by Kristen Rezabek, MS, RD, CD; Master Gardener Class of 2013
Fall is one of my favorite seasons. The air is cold and crisp. The leaves are a shimmer of autumn color falling from the trees. And harvest’s bounty – from apples to yams and everything in between, is plentiful.
The colorful fruits and vegetables of fall such as pumpkins, winter squash, apples, cranberries, and sweet potatoes are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and plant chemicals (phytochemicals). These nutrients found in fruits and vegetables have a number of health benefits, potentially lowering our risk for cancer and cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack or stroke.
The following fall foods, besides being delicious to eat, offer a number of health promoting properties:
2,500 varieties of apple are available in the US. Whatever type you choose, apples are rich in insoluble fiber (prevents constipation and possibly colon cancer) and soluble fiber (lowers bad cholesterol levels). Ready to wash and eat, or chop and add to salads, fruit crisps and cobblers, or bake whole with a little sugar and spice and you have a wonderful treat.
These tiny cabbages are full of beta carotene and have 5 grams of fiber per ½ cup serving. Steam, sauté, or roast these cruciferous vegetables for a powerful cancer fighting food.
These tart berries are known to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections because they acidify the urine and prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract. They are an excellent source of vitamin C. Raw cranberries can be added to fruit crisps or bread, muffin, and pancake batters. Use tart cranberry sauce with meats and on sandwiches. Dried cranberries make for an easy snack, alone or mixed with nuts, toss a handful on your oatmeal, or in mixed green salads.
Also known as snap beans, these favorites are high in iron, vitamins A and C, and have 3 grams of fiber per ½ cup serving. Crunch on these raw or steam, sauté, or roast these vibrant green veggies.
Part of the onion family, they are a good source vitamin B-6 and magnesium. Leeks are milder and sweeter than onions – try substituting them in soups, casseroles, stir fry, or roast as part of a vegetable medley drizzled with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and dried or fresh herbs.
Did you know that Pumpkins are an excellent source of vitamin A? That bright orange color contains beta-carotene, a plant form of vitamin A. Eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A strengthens our immune system, improves night vision, and may help protect us from heart disease. And don’t forget to include the pumpkin seeds, these are a good source of essential fats and other nutrients such as magnesium, iron, zinc, protein and fiber. Pumpkin doesn’t just mean the traditional pie – try this vegetable chopped and roasted or puree cooked pumpkin for a delicious soup. And for a healthier version of pumpkin pie – make pumpkin custard without the crust.
Acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, carnival, delicata, golden nugget, hubbard, kabocha, spaghetti, sweet dumpling, and turban just to name a few of the winter squash available in the fall. Squash contains a number of nutrients including; vitamins A, C, B6, folate, and magnesium. Split in half, scoop out the seeds and bake, microwave, steam, or sauté the flesh of these squashes. Try sweet and savory versions for hearty fall meals.
Loaded with beta carotene, iron, vitamin C, and folate. Contains 2 grams of fiber per ½ cup serving. Steam or sauté these greens with low sodium broth, garlic, onions, and seasonings for a healthy vegetable dish.
Also called sweet potatoes and found in colors ranging from yellow to orange. This vegetable is also an excellent source of vitamins A, C, B-6, and potassium. Bake, microwave, add to soups, stews, and stir fry, this versatile vegetable is a healthy addition to your meals.
Try the sweet potato recipe below for a holiday dish. (Just click the link for a printable copy.)
Strive to eat a variety of colors in your diet to get all the nutrients your body needs. The more reds, oranges, greens, yellows, and blues you see on the plate, the more health promoting properties you are getting from your fruits and vegetables. Don’t rely on antioxidant or phytochemical supplements, they can not duplicate the nutrients found in eating the real thing. Make sure to enjoy a cornucopia of fall foods!
For more of Kristen’s advice on healthy eating, visit her at Rezberry.