The days are getting shorter, and there’s a definite hint of fall in the air. As the seasons change, the produce department at your supermarket and Farmer’s market bloom with color as autumn fruits and vegetables take center stage. Some fall fruits and veggies stand out not only for their taste but for their health benefits. Here are five autumn superfoods to add to your shopping cart.
Fall Superfoods: Brussels sprouts
They look like tiny cabbages, and they’re loaded with anti-cancer compounds called sulphoraphanes that helps your liver break down cancer-causing chemicals you’re exposed to every day. As a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, this is a veggie to put on the table to lower your risk for breast cancer. Brussels sprouts contain indoles, compounds that help your body break down estrogen to a less potent form that’s less likely to stimulate breast tissue in a way that could lead to cancer.
Brussels sprouts are also a surprisingly good source of vitamin C, a vitamin that’s essential for healthy connective tissue, skin, and immunity against infection. A single serving of Brussels sprouts supplies a full day’s requirement for vitamin C. Why not blanch them, and add them to your next salad for a healthy change of pace – or enjoy them roasted with feta cheese and walnuts?
Fall Superfoods: Pumpkin
Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween and Thanksgiving, especially when you consider their health benefits. They’re a rich source of compounds called carotenoids, especially beta-carotene, which gives this Halloween symbol its brilliant orange color. These carotenoids naturally boost immune health, while protecting your eyes from vision-destroying diseases like macular degeneration and cataracts. You can enjoy a pumpkin any time of year in a can. Look for canned pumpkin without sugar, and add it to breakfast cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, soups and your next batch of chili. You’ll find lots of ways to use pureed pumpkin, so keep some on hand.
Fall Superfoods: Cranberries
Most people have few encounters with this brightly colored berry with the exception of Thanksgiving when they dig into mom’s famous cranberry sauce. From a health standpoint, there are some good reasons to enjoy them more often. Cranberries are a good source of proanthocyanidins, compounds that keep cancer and stomach ulcers by blocking the growth of bacteria linked with ulcers called Helicobacter pylori.
Cranberries also pack a punch against another type of bacteria – the nasty bacteria that cause urinary tract infections. The proanthocyanidins in cranberries make it harder for bacteria to attach to the wall of the bladder where they could trigger a bladder infection. The problem with cranberry sauce and most cranberry juice is it’s high in sugar. Skip the sugar by buying fresh cranberries to add to your next smoothie.
Fall Superfoods: Kale
Kale is another cruciferous vegetable, along with Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage – to name a few. It’s a veggie that’s growing in popularity partially due to its many health benefits. It ranks higher than any other vegetable on the ORAC scale, a scale that measures a food’s antioxidant power. Plus, it’s a good source of anti-cancer compounds and calcium to keep your bones strong. It also scores points because of its vision-protecting carotenoids.
How to get its benefits? Lightly sauté kale for a healthful side-dish or add it to soups and salads for an added nutritional punch. For a snack, make baked kale chips in the oven, and skip the potato chips.
Fall Superfoods: Artichokes
Artichokes have a nutty flavor that makes them a tasty addition to salads. Artichokes are packed with heart-healthy fiber and rank higher than blueberries and cranberries on the antioxidant scale. They’re also rich in minerals like calcium and magnesium that are important for bone and heart health. Animal studies show that artichokes have liver protective properties, shielding this important organ against damage from chemical toxins. Not to mention it helps with indigestion. You can steam artichokes, or for a smoky flavor, lightly steam and grill them. You’ll find lots of tips for preparing artichokes online.
The Bottom Line?
Get healthy this fall. Add these five autumn superfoods to the dinner table, and enjoy the health benefits.
Cancer Lett. 2008 October 8; 269(2): 378–387.
NYU Langone Medical Center “Artichoke”