September 19, 2013
As soon as a slight chill enters the upstate New York air and golden-yellow, red and brown leaves begin to fall to the earth, many of us find ourselves falling in love with the season.
Some of us spend autumn embracing our inner child, jumping fearlessly into leaf piles or apple picking. Others anticipate this time of year for its promise of mouth-watering baked goods—you know, the cinnamon-sugar-coated Apple Cider doughnut that you downed at the Clinton Cider Mill last weekend, or the spicy, sweet pumpkin pie you’re sure to bake as soon as you have some spare time.
Likewise, it turns out that good health loves fall as well! With the onset of the fall equinox comes the season for produce and legumes that are not only wonderfully nutritive but also fresh, delicious and incredibly versatile in the kitchen! One can’t fully embrace the fall season and its health benefits without adding these nutritional gems to his or her shopping list. Here are five such fall “superfoods” to eat and cook with now, and a few recipe ideas in which to enjoy them!
1) Apples: Rally a group of your friends and make a pilgrimage to your local apple orchard! These fruits have a good reputation for a reason. Beyond their dental health benefits, apples have been found to decrease diabetes risk and to aid in Parkinson’s disease protection. Additionally, the skin of apples includes an antioxidant named quercetin, which helps combat disease in general. Reap the benefits of this fall fruit with one tablespoon natural peanut butter for a mid-afternoon snack, or slice them into your morning oatmeal with cinnamon and nutmeg for a breakfast both satisfying and splendid.
2) Sweet Potatoes: Forget the Yukon Golds; fall is the time to opt for the more “seasonally appropriate” spud! With their vibrant orange flesh, these sweet and starchy veggies are packed with beta-carotene; the purple-fleshed variety have their respective benefits as well, featuring antioxidants and anti-inflammatory anthocyanins. Blood sugar regulation and antibacterial and antifungal batatosides (sugar and starch molecules) are among the numerous other features of the sweet potato that make it both a delicious and nutritious food on its own, or a special ingredient in a variety of fall recipes. Try roasting spears of sweet potatoes with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary in the oven for a healthier take on French fries, or mash them along with banana, butter, brown sugar, a touch of orange zest, and nutmeg for a comforting seasonal side dish.
3)Pumpkin: Sure, pumpkins are wonderful for carving and as a decorative touch to our front porches, but the real beauty of the pumpkin lies in its nutritional content! Not only is pumpkin loaded with the essential vitamins K, E, and B, but it is also a good source of protein, with about 2g of protein per 1 cup mashed, cooked pumpkin. Its high fiber content and cancer-fighting and skin-nourishing carotenoids make it that much more of an optimal dietary choice. Thus, why not treat yourself to a slice of smooth, spiced, and crusty pumpkin pie with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top, a bowl of warming pumpkin bisque on a chilly night by the fire, or some pumpkin incorporated into your favorite pasta dish? Pumpkin’s dietary benefits give you the excuse to savor these treats while you can!
4) Cranberries: One can’t help but to be excited for Thanksgiving and fall cooking in general when he or she thinks of cranberry-orange muffins or tart cranberry sauce alongside hot, roasted turkey! Like pumpkin and apples, cranberry has its respective antioxidant power, but is unique in that it can help with preventing Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), stomach ulcers and some forms of cancer. Cranberries, like oranges, are also a wonderful source of vitamin C, which is important for immunity, healthy and youthful skin, and cardiovascular and eye health.
5) Brussel Sprouts: There’s a reason why your grandmother loaded your plate full of these mini-cabbages each and every Sunday; brussel sprouts, although not too popular among the kids, have various nutritional benefits. Phytonutrient-rich, brussel sprouts contain potassium, iron, and fiber, and can even help to lower cholesterol levels. Steam them for a flavorful side dish, or roast them in the oven with a touch of heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Follow Granny’s example and place these in your shopping cart now while they are at their peak!
These are only a few of the plethora of superfoods available during this special time of year, so don’t stop your search there; add kale, beans, squash and beets to your diet, all of which are at their best during this time of year as well.
In the minds of many, fall equates to free candy on Halloween, scenes in the New England countryside and nostalgia. Yet, how can fall be complete without the sweet, succulent juice of an apple dribbling down your chin, or freshly-picked pumpkins that contribute to both decoration and a healthy diet? Take advantage of these few months to boost your dietary health; trust me, your body and your taste buds will thank you!