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Eating the Rainbow: RED Foods

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We did a deep dive on our blog this week on “Rainbow Foods” so I thought I’d add some special insights on a color each week here on the library!

Red colored foods tend to be some of the highest vitamin C-containing foods such as tomatoes, pomegranate, raspberries bell peppers and tomatoes (1). Foods rich in vitamin C offer immune system supportive benefits and vitamin C can also help support proper absorption of iron.

Nutrition Uses:

  • Add in vitamin C rich foods when anemic to help iron absorption.
  • In those with high blood pressure – beets were shown to help decrease inflammation & have many heart health benefits (3).
  • Tomatoes have an anti-inflammatory impact that is enhanced with the use of oil – we like cold pressed olive oil since it’s also a rich source of oleic acid (4).
  • Strawberries have been shown to decrease pain in those with osteoarthritis (2).

Plant Compounds found in red foods: Anthocyanins, quercetin, betalains, carotenoids, ellagic acid, ellagitannins, flavones, lycopene, phloretin, quercetin

Try it out: The Red Smoothie

Try frozen beets + frozen raspberries + a banana in a smoothie – smoothies are better tolerated than consuming it as is. Add a splash of soy milk if you want to increase the protein.

Keep in mind beets can change the color of the stool to more of a redish tint (sometimes this can be scary to see if you’ve got IBD) but it’s a normal experience with beets.

If you make the smoothie- tag us in it on instagram @crohns_and_colitis_dietitian


1. Minich, DM. A review of the science of colorful, plant-based food and practical strategies for “Eating the Rainbow.” Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 2125070. 2019; 1-19. 

2. Schell J, Scofield RH, Barrett JR, Kurien BT, Betts N, Lyons TJ, Zhao YD, Basu A. Strawberries improve pain and inflammation in obese adults with radiographic evidence of knee osteoarthritis. Nutrients. 2017 Aug 28;9(9). pii: E949. doi: 10.3390/nu9090949. 

3. Asgary S, Afshani MR, Sahebkar A, Keshvari M, Taheri M, Jahanian E, …, Sarrafzadegan N. Improvement of hypertension, endothelial function and systemic inflammation following short-term supplementation with red beet (Beta vulgaris L.) juice: a randomized crossover pilot study. J Hum Hypertens. 2016 Jun 9. doi: 

4. Valderas-Martinez P, Chiva-Blanch G, Casas R, Arranz S, Martínez-Huélamo M, Urpi-Sarda M, …, Estruch R. Tomato sauce enriched with olive oil exerts greater effects on cardiovascular disease risk factors than raw tomato and tomato sauce: A randomized trial. Nutrients. 2016 Mar 16;8(3):170. doi: 10.3390/nu8030170.