After a long summer of days that are a bit too warm to be comfy, crisp autumn temperatures offer a welcome respite from the heat. Eating habits change too as cooler temps prevail. As fall draws near, you can still enjoy summer’s sweet berries, but now’s the time to add healthy fall fruits and vegetables to the nutritional line-up. Coming soon to a farmer’s market near you – here are some of fall’s healthiest fruit and vegetable choices.
Healthy Fall Fruits and Vegetables: Apples
When you crave something sweet, enjoy the natural sweetness of an apple. An apple combines fiber and wealth of vitamins and antioxidants. Apples are also a good source of pectin, a fiber-like compound that gives you that full, satisfied feeling that keeps your sweet tooth in check. Plus, according to a study out of the University of Florida, the polyphenols and pectin in apples are heart-healthy as well.
In a study, one group of participants ate 75 grams of dried apples daily while the other ate a similar quantity of dried prunes. The results? Participants that ate the apples enjoyed a 23% reduction in LDL-cholesterol over 6 months. Interestingly, despite consuming more calories by eating dried apples, the participants lost 3.3 pounds.
Apples also contain a compound called quercetin. Interestingly, some studies show a link between quercetin and increased exercise endurance. In addition, the apple peel is a good source of ursolic, a natural chemical linked with an increase in brown fat, the kind that helps with weight control, and is associated with an increase in muscle mass in mouse studies. Munching on apples is good for your body composition!
Apples are versatile too. Slice them any way you like and enjoy as is or bake them with cinnamon sprinkled on top for a healthy take on dessert. Word of warning – stick to whole apples. Apple juice lacks fiber and contains too much natural sugar. Choose organic apples to avoid pesticide residues, and don’t forget to eat the peel. The skin of an apple is where much of the fiber and vitamins are concentrated.
Healthy Fall Fruits and Vegetables: Broccoli
If there’s a vegetable eligible for the veggie hall of fame, it’s broccoli, a well-known member of the cruciferous family of vegetables. Thanks to its high levels of glucosinolates, chemicals your body converts to compounds called sulforaphane, and another compound called indole-3-carbinol, broccoli is an anti-cancer superstar. Plus, these compounds help your liver break down cancer-causing agents and toxins. In the laboratory, chemicals in broccoli help slow down the growth of certain types of cancer cells, including bladder cancer. More good news: According to research from Johns Hopkins, compounds in broccoli may help keep stomach cancer and stomach ulcers at bay.
You can enjoy frozen broccoli any time of year, but why not enjoy fresh broccoli when it’s in season? The best way to preserve the nutrients and antioxidants in this healthful veggie is to lightly steam it. For a richer flavor, try roasting broccoli in the oven.
To maximize the health benefits, even more, enjoy broccoli with tomato sauce. One study showed the combination of broccoli and tomato was more effective at slowing tumor growth than either food individually. Plus, tomato and broccoli complement one another perfectly. You have to love food synergy!
Healthy Fall Fruits and Vegetables: Sweet Potatoes
Though potatoes sometimes get a bad rap for being high in carbs, sweet potatoes win points for the natural carotenoids they contain. Some of the carotenoids you get from sources like sweet potatoes, your body converts to vitamin A, but carotenoids have health benefits that go beyond vitamin A activity. These natural compounds, which give sweet potatoes their rich, orange pigment, are strongly linked with visual health and help protect against two common causes of age-related visual loss: macular degeneration and cataracts. Carotenoids also appear to have anti-cancer activity. Bonus: Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of vitamin C.
To bring out the flavor of sweet potatoes, spray them lightly with olive oil and roast them with the skin on or dice them up and add to soups, stews, gratins, and casseroles. Use these vitamin-rich spuds as a substitute for white potatoes in recipes. Make baked sweet potato fries and flavorful sweet potato chips in the oven as a substitute for less healthy salty snacks. Puree sweet potatoes and turn them into sweet potato hummus. You can also find recipes for sweet potato desserts online. Who knew this colorful fall vegetable could be so versatile?
Healthy Fall Fruits and Vegetables: Pumpkin
Pumpkin has many of the benefits that sweet potatoes do – they’re a powerhouse source of carotenoids. Like sweet potatoes, you’ll find lots of ways to put the power of pumpkin to work in your kitchen. You might be intimidated by the idea of using fresh pumpkin, especially the job of removing the seeds. If so, opt for canned pumpkin, available in natural food markets in a BPA-free can. It’s pureed and ready to add to recipes.
So how can you enjoy the health benefits of pumpkin? Revamp your hot cereal in the morning with the addition of a large tablespoon of canned pumpkin. Enhance the health benefits of almost anything by adding pureed pumpkin. How about pumpkin pie oatmeal? Yum! Add pumpkin to soups, chili, and stews for extra flavor and nutritional power.
Need a quick guilt-free dessert? Stir pureed pumpkin into a container of plain Greek yogurt and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Don’t forget to add a scoop to your morning smoothie. Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween.
Healthy Fall Fruits and Vegetables: Cabbage
Cabbage, another member of the cruciferous vegetable family, offers similar health benefits to broccoli. Along with packing a punch against cancer, it’s chock-full of anthocyanins, the chemical that gives red cabbage its purple color. Preliminary studies suggest anthocyanins may guard against cognitive decline along with reducing inflammation. Unfortunately, cabbage isn’t on most people’s shopping list – but maybe it should be.
How can you enjoy the health benefits of cabbage? Steam cabbage leaves and use them as a wrap for other healthy foods. Make your own sauerkraut and enjoy the health benefits of the natural probiotics in this fermented food. Remember the cabbage soup diet? It’s too restrictive, but adding more fresh vegetables like cabbage to your diet could help you lose weight. Hint: Choose red cabbage over its green cousin for more anthocyanins and don’t overcook it. Doing so will destroy some of the anti-cancer compounds. Enjoy it lightly raw, steamed or sautéed.
The Bottom Line
Whether you shop at your local supermarket or a local Farmer’s market, stock up on those healthy fall fruits and vegetables and put them to work in your kitchen. Your whole family will benefit.
Science Daily. “‘Apple a day’ advice rooted in science”
Natural Medicine Journal. “The Influence of Quercetin on Exercise Performance and Muscle Mitochondria”
Eur J Nutr. 2008 May;47 Suppl 2:73-88. doi: 10.1007/s00394-008-2009-8.
Science Daily. “Broccoli Sprouts May Prevent Stomach Cancer by Defeating Helicobacter Pylori”
Food Chemistry 95 (2006) 19-29
Ohio State Research. “Broccoli Packs Powerful Punch to Bladder Cancer Cells”
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Today’s Dietitian. Vol. 16 No. 3 P. 20. March 2014.
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