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Red Foods: The New Health Powerhouses?

From strawberries to beets, red fruits and vegetables pack a vibrant nutritional punch.

Red Food: Tomatoes

In season: Summer, but available year-round

Benefits: "Tomatoes are a good source of lycopene, which is strongly connected with prostate cancer protection," Sandon says. "There is also some evidence that lycopene may protect against breast cancer," she says. "Tomatoes are also a good source of potassium and vitamin C, which makes them heart healthy, too."

Get more by: Cooking up pasta with marinara or even chowing down on a vegetable pizza. "Unlike a lot of other nutrients, lycopene's bio-availability increases when you cook it," says Miriam Pappo, MS, RD, the director of clinical nutrition at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y.

Red food: Raspberries

In season: August through mid-October, but available year-round

Benefits: "Raspberries are high in fiber, which we know helps lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or 'bad' cholesterol," Sandon says.

Get more by: Sprinkling some in your yogurt or adding them to a smoothie.

Red Food: Watermelon

In season: May through September, but available year-round

Benefits: "Watermelon is a great source of lycopene," Sandon says. Pappo says that "lycopene may decrease the risk of heart disease by decreasing LDL cholesterol. And it decreases the risk for certain cancers, primarily prostate, as well as the risk of macular degeneration," she says. "It also improves blood vessel function and lowers stroke risk."

Get more by:  Eating watermelon for a sweet dessert or refreshing snack during the summer months.

Red Food: Pink Grapefruit

In season: October and May, but available year-round

Benefits: "You want to go for color when you choose grapefruit, because pink grapefruit has higher levels of antioxidants, such as vitamin C," Busch says. "It's also a good source of pectin, which helps lower cholesterol." Bhimu Patil, PhD, the director of the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center and an associate professor of horticultural sciences at Texas A&M University in College Station, agrees. "If the choice is between red and white grapefruit, go red because pink or red grapefruit is rich in lycopene and white grapefruit is not," he says.

Get more by: Having half of a grapefruit or glass of pink grapefruit juice with your breakfast. Just be sure to check with your doctor if you're on medication -- grapefruit juice does interfere with some drugs. Another option? "Put grapefruit sections in salads," Busch suggests. "There are lots of jarred or canned grapefruit sections that are really tasty."

Red Food: Red Pepper

In season: Available year-round

Benefits: "Red pepper is a phenomenal source of vitamin A, which helps with skin, bones, and teeth. And most people don’t realize that they have as much vitamin C as an orange," says Busch.

Get more by: "Dice it and add to salads, soups, and casseroles," Busch suggests.

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