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Reds in natureIt's customary to give ravishing red gifts on Valentine's Day — think red roses, red boxes of chocolate or red candy hearts. Or even your own heart (figuratively speaking).
But many decry the holiday for its artificial and forced romance. So, how do we get back to something genuine?
We'll start by going back to nature and revealing its reddest reds. There's nothing fake about these colors, which surround us all year — not just on Valentine's Day.
Red feathersSlide 2 of 21
Red feathersThe male northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) sports bright-red plumage. And it's all thanks to its diet, according to a 2016 study in the journal Current Biology that found the genes responsible for red bird feathers.
Red-feathered birds get their unique coloring from a diet of certain seeds, leaves and fruit that contain organic yellow pigments, known as carotenoids. Once they eat these yellow pigments, an enzyme in the birds catalyzes a reaction that converts them into red ketocarotenoids — that is, red pigments.
Red and yellow birds have this enzyme in their eyes, which helps them see color. But in red birds, this enzyme is also active in their skin, feathers and liver, the researchers found.Slide 3 of 21
BloodSlide 4 of 21
BloodThe protein hemoglobin gives blood its red color. This protein is made of subunits called hemes, which can bind iron molecules that, in turn, can bind oxygen, according to the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).
Blood becomes red when the iron and oxygen bind. "Even more specifically, it looks red because of how the chemical bonds between the iron and the oxygen reflect light," UCSB wrote.
Take a deep breath this Valentine's Day — that breath will oxygenate your blood, which will then carry that oxygen to all of your organs.Slide 5 of 21
CinnabarSlide 6 of 21
CinnabarCinnabar — also known as vermilion, or mercury sulfide (HgS) — is a naturally red ore that contains mercury. (An ore is a naturally occurring solid that contains an extractable metal or mineral.)
Paleolithic painters used cinnabar to decorate caves in Spain and France about 30,000 years ago, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry.Slide 7 of 21
Cochineal insectSlide 8 of 21