Have you ever felt like you can tell the what a food tastes like just from its color? Eye-catching foods have a way of luring us in to indulge in their delicate tastes – especially those which are brightly colored.
In this article, part of our series on colors of foods, we share with you the pink fruits, vegetables, meat and condiments that are not just your regular girly favorite color but also bring a range of health benefits to your body!
What Makes Foods Pink?
The pigments that make our pink foods pink are natural compounds called anthocyanins and betalains. While these two pigments can give the same pink color to foods, they are completely unrelated and, interestingly, never found in the same plant!
Anthocyanins are a type of flavenoid, which are compounds that have a range of functions in plants. They can help the plant look less appealing to herbivores that might try to eat their leaves, whilst attracting pollinators to their flowers and seed dispersers to their fruit. Next time you are being tempted to eat a delicious pink fruit, remember that you are succumbing to the plant’s manipulative tactics!
These pigments also confer health benefits to us when we eat them: they are antioxidants and trap free radicals, protecting our bodies from excessive inflammation and development of cancer. They also have antimicrobial properties.
Anthocyanins can range in color through blue, purple, pink and red. They also have another exciting property related to their color: they are a natural pH indicator. When put in an acidic environment, the color of the pigments shift more red, while in an alkaline environment they become more blue, even changing to green or yellow.
Betalains give a red or pink color to plants that don’t contain anthocyanins. They are found in beets, swiss chard, and cacti. Some species of cacti that are commonly kept as houseplants have striking pink flowers, all due to the betalains they contain. Some people can’t process certain betalains properly within the body, meaning that when they consume these compounds in their food, they can get red urine or stools as the pigment is excreted!
The List: 29 Pink Foods
This pink veggie is packed with vitamins and nutrients. It’s deep pink color comes from betacyanin, an antioxidant that fights against common carcinogens. Beets are known around the world by different names, including table beet, garden beet, red beet, dinner beet, golden beet or, in British English, beetroot. It’s not only the root that makes a good vegetable: beet greens make a very healthy addition to your diet!
2. Cripps Pink Apple
This variety of apple has a firm, crispy white flesh and a pink blush colored skin. Sometimes referred to by the trademark Pink Lady, they are also known as the Queen of Apples. With a perfect balance of sweet and sour, this type of apple is very popular and is a great way of increasing the vitamin C, vitamin A, calcium, and iron In your menu.
3. Dragon fruit
Dragon fruit, also known as Pitaya, is the fruit of a cactus tree that grows primarily in Southeast Asia, Central and South America. The fruit is large and round, with a thick, leathery skin that is pink and green. The flesh is deep pink in color, with tiny black seeds. It has a mild, sweet flavor, and is frequently added to drinks to give them an exciting color. Dragon fruit is rich in lycopene, vitamin C and antioxidants that protect our body from carcinogens.
A relative of watermelon, this tropical fruit has pink, juicy flesh and a sweet, tart taste. It is packed with vitamins and fiber – in fact, guava is four times higher in vitamin C than oranges. Guava also contains high levels of lycopene. It is known to reduce the risk of diabetes, because it has high fiber and a low glycemic index, so it helps regulate blood sugar.
5. Grapefruit juice
Pink grapefruit juice earns a place on any healthy foods list. Not only is it refreshing and low in calories, it also contains essential vitamins and minerals. Because of its high fiber content, it can help ward off hunger, and is a common favorite in weight loss diets. It can also play a part in protecting your heart, as regular consumption of grapefruit and grapefruit juice can improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Ham is considered a staple protein, particularly for sandwiches. It is known to have a high level of protein and iron, and lean cuts are very low in saturated fat. Ham is produced by preserving pork meat by wet or dry curing with or without smoking. Different varieties of ham are produced all around the world, including regional specialties such as Westphalian ham and Spanish jamón.
7. Hidden Rose Apple
This rare type of apple is known for its distinctive taste with hints of strawberry lemonade. Its pink flesh has a vibrant color that is crispy and juicy to eat, while its skin is pale-yellow with a faint reddish blush and white freckles. The fruit is difficult to grow, and needs a specific climate with cool nights and warm sunny days. The parent tree of this unique fruit was grown in Oregon.
