Top 10 Red & Green Foods to celebrate the season
BWB’s Food & Wellness contributor Rebecca Leffler shares her favorite colorful picks for a gorgeous and delicious holiday.
We all know that le green c’est chic. Green is the color of nature and symbolizes life, growth and fertility. It’s associated with the heart chakra and the color of healing, wholeness and serenity. Green foods are among the most nutrient-dense foods around, packed with essential vitamins and minerals like folate and carotenoids to boost immunity and keep our bodies in balance.
It’s no secret that green is my favorite color, but red foods also pack a healthy punch and add a festive hue to any meal. Red foods are rich in lycopene and anthocyanins, powerful compounds that keep the heart healthy and reduce the risk of many diseases. Most red foods also add heat to the body, like cayenne or chili peppers whose capsaicin can help relieve pain, boost metabolism and increase energy levels.
So, whatever you are celebrating this season, take a look at some delicious culinary accessories to add some red & green to your meals!
Eve knew what was up. Apples are rich in fiber, particularly in pectin, a powerful digestive aid that comes in handy during this season of overindulgence. So, whether or not an apple a day really does keep the doctor away, rest assured apples apples are scientifically proven to be both delicious and nutritious.
Apples are also great to add a sweet, but low glycemic, kick to a seasonal salad or savory soup.
It’s actually in the skin of the apple that most of the fiber and nutrients are hidden. Try to buy organic apples, otherwise their precious skin will have been sprayed with pesticides, and you will want to peel them.
There is so much you can do with apples, too. Blend them into smoothies, slice and top them with some almond butter for a filling, fiber-filled snack. Or, bake them in the oven with some spices, coconut oil and raisins, topping that with coconut yogurt for an amazing breakfast or desert. Apples are also great to add a sweet, but low glycemic, kick to a seasonal salad or savory soup.
Quinoa is the Santa Claus of grains (or, more precisely, pseudograins, since it’s actually a seed) – we hear about it all year long, yet somehow never get tired of it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, packed with so many health benefits that it almost seems too good to be true. Quinoa is particularly high in protein and fiber and boasts iron, lysine, magnesium, phosphorous, B vitamins, manganese and copper. It’s gluten-free and is so versatile in cooking. Red quinoa has pretty much the same nutritional profile as its black and white cousins, but holds its shape more when cooked, so gives us the best of both worlds.
Add it to salads, make your own veggie burgers, stuff it into squash or cook over the stove with some almond milk and spices for a warming alternative to oatmeal.
I love adding them to muesli this time of year to transition from lighter summer morning breakfasts to heartier “stick-to-your-ribs” winter fare.
Goji berries, also known as “happy berries” are the perfect addition to such a happy season. These bright-colored fruits are one of the most nutritionally dense foods on the planet, packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, iron and protein.
I love adding them to muesli this time of year to transition from lighter summer morning breakfasts to heartier “stick-to-your-ribs” winter fare. Soak them overnight with oats, coconut flakes, nut milk and chia seeds for a perfect fall breakfast that’s filling, but light.
For centuries, pomegranates have been symbols of fertility, prosperity and abundance in many cultures and religions. Pomegranate is a beauty food that moistens dry skin and fights inflammation and acne, all of which can be disturbed by the cold winter weather.
Decorate your morning smoothie, yogurt, oats, muesli or chia pudding with pomegranate seeds. Or, add some to savoy dishes for a sweet crunch that can liven and lighten up any meal. You can even drink the juice as it is, use it as a base for salad dressings, or for a pinch of vibrant color in homemade nut milks and deserts.
Beets are a powerful antioxidant that flushes out toxins in the liver and the blood, giving the skin and blood circulation a boost.
Beets are the ultimate detox food. Rich in anthocyanin, they’re a powerful antioxidant that flushes out toxins in the liver and the blood, giving the skin and blood circulation a boost.
They can be juiced, added to smoothies or shred and added to salads raw. My personal favorite way to enjoy beets is also perhaps the messiest, but definitely the most delicious: wrap the beets in parchment paper then in tin foil, covered with oil of choice and some herbs or spices du jour. Close the foil and bake in the oven for around 45 minutes – 1 hour or until soft. Let cool then peel the skin (prepare for your fingers and countertops to be covered in this pretty reddish purple hue!) Cut into cubes and add to any dish or slice and fill with a fauxmage nut-based cheese (recipes in my book!) and some fresh herbs or pesto for a gorgeous and festive appetizer.
Avocado is nature’s butter; it’s creamy, delicious, and packed with nutrients.
OK, so ‘tis not exactly the season for avocado, but this famous fruit can pretty much be found all year round and, since it’s my all-time favorite green food, I had to include it here. Avocado is nature’s butter; it’s creamy, delicious, and packed with nutrients. This healthy fat is rich in antioxidants to keep skin plump and smooth, not to mention its monounsaturated fats protect the heart. It’s also rich in fiber and oleic acid so it’s a great way to control cravings (see: all of those holiday cookies and cakes!)
