Anti-Inflammatory Food and Colors

The foods that help fight inflammation come in all different colors. Each color has special properties that help fight inflammation and provide a myriad of other benefits to our body. These special properties are often referred to as the large category of “phytonutrients” which is basically a fancy word for plant nutrients. There are over 100,000 phytonutrients in the plants we eat! You can learn more about phytonutrients here. The anti-inflammatory nutrients make up hundreds of those phytonutrients. The color of a plant tells us some things about which phytonutrients and which anti-inflammatory nutrients that plant contains. It’s vitally important that we get a variety of colors in our diet to make sure we are getting in the wide variety of phytonutrients and anti-inflammatory compounds that we need for optimal health. This post is all about the red foods and how they benefit our health.

Anti-Inflammatory Red Foods

The benefits of the red food include anti-cancer, ant-inflammatory, immune boosting, DNA protection, prostrate health, natural detoxification, and vascular/heart health.  Keep the skin on foods such as red apples and radishes to reap the benefits. Watch out for dried fruits such as raisins, dried cranberries, or dried cherries – these often contain added sugars that may negate some of the health benefits. Strawberries are high in folic acid and Vitamin C – both powerful nutrients in their own right. Cranberries have anti-bacterial properties that have been useful in both our gastrointestinal and urinary tracts. Red or pink grapefruits have cholesterol fighting compounds. Most red foods are also high in fiber, especially berries and stone fruits, fiber fights inflammations and helps us maintain a healthy gastrointestinal and cardiovascular systems.  You can read more about the health benefits of red foods and how to get more of them in your diet here.

Red Foods List:

anti inflammatory red foods


Red food anti-inflammatory compounds include anthocyanins, astaxanthin (found in pink/red seafood), carotenoids (also found in orange foods), ellagic acid, flavonols/flavonoids, lycopene. As you can see below these compounds provider a wide variety of health benefits.


High in cooked tomatoes, watermelon, and even pink grapefruit, lycopene helps protect against prostrate, breast, lung, and skin cancers. You can also reduce your risk of heart attack by consuming more of these foods. Because lycopene requires fat to be absorbed by the body make sure to include a healthy oil such as olive oil or some nuts and seeds to your meals with these red foods. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has more information on lycopene here.


Anthocyanins are anti-oxidants and/or phytonutrients that help protect the heart and brain. They have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attacks and significantly help lower blood pressure. Other help benefits include: improving memory and cognition, fighting liver disease, and reducing the age-related decline in brain health. Anthocyanins have a strong role in preventing and/or managing many chronic conditions related to lifestyle habits such as heart disease and diabetes.  Read more about anthocyanins here from Today’s Dietitian. You can also find more about anthocyanins in this research article.


Flavonols help fight and prevent coronary heart disease, stroke, and the damaging effects of LDL cholesterol. Found in apples, cherries, and cranberries these phytonutrients have been shown to reduce the risk of asthma, diabetes, cancers, and heart disease. U.C. Davis has a great fact sheet about flavonols here. Flavonols have been shown to reduce C-reactive protein – a laboratory marker of inflammation levels. They may even benefit athletic performance, although it appears the jury is still out on that topic, find out more here. Quercetin is the most common flavonoid.

Tips for Increasing Red Foods in Your Diet:

  • Add berries or pomegranate seeds to salads
  • Use marinara sauce (red) instead of alfredo or wine sauces on pasta
  • Use red onions in a tomato and red pepper salsa
  • Roast tomatoes with other vegetables for a side dish
  • Eat red foods such as red applies or plums as snacks
  • Choose dark red kidney beans for soups or bean salads
  • Consider adding radishes, beets, and red bell pepper to fresh salads in addition to tomatoes
  • Choose pink/red grapefruits over white ones

Recipes to Boost Red Foods Consumption:

Triple Berry Salad from Chelsea’s Messy Apron
Homemade Crock Pot Marinara Sauce from Life Currents
Beetroot Crisps from Nicky and Max
Skillet Red Beans and Rice from MyRecipes
Charred Green Beans with Garlic and Pomegranate Seeds from The Healthy Maven

anti-inflammatory red foods

How to Eat to Fight Inflammation

Just eating a few red foods each week mixed in to your normal intake of fast-foods and sweets isn’t going to get you the benefits you are after. Check out my Ultimate Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet to make sure your following the full plan for optimal results. If you’d like to not only fight inflammation and gain health; but lose weight as well, check out How to Go Low Carb the Healthy Way. You can combine the anti-inflammatory diet and low-carb meal plans together for optimal health and weight management results. Sign-up for my newsletter below to get even more tips on following the Anti-inflammatory meal plan.

Anti-inflammatory Rainbow

I’ll be sharing information on orange foods, green foods, blue and purple foods, white and brown foods, and yellow foods over the next few months. Check back often or sign-up for my newsletter so you don’t miss a thing! Eating a rainbow of natural colors is the best way to ensure a highly anti-inflammatory diet that includes the broad spectrum of phytonutrients we need for optimal health.

What are your favorite red foods and/or recipes? Post in the comments below!

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