17 fall fruits and veggies are the key to a healthier you

FITBIE.comOctober 8, 2013 

FOOD PUMPKIN 1 DE

It's no secret that pumpkin is the ingredient du jour. You will find it everywhere and it's a fall super food. McCLATCHY TRIBUNE

JESSICA J. TREVINO — MCT

Apples

Super nutrients: With fiber, vitamin C, B complex vitamins, potassium, and calcium, this fruit very well could keep you out of the doc's office. One Finnish epidemiological study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that apples are one of the main sources of dietary flavonoids that show the strongest association with decreased mortality. Apples inhibit the spread of cancer cells, decrease lipid oxidation, and lower cholesterol, according to a review from Cornell University's Department of Food Science and Institute of Comparative and Environmental Toxicology.

Eat up: When it comes to apples, organic really is the way to go, since chemicals and processing can greatly affect their phytochemical content. Add fresh apples to salads, oatmeal, or pastas for an extra crunch, "Diet Diva" Tara Gidus says. Or just eat them whole. "One of my all-time favorite snacks is apples and almond butter," she says.

Pumpkin

Super nutrients: You don't have to carb it up to get your fiber fix. Just one cup of pumpkin contains 10 grams of fiber, about half of your recommended daily allowance, according to the National Institutes of Health. Fiber helps control blood sugar, reduce LDL cholesterol, ease digestion, and promote weight loss. Plus, its antioxidants ward off DNA damage from free radicals, preventing everything from wrinkles to cancer. And as if that weren't enough, a cup of pumpkin contains more potassium than a banana.

Eat up: Fill up, not out with fiber-packed pumpkin. "Pumpkins are very versatile and can be used in a variety of recipes," Gidus says. Add some fall flavor to muffins, soups, smoothies, and pancakes. Use whole pumpkin--not the canned stuff--whenever possible: Chop, steam, and puree. It's really pretty simple, and leftovers can chill in the freezer all the way into spring.

Pumpkin seeds

Super nutrients: Pumpkin seeds have their own superfood thing going on, thanks to their generous supply of unsaturated fats and oils, Gidus says. Besides removing LDL cholesterol from arteries and promoting a healthier heart, unsaturated fats can help you burn fat big time. In one 2003 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, for instance, participants who replaced saturated fats with unsaturated ones for just four weeks lost both weight and body fat without cutting calories. Pumpkin seeds also contain the amino acid tryptophan, which helps your body produce mood-boosting serotonin--a must as the sunny says of summer drift away.

Eat up: Spread the seeds on a baking sheet with a little bit of olive oil and salt, roast them up at 400 degrees for 10-20 minutes, and you've got a healthy alternative to greasy chips. You can eat them by the handful or toss them into a healthy homemade trail mix with dried cranberries (another superfood!) or sauteed veggies, Gidus suggests. Big salad fan? Try sprinkling some on top of your next creation.

Persimmons

Super nutrients: When oranges are out of season, persimmons are just ripening. A great source of vitamin C, they can help reduce the length and severity of colds, and may even lower your risk of cancer to depression. Persimmons also have no sodium or cholesterol, which makes them a heart-healthy choice. In fact, research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that persimmons pack even more heart disease-fighting nutrients than apples.

Eat up: Shop smart: These golden treasures turn deep orange and get slightly soft (not mushy!) when they're ripe. Cut off the top and then use a peeler to remove the skin, as it can have a bitter taste. Then you can slice the fruit into wedges or circles to eat them fresh by themselves, mixed in yogurt, or tossed into salads, Gidus says.

Pomegranates

Super nutrients: The chemical compounds in pomegranates are known to regenerate skin cells, boost collagen, and prevent wrinkles. Plus, they pack serious antioxidants--even more than other juices, red wine, or tea--which can fight cancer and heart disease. Pomegranates prevent hardening of the arteries by reducing blood vessel damage, and may also reverse the progression of heart disease, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. All that with loads of flavor and only 105 calories? Yes, please!

