappoint with their consistent flavor and versatility.
More Red Foods
Originating from the fermented juice of dark-colored grapes, red wine is a beloved beverage enjoyed by many across the globe. Its rich, deep hues can range from intense violet for younger wines to brick red for mature ones and even brown for aged red wines. Apart from its role as a delightful accompaniment to meals or a means to unwind, red wine is also celebrated for its potential health benefits, particularly its antioxidant content from compounds like resveratrol. Its flavors and notes can be diverse, depending on the grape variety and region of production, offering a myriad of experiences for the wine enthusiast.
Borscht is a hearty soup of Eastern European origin, particularly championed by countries like Ukraine and Russia. Its defining ingredient, beets, gives it a strikingly vibrant red color. While there are many variations of borscht recipes, most include ingredients like cabbage, potatoes, and tomatoes, combined with a mix of spices and often served with a dollop of sour cream. Beyond its rich flavor, borscht is packed with nutrients, offering a wholesome meal, especially during colder months.
Guava jellies bring the tropical flavors of the guava fruit right to your breakfast table or dessert spread. Made by combining the sweet and fragrant juice of guavas with sugar and pectin, these jellies have a delectably smooth texture and a translucent, rosy hue. The distinct aroma and taste of guava, reminiscent of a blend between strawberries and pears, is unmistakably present in every bite. Perfect on toast, paired with cheeses, or even as a glaze for meats and desserts, guava jellies transport you to tropical paradises with each taste, making them a favorite for those looking to add an exotic twist to their culinary adventures.
Chorizo is a spicy pork sausage originating from Spain and Portugal. Distinguished by its deep red color, its hue and flavor are primarily due to the generous use of smoked paprika. While there are many varieties of chorizo, it generally can be categorized into two: fresh chorizo, which needs to be cooked before consumption, and dried or cured chorizo, which can be eaten sliced without further preparation. Its bold, smoky flavor with hints of garlic and herbs makes it a favorite addition to many dishes, from tapas to hearty stews.
Red herring refers to a strongly cured fish, particularly herring. The curing process gives it a deep reddish-brown hue and a salty, robust flavor. Originally, this method of preservation was essential for long voyages at sea or for communities without refrigeration. Today, red herring is enjoyed by those with an appreciation for traditional foods and is often paired with hearty bread or crackers.
Ketchup, or catsup, is a universally-loved condiment boasting a vibrant red hue, typically made from tomatoes, sugar, vinegar, and a blend of spices. Its sweet, tangy, and slightly savory flavor makes it a versatile accompaniment, perfect for everything from classic burgers and fries to more adventurous culinary creations. Originating from a Chinese fish sauce in the 17th century, it has since evolved and has firmly established itself as a staple in kitchens around the world.
Red Wine Vinegar
Red wine vinegar is a fermented product made from red wine, known for its tangy, acidic flavor with subtle wine undertones. Its vibrant red hue adds not just color but also a burst of flavor to dishes. Widely used in culinary applications, it’s a favorite in dressings, marinades, reductions, and even some soups. Apart from its culinary use, red wine vinegar also boasts potential health benefits, including aiding digestion and reducing blood sugar spikes.
Naturally Red Foods
- Red Grapes
- Blood Oranges
- Red Potatoes
- Red Bell Peppers
- Red Onions
- Kidney Beans
- Red Quinoa
- Red Delicious Apples
- Gala Apples
More Red Foods
- Red Wine
- Guava Jellies
- Red Herring
- Red Wine Vinegar
- Betty Lou’s Fruit Bars (Strawberry)
- Spread Delights Raspberry Jam
- SmartSweets Red Twists Licorice Gummy Candy
- Choose food.
- Prepare food.
- Eat and enjoy!
Fun Red Snacks
As much as we are dedicated to including red fruits and vegetables into our diet on an everyday basis, when it comes to snacking, convenience is king. Plus, we still want to live a little. So, here are three red snacks that you can enjoy anytime, anywhere and for a reasonable price.
These fruit bars leave no stone unturned when it comes to texture and flavor! They are also gluten-free, dairy-free, low in calories, vegan and made with 100% natural sweeteners.
This single-serve jam snack packs a punch of sweet, tangy raspberry flavor! It’s a treat to spread on toast and croissants!
Enjoy a low-sugar, gluten-free, plant-based snack that satisfies all your sugar cravings.
Red Foods FAQs
What are some foods that are red?
Some foods that are naturally red include:
- Red bell peppers
- Red apples
- Red grapes
- Red onions
- Red cabbage
What red foods are good for your heart?
Red foods that are known to be heart-healthy include:
- Tomatoes: They are a great source of lycopene, potassium, and vitamins C and E, which are beneficial for heart health.
- Red berries, especially strawberries and raspberries: They contain anthocyanins and other antioxidants that can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
- Red apples: Rich in fiber and polyphenols which can help lower the risk of heart disease.
- Pomegranates: They have a high concentration of antioxidants, particularly punicalagins and anthocyanins, which have been shown to improve cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.
- Beets: They are a good source of nitrates, which can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure.
What are red pigmented foods?
Red pigmented foods are those that get their red hue from natural pigments. The two main pigments responsible for the red coloration in foods are:
- Lycopene: Found in foods like tomatoes, watermelons, and pink grapefruits. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant known for its potential cancer-preventing properties and other health benefits.
- Anthocyanins: Present in red berries, cherries, red grapes, and red cabbages. Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid with antioxidant properties that can help protect the body against damage from free radicals.
Recipes That Turn Out Red
Sometimes you just need to serve up a red dish that will live rent free in the minds of your guests. Here are three red food recipes that will be well received by friends and family alike!
One of our all-time favorite recipes on the site. This Pomodoro sauce is to die for. The lemon zest ricotta topping puts it over the top!
This recipe features two layers of red velvet cheesecake sandwiched between one layer of plain cheesecake. This decadent red velvet cheesecake will have your guests RSVPing for next year’s event well in advance!
This hearty beet-and beef-based soup is a recipe you will wish you had known about sooner. Vegan? Try this vegetarian Borscht recipe and enjoy!
Smothered in a savory 20-minute easy marinara these cheesy baked meatballs are full of flavor and are keto-friendly to boot. Not on a keto diet? Serve the dish over your favorite pasta.
Warm and comforting. This soup will warm you from the inside out. A perfect meal for cold snowy days or when you really need to just throw a meal in your slow cooker and have it ready when needed.
This delicious red sauce can be used as a condiment on meats, seafood, salads, and garnishes. It is made from the paste of red chili peppers, and it is the hot chilies, or red peppers, which gives it its iconic red color.
More Food Inspiration
Have questions or suggestions about red foods? Leave them in the comments below.