Foods eaten at the peak of their season not only offer the best flavor, but they overflow with nutrients. Scientists continually discover new components in these fresh foods that benefit our health. The healthy qualities of these fall foods will give you even more reasons to fill your plate.
Always considered a nutritious food, apples have more recently made health news due to quercetin. This antioxidant not only helps to prevent cellular damage, but it also has anti-inflammatory properties. Quercetin prevents the release of histamines leading researchers to believe it could reduce symptoms of allergies.
Tip: Keep the skin on. According to University of Illinois Extension, almost half of the vitamin C in an apple is located just under the skin. The skin also contains nutritious fiber.
Move over carrots, pumpkins promote healthy vision too. Pumpkin contains lutein and zeaxanthin which are associated with preventing cataracts and reducing risk for macular degeneration. Pumpkin is also rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber.
Tip: Orange-flesh winter squash share these health benefits. A few varieties to look for: Cinderella pumpkins, Kabocha, Cushaw, Butternut squash, and Delicata squash.
Crunchy purple cabbage contains sinigrin, which is converted to an isothiocyanate compound with unique properties linked to cancer prevention. The purple variety has a slight advantage over green cabbage due to anthocyanin pigments. These polyphenols act as antioxidants to protect against chronic disease. Cabbage is also packed with vitamin C, and because cabbage is often eaten raw in salads and slaws, the vitamin C isn’t destroyed during cooking.
Tip: Top tacos with shredded purple cabbage instead of iceberg lettuce for a boost of nutrients, flavor, and texture.
Related to garlic and onions, leeks are part of the allium family, but they get much less attention for their star nutrient content. Leeks contain the flavonoid kaempferol which has been shown to prevent damage to the lining of blood vessels making leeks beneficial for cardiovascular health. Leeks also provide folate. Folate has been found to balance homocysteine levels to protect against cardiovascular disease.
Tip: The whole leek is edible, but the highest concentration of nutrients are found in the lower leaf and bulb.
Tart, red cranberries contain polyphenols with anti-bacterial properties, which reduce risk of urinary tract infections. Whole cranberries also have anti-cancer properties and provide antioxidants. This berry promotes a healthy cardiovascular system and digestive tract because it reduces the inflammation that is associated with disease.
Tip: Chop fresh cranberries in a food processor, and add them to salads and cereals for tart flavor and extra crunch.