Eat up: Not sure how to get to the goods? Try scoring the fruit from stem to end in about six sections. Then, cut off the top, pull apart, and peel the white membrane from the bright red seeds. Do this over a bowl so as not to lose the juice. Eat them as-is, or sprinkled in salads or yogurts. If juicing is your thing (should you try it?), pop the seeds in a juice or a blender for a quick and healthy drink or smoothie, Gidus says. Or, if you are feeling really creative, pomegranates can make a great glaze or garnish.

Beets

Super nutrients: Beets contain dietary fiber, vitamin C, bone-strengthening magne

sium, and energy-revving iron and phosphorus, Gidus says. Plus, they pack vitamins A, B1, B2, and B6, and can get your ticker in check. Research published in the American Heart Association's Hypertensioneven found that consuming 500 milliliters (or about 17 fluid ounces) of beetroot juice can reduce hypertension in just an hour, with effects lasting for a full 24.

Eat up: No need to get fancy here. Beets are great raw and sliced up solo or on top of a salad, Gidus says. Besides taking more time, cooking your veggies can zap some of their nutritional content. If you have a juicer handy, go ahead and put them through.

Brussels sprouts

Super nutrients: "These mini-cabbages are loaded with healthful benefits that help fight cancer and boost your immune system," Gidus says. And unlike many cruciferous veggies, these little guys are a good source of muscle-building, hunger-squashing protein. One-half cup of cooked Brussels contains 2 grams of protein and come loaded with fiber as well as vitamins A and C.

Eat up: Try slicing Brussels sprouts in half and roasting them with a salt-free seasoning of your choice and a little bit of red wine for an extra antioxidant punch, Gidus recommends.

Cranberries

Super nutrients: Cranberries have among the most anti-aging, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory antioxidants of any fruit, according to research published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry. What's more, components found in cranberries may prevent bacteria, such as E. coli, from clinging to the walls of the urinary tract and causing infection, and preliminary evidence shows that cranberry may reduce the ability of H. pylori bacteria to live in the stomach and cause ulcers, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Eat up: Add unsweetened dried or fresh cranberries to your cereal, muffins, or dips like hummus or guacamole for some added color and flavor. Get your juice on with 100 percent cranberry juice--watch out for any juices than list any non-cranberry ingredients.

Sweet potatoes

Super nutrients: There are no empty carbs--or calories--here. These carbohydrate powerhouses are an excellent source of the antioxidant lycopene, which fights inflammation and boosts your mood on even the greyest of days. It also contains fiber, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, beta-carotene, and loads of vitamins. One baked sweet potato has more than five times your daily vitamin A needs.

Eat up: Back off the butter and brown sugar. For deliciously healthy sweet potato fries, slice a sweet potato in half-inch wedges and lightly drizzle with olive oil and seasonings. Baked for 20-30 minutes in the oven on 450 degrees, Gidus recommends.

Kale

Super nutrients: To get just how freakishly amazing kale is, you've got to crunch some numbers: 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15 perecent of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40 percent of magnesium, 180 percent of vitamin A, 200 percent of vitamin C, and 1,020 percent of vitamin K. That's what one cup of kale scores you. Enough said.

Eat up: Steam or saute kale and add it to pizzas, stir-fries, salads, egg dishes, or casseroles. Gidus is partial to kale chips: Just slice kale into bite-size pieces, toss with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt, and bake for 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees in the oven.

Chestnuts

Super nutrients: These babies have fiber and monounsaturated fatty acids, both of which can keep your belly from growling--and packing on extra poundage. And unlike other nuts, chestnuts are rich in cold-fighting vitamin C and energy-revving carbohydrates. If you are going gluten-free, chestnuts are a nutritious way to get the important fuel without the wheat. On top of that, chestnuts are ripe with vitamins A, and B, folate, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, phosphorus and zinc.