8. Highland Burgundy Red Potato
This interesting potato has a marbled pink, red and white color to its flesh, caused by anthocyanin which give it antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It has also a good amount of vitamin C to support your immune system. The potato is fluffy when cooked, and lends itself to chips, fries or mashed potato. As the name suggests, this variety is thought to originate in the Scottish Highlands; the earliest record is from 1936 in the United Kingdom.
9. Himalayan Salt
Himalayan Salt is a pink colored salt that is mined from the mountains of Pakistan. It can be used in place of regular table salt, and is often used for cooking and food garnish because of its attractive pink hue. As well as sodium chloride, Himalayan salt contains trace minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, chromium, magnesium and sulfate. It is these chemicals that give the salt its unique color.
10. Lilly Pilly Berries
These tiny berries are native to South-East Asia and Australia. They grow on trees in clusters, and have a firm, shiny, pink or reddish-purple skin. These fruits have a slightly tart taste and, although they don’t taste particularly good eaten fresh, can be mixed with other ingredients or made into chutney.
Australian Aborigines called these fruits “medicine berries” because of their ability to strengthen the immune system against colds and flu. It is now known that these medical properties come from the high dose of vitamin C, antioxidants, anthocyanins and folate that all helps to keep our body healthy.
While the flesh of lychees is white, their skin is a pinkish-red color. This small tropical fruit is native to China and Southeast Asia. The fruit has a unique, flowery flavor that is refreshing and lends itself to a range of desserts, including fruit salad, ice cream, juices and jellies. Lychees are also a good source for your daily vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
12. Mountain Apple
Mountain apples, also known as Malay apples, Java apples, and pommerac, are a tree fruit native to Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia. The fruit is bell shaped with color that varies from light green, through pink to dark maroon, with darker fruits usually tasting sweeter than lighter ones. The taste is refreshing and mild, and mountain apples are calorie-light compared to regular apples. It is also a good source of vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants.
Tender pink octopus tentacles are a classic Mediterranean dish. Octopus are excellent source of protein, potassium, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids and calcium that can reduce the risk of stroke and promote a healthy heart. Octopus is a good choice for weight management as it is naturally high in protein and low in fats.
14. Ornamental Cabbage and Kale
Ornamental Cabbage and Kale are varieties of the same species, Brassica oleracea, which also includes edible cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. Several ornamental varieties have a pink or purple color to their leaves, including the Nagoya, Osaka and Toyko series. While these unusual and attractive cabbages are edible, they have a bitter taste compared to common varieties. They are often used as a garnish or mixed into salad to give a variety of color. They also make attractive additions to your vegetable garden!
15. Pink Banana Squash
Banana squash can reach up to 48” in length and up to 70 pounds in weight! It is cylindrical with slight curve in its shape, and the thick rind with a thick-walled rind comes in a variety of colors including salmon pink, blue, yellow or variegated patterns. The flesh of the squash is orange, and packed with vitamins and minerals like vitamins A, B, and C, calcium, iron and fiber.
16. Pink Oyster Mushroom
The Pink Oyster, sometimes called Pink Flamingo, is a species of mushroom with a unique appearance. They have even been called the “mushroom of love” because of their romantic appearance. Unfortunately, the mushroom loses its pinkish hue once it is cooked. It is a great option for vegetarians looking to add a slightly chewy, meaty texture to their cooking.
17. Pink Pearl Apples
Pink Pearl apples were cultivated in California back in the 1940s. On the outside they are a creamy yellow to green color, while inside they have delicious vivid pink flesh. The apple is highly aromatic and has a balanced sweet tart taste with an almost raspberry-like flavor. Pink pearls are a healthy snack option, being low calorie, high fiber and containing vitamins A and C.
18. Pink Peppercorns
Pink peppercorns are not just a pink variety of regular black pepper: they are from a completely different plant! Technically the dried berry of the Baie Rose plant, these “peppercorns” have a mild peppery taste and resemble traditional peppercorns in size and shape.
Whether mixed with regular pepper in a grinder or used on their own, pink peppercorns add a splash of color to salads and sauces. They are said to be effective at fighting colds and flu, and helping with muscle stiffness. However, they are closely related to cashews and people with nut allergy would do better to pass on this one.
