Healthy Superfoods for Fall
While summer is rife with good eats, fall isn’t much of a slacker either; to help you stick to your health goals I’ve compiled a list of my top 5 veggies of the season—Bon appetite!
These little guys are jam-packed with goodness and are part of the Brassica family of veggies (a.k.a. they’re a cruciferous plant), along with broccoli, cabbage (see these two below!) and kale.
They also play host to one of the six most important phytonutrients (think plant-based) for our health: glucosinolates. Those phytonutrients are what give Brussels sprouts (and their relatives) their sharp odor and flavor. They’re not just tasty, they’re also potentially capable of keeping cancer cells in check—particularly in the digestive tract.
Our famously white vegetable friend is also cruciferous (another broccoli cousin) and can be found in not just its trademark white, but in orange and green varieties as well. No matter the color, it is a superfood option! According to Kathleen Zelman MPH, RD, LD the director of nutrition at WebMD one cup of this underrated vegetable has an extremely high dose of Vitamin C—“required for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body, and necessary for the formation of the important protein collagen, used to make skin, scar tissue, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels”.
It’s also a great source of potassium (necessary for nerve, muscle, heart and kidney function!) fiber and folic acid (learn more about fiber in my Livestrong video by clicking here). The research of Dr. Joanna Kapusta-Dutch at the Agricultural University in Krakow Poland had even more good news about this vegetable (and it’s cousins as a whole): “They prevent oxidative stress, induce detoxification enzymes, stimulate the immune system, decrease the risk of cancers, inhibit malignant transformation and carcinogenic mutations, as well as, reduce the proliferation of cancer cells”.
Clearly, the Brassica family isn’t to be underestimated!
Another Brassica member! Thus it also plays host to many of the compounds, antioxidants, and enzymes that make cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Kale and Broccoli so deliciously good for you.
Rich in fiber, Vitamin C and Folic acid like Cauliflower, it’s also home to those great glucosinolates mentioned in the Brussels sprouts section. Rich in sulfur, it can assist in fighting infections and even help with ulcers. A rich source of beta-carotene (think carrots!) makes it a boon to eye health (and a way to switch things up!). It’s also a strong source of Vitamin K which is “an emerging nutrient in brain function” according to Dr. Guylaine Ferland of the Departement de Nutrition at the Universite de Montreal in Quebec Canada.
It’s “essential for the synthesis of sphingolipids” which