Eat up: Like most nuts, you enjoy them raw, boiled, or roasted.

Turnips

Super nutrients: There's hardly a nutrient you can't score with this low-cal superfood. With only 28 calories per 100 grams, and rich in antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, K, carotenoid, xanthin, and lutein, turnips also pack fiber, calcium, copper, iron, and manganese. What's more, turnip greens are a great source of B vitamins including riboflavin, thiamine, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, and folate, Gidus says. About one-third of people who suffer from depression have low folate levels, and folate supplementation can both prevent and treat depression, according to according to research published in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience.

Eat up: Steam them up and add them to hearty roasts and soups for a little crunch, Gidus says. Add raw turnips to a fresh salad, or eat fresh with olives and cherry tomatoes for a nutritional whopper, Gidus says.

Plums

Super nutrients: Low in calories and fat, and high in dietary fiber, plums are an excellent source of antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and K, beta-carotene, lutein, cryptoxanthin, and zeaxanthin. According to research from Texas AgriLife Research, plums match or exceed blueberries in antioxidants and phytonutrients. What's more, one plum has nearly as much potassium as a banana, and is a great source of minerals like potassium and fluoride.

Eat up: Just pick it up and take a bite, Gidus says. Or dice them up to mix into a fresh salad or yogurt. Either way, wash your plums first, especially if you plan on eating the skin.

Carrots

Super nutrients: Low in calories and high in dietary fiber, carrots are a great source of beta-carotene and a whole host of vitamins. Just one half cup of carrots scores you almost twice your daily vitamin A needs, hence their good-for-your-eyes reputation. They are also rich in minerals such as phosphorus, manganese, copper, calcium, and potassium, which are vital to keeping you in tip-top shape.

Eat up: Tasty both raw and cooked, you can add them to salads, side dishes, pot roasts, stir-frys, and even add shredded carrots to muffins, Gidus suggests. For a simple, no-prep solution, just open up a bag of baby carrots and get munching. Hummus makes a great, protein-rich dip.

Artichokes

Super nutrients: These oversized thistles have more antioxidants than any other vegetable, according to research conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture. And studies examining artichoke leaf extract have found that it causes cell death and reduces cell proliferation in many different forms of cancer, including prostate cancer, leukemia, and breast cancer. What's more, one large artichoke contains a quarter of the recommended daily intake of fiber (more than a cup of prunes!), which can ease tummy troubles, keep you feeling full, and promote weight loss.

Eat up: "After rinsing them, you can eat an artichoke by just tearing off the pedals and dipping them in your favorite sauce," Gidus says. Mix the uncooked hearts into a salad or steam or saute them with other veggies or proteins.

Walnuts

Super nutrients: Walnuts are a top source for essential omega 3 fatty acids, which are vital to both health and healthy waistlines. In fact, diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids create a greater sense of fullness both immediately and two hours after eating than do meals with low levels of the fatty acids, according to a 2008 study from University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain. No need to eat them by the handful, though. Just one-fourth cup a day can give you a big boost of antioxidants such as selenium, melatonin, vitamin E, and several polyphenols.

Eat up: "Walnuts are so versatile and can add a great crunch to just about anything," Gidus says. Try them mixed into trail mix, yogurt, oatmeal, salad, or even pasta.

Chard

Super nutrients: An excellent source of vitamins A, C, and K, chard also contains a great deal fiber, which can help regulate blood sugar levels, aid in digestion, and lower cholesterol. In fact, one study from the Harvard School of Public Health found that eating one daily serving of green leafy vegetables--like chard--reduces the risk of heart disease in men and women by 23 percent. And don't forget its affinity for strong bones: One cup of Swiss chard packs nearly 40% of your daily magnesium needs.

Eat up: Try it as a side dish or sauteed and mixed into soups, pastas, or other fall vegetables, Gidus recommends.

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