From a culinary perspective, Avocado is so versatile. Stay simple but elegant and mash it up to spread on toast or simply cut in half and top with hemp seeds for an easy anytime snack. Add to soups or dressings for a cream-free creaminess or sub for mayo in any sandwich. Blend it with some cacao, a date, spices and some nut milk for an easy, creamy mousse au chocolat or you can even bake in the oven for a warm, buttery treat, particularly stuffed with quinoa or rice to make it a meal. The possibilities are endless and delicious.
I lied. Avocado has to share the spotlight with my other favorite green-colored food, Matcha! This green tea leaf powder is so revered in Japan that it has its own daily ceremony. Matcha is rich in antioxidants so it’s great for skin, and it’s so energizing without giving the jitters.
If you’re sensate to caffeine of any kind, go slowly and start with just 1/8 or ¼ teaspoon at first then work your way up. Matcha helps to maintain focus and stay calm, but also provides a huge boost to energy that lasts all day long. (Coffee who?) Enjoy it the traditional way, whisked into warm water during a meditative ceremony, or incorporate it into your modern lifestyle with a matcha latté, a green smoothie, or add culinary grade matcha to your seasonal cookies for a festive twist.
I love pairing arugula with a spiced lentil salad (recipe in my book), adding to savory soups or making a zesty pesto to serve with pasta or (gluten-free) grains.
This leafy green adds a refreshing bite to any meal and is great to lighten up some of the heavier foods we eat this time of year since it’s very cooling. I love pairing it with a spiced lentil salad (recipe in my book), adding to savory soups or making a zesty pesto to serve with pasta or (gluten-free) grains. Arugula provides vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, folate and calcium. It’s great for bone and brain health and aids digestion.
Sure, kale is kool and dandelion is dandy, but with all of the buzz around the latest greens, we tend to forget about our old friend, spinach. Spinach is filled with vitamins A, B2, C and K, magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, calcium and potassium.
Its subtle flavor and hearty texture make it perfect to sautée or steam to accompany any dish. Try sautéing it with some coconut oil, onion and garlic then mixing with quinoa to stuff into seasonal squash or add raw baby spinach to seasonal salads or smoothies.
Spirulina is a perfect superfood for busy times – and for travel – since it contains all the essential amino acids, not to mention antioxidants and so many vitamins and minerals.
Holiday time can always be busy and stressful. Fortunately, Spirulina is a perfect superfood for busy times – and for travel – since it contains all the essential amino acids, not to mention antioxidants and so many vitamins and minerals. It’s a great source of vitamin A, B vitamins, vitamin K, and iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, selenium and zinc. It’s also rich in GLA (gamma-linoleic acid) to fight inflammation and it naturally detoxifies the body of heavy metals and toxins.
Don’t be intimidated by its ocean-infused scent – a little bit goes a long way! Simply add a spoonful to anything and everything, whether sweet or savory – smoothies, soups, sauces, dressings or deserts. It’s a great way to detox before, during or after holiday overindulgence.
RED & GREEN BREAKFAST
- Blend: ½ banana, ½ avocado, ½ cup of almond milk, a pinch of vanilla, a pinch of cinnamon, fresh or powdered ginger, ¼ tsp of matcha and ¼ tsp of spirulina powder in a Vitamix or high-speed blender until smooth and creamy.
- Then, add 1/3 of the mixture to a glass, then top with another layer of coconut yogurt then a spoonful of Goji berries, pomegranate seeds and a few red apple slices.
RED & GREEN LUNCH OR DINNER
- Add cooked (white) quinoa to a bowl with ¼- ½ tsp of spirulina powder, olive (or another heart-healthy oil like flax, hemp or pumpkin seed), a splash of tamari, some nutritional yeast and lemon juice.
- Add some smoked paprika and/or Cayenne for an extra kick. Mix well.
- Chop ½ avocado into chunks and stir into the mixture.
- Cut the top off of a red bell pepper and scoop out the seeds.
- Drizzle with some oil and bake in the oven for around 20-30 minutes or until crispy on the outside, and softened on the inside.
- Stuff the pepper with the quinoa mixture and return to the oven for around 5-10 minutes.
- Finally, top with seasonal herbs and a splash of apple cider vinegar.
Rebecca Leffler is a Paris-based writer and journalist who, after a career as the French correspondent for The Hollywood Reporter and as a film critic on Canal+, traded red carpets for green smoothies. She’s written five books about healthy lifestyle from Paris to NYC and beyond, including Très Green, Très Clean, Très Chic: Eat (and Live!) the New French way with plant-based, gluten-free recipes for every season, and most recently Le Nouveau Manuel de la Cuisine Végétale. Rebecca has pioneered the “vegolution” in Paris, where she continues to organize events focusing on healthy eating, yoga and la vie en rose… And green! You can keep up with Rebecca on Instagram!