19. Pink Radicchio
Grown in Verona, Italy, this rare pink variety of radicchio lettuce was named Vegetable of the Year 2017 by Bon Appetit. It has a crispy, sweet if slightly bitter flavor, and can add an uplifting color to your salad bowl during winter. Not just a pretty veggie, this radicchio also has great source of nutrients such as copper, iron, vitamin E and Vitamin K.
This beautiful fruit is an ancient native to Asia that is cultivated nowadays throughout the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, East Indies, Africa and the United States. The shiny pink-red jewel-like flesh contains sweet juicy nectar surrounding the white seed.
Pomegranates are known as a superfood for skin and heart, and contain a large number of phytochemicals including flavonoids and polyphenols. These have been shown to inhibit the progression of several types of cancers. Each serving also contains over 5 grams of fiber and is an excellent source of your daily Vitamin C.
While radishes are usually a darker red color, there is a pink variety that adds a cheerful splash of color to your raw salad. This small plant, native to Europe and Southern Asia, holds a host of health benefits.
They are low in calorie with excellent amounts of Vitamin C and B9, fiber, potassium and magnesium, helping them play a vital part in keeping our immune system and nervous system functioning. They can also reduce fatigue or exhaustion, protect cells from oxidizing stress and help fight various cancers.
Rhubarb is a highly versatile vegetable, that can be used in pies, cobblers, desserts and even breads. The pink stems form a fibrous, sour stewed “fruit” when simmered. The pink hue can also add a pleasant color to your gin and cocktails. Rhubarb is perfect for weight watchers as it is one of the lowest caloric vegetables, due to its high fiber and oxalic acid content. It is also an excellent source of potassium, iron, magnesium, iodine, phosphorus and many more nutrients.
23. Rose Petals
It may sound decadent, but cooking with rose petals dates back to the ancient kingdoms of Rome, Greece, and Persia. In Tudor England, King Henry VIII famously ate sugared rose petals for dessert. From jam to chutney to ice cream, the options for cooking with rose petals are endless – and the simplest of all is to just add a few petals to a fresh salad.
Less is more when it comes to cooking with rose petals: just a small amount will add a unique flavor to your food. There is one golden rule though: don’t use roses that have been sprayed with pesticide. Organic or home-grown is a better choice.
24. Rosé Wine
Rosé wine is the category of wines that range from a very mild peach blush through to a deep fuchsia color. It is produced by allowing the red grape skins to have a short period of contact with the juice, typically between two and twenty hours, rather than either removing them immediately as for white wine, or allowing the skins to ferment with the wine as for red wine.
It is said to embody the health benefits of both white and red wine, including reducing cholesterol and protecting the brain, as well as carrying fewer calories than its counterparts.
Raw, smoked, grilled or pan-fried, salmon is a delicious fish found in dishes from around the world, including Japanese sushi rolls. While salmon has an undoubtedly pink tinge, the coloring is actually due to carotenoids. These pigments are present in the small fish and shrimp that the salmon eat, and go on to cause coloration of the muscle.
It is full of omega-3 fatty acids that is good for the heart and has also been linked in lowering the rates of Alzheimer’s disease, hypertension and certain cancers. Salmon is also good source of protein, selenium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
Shrimp and prawns are a delicious seafood that turns to pink or red when cooked. They bring plenty of nutrients to our diets, such as vitamin A and B12, Iodine, Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. It is quite low in calories and is particularly low in carbs, making it an ideal choice for people following a keto-type diet. It can be served as steamed, breaded, barbequed or fried, with your preferred sauces.
27. Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is a green leafy vegetable with a colored stalk, which can be white, red or even yellow! The pink-stemmed variety is good substitute for spinach in summer, as it grows easily and the young leaves lend themselves to sandwiches and salads. Swiss chard is excellent source of vitamins and minerals. This plant can tolerate the drought of hot weather and the cold of winter, making it hardier than many salad options.
Tuna is a fish with a muscular flesh color ranging from pink to dark red which depending on the species. When cooked, the meat changes color, but in Japan it is often eaten raw with sushi. This fish is rich in protein and an excellent source of vitamin B12.
29. Turkish Delight
While it may not win any prizes for being healthy, Turkish delight is a firm favorite when it comes to pink foods. As the name suggests, the sweet is a traditional dish in Turkey, where it is called Lokum, and is made from a gel of starch and sugar to which flavorings are added. Traditional pink Turkish delight is flavored with rose water, but citrus and mint flavors are also popular.