They're unavoidable -- those dizzying pharmacy and grocery store aisles dripping with red and pink Valentine's Day displays, tempting and tantalizing us with chocolate this and marshmallow that.
And while those items aren't all bad for you -- we're looking at you, dark chocolate -- for the most part, they don't have much to offer in the health department.
However, some of our favorite superfoods just happen to come in the same vibrant shades -- and some are even in season, to boot!
<strong>Why We Love Them:</strong> Apples deserve their healthy reputation, says Angela Ginn, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, mostly because of their pectin, a form of fiber. With three to four grams of fiber per serving, apples help keep you full, aid digestion and lower cholesterol, among <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/06/health-benefits-apples_n_1855590.html">other benefits</a>. <strong>How To Enjoy:</strong> While they're freshest in the fall, you can eat 'em raw year round. Or try <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/04/september-superfoods_n_1828853.html#slide=1426696">sprinkling with a little cinnamon and baking them</a> for a warm winter treat.
<strong>Why We Love Them:</strong> That bright hue is a telltale sign of health benefits, says Ginn, including <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/29/healthy-food-healthiest-list_n_1636409.html#slide=1162154">anti-inflammatory and antioxidant powers</a>. Beets are also rich in vitamin C and folate, says Ginn. <strong>How To Enjoy:</strong> Ginn suggests roasting them until they're tender, although cautions that this method can take a little while. They're even tasty pickled, she says.
<strong>Why We Lovel Them:</strong> All berries are <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/29/healthy-food-healthiest-list_n_1636409.html#slide=1162149">low in calories and rich in fiber</a>, not to mention loaded with vitamin C. Berries have also been linked to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/cognitive-impairment-study-berries_n_1453557.html">protecting memory</a>. <strong>How To Enjoy:</strong> 'Tis the season for chocolate-covered strawberries, says Ginn, a food pairing that actually <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/12/food-synergy-food-pairings_n_1874641.html#slide=1504835">boosts the health factor</a> of eating chocolate or berries on their own. You can, of course, snack on a few raw, or toss them into salads or oatmeal. Ginn also recommends cooking raspeberries down into a compote to top breakfast picks like <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/27/healthy-brunch-foods-recipes_n_2553831.html">pancakes or French toast</a>.
<strong>Why We Love Them:</strong> The antioxidants in cherries are known to promote <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/01/heart-health-month-2013-_n_2576513.html">heart health</a>. Athletes, in particular, might want to reach for cherries, since research suggests they "aid muscle recovery," says Ginn. <strong>How To Enjoy:</strong> "Cherries can be eaten fresh, dried, frozen and even as juice," says Ginn. She recommends adding dried cherries into a homemade trail mix with dark chocolate chips and walnuts or almonds.
<strong>Why We Love Them:</strong> Famous for their <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/29/healthy-food-healthiest-list_n_1636409.html#slide=1161400">infection-fighting powers</a>, cranberries are also rich in vitamin C, says Ginn, and good for the heart. <strong>How To Enjoy:</strong> Since they're usually too tart to enjoy on their own, Ginn suggests adding dried cranberries to quinoa or rice pilaf, or mixing into your morning cereal.
<strong>Why We Love Them:</strong> Red grapefruit in particular is rich in lycopene, an antioxidant most famously found in tomatoes, which has shown some <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/january-superfoods_n_2372299.html#slide=1925304">protective powers against cancer</a>. The low-calorie fruit could also help lower cholesterol, thanks to its fiber, says Ginn, and of course grapefruit and other citrus fruits <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/january-superfoods_n_2372299.html">in season during the winter</a> are packed with immune-boosting vitamin C. <strong>How To Enjoy:</strong> There's nothing wrong with eating it raw, but Ginn suggests a warm grapefruit for the winter months. Just sprinkle a little sugar on top and bake until it's caramelized for a healthy dessert, she says. Just be aware that grapefruit <em>can</em> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/26/grapefruit-drug-interactions-study_n_2193814.html">interact in potentially-harmful ways with certain medications</a>.
<strong>Why We Love Them:</strong> A good source of vitamin C and antioxidants, pomegranates can help lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease, Ginn says. <strong>How To Enjoy:</strong> Try mixing the seeds into a wild rice or quinoa dish, she suggests. Or turn them into a simple snack.
<strong>Why We Love Them:</strong> These low-calorie veggies are loaded with vitamin C and rich in the <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/29/healthy-food-healthiest-list_n_1636409.html#slide=1162152">carotenoids that fight against heart disease</a>, Ginn says. <strong>How To Enjoy:</strong> "The healthiest way to prepare them is sautéing them," she says. "Because they have carotenoids, they <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/20/low-fat-salad-dressing-unhealthy_n_1612869.html">need a little bit of fat to get the full benefit</a>," she adds, so saute in a little olive oil, or add them to your omelets. They also make great dippers for hummus and other spreads.
<strong>Why We Love It:</strong> While studies seem to go back and forth on this one, red wine has some wonderful health benefits, according to Ginn, thanks to a powerful compound called <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/29/healthy-food-healthiest-list_n_1636409.html#slide=1162034">resveratrol </a>that acts as an antioxidant. <strong>How To Enjoy:</strong> "The key is moderation," she says. <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/faqs.htm#moderateDrinking">Moderate alcohol consumption</a> is typically defined as up to one drink a day for women and up to two for men. More than that can cause health problems.
<strong>Why We Love Them:</strong> <a href="http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/dietandnutrition/lycopene">Lycopene's cancer-fighting properties</a> seem to work especially well against prostate cancer. They might also help improve bone health, Ginn says, and are rich in vitamins C and K. <strong>How To Enjoy:</strong> You don't have to eat them straight off the vine in summertime to reap the health benefits, though. Tomatoes in a winter chili, spaghetti sauce or salsa are all great picks, she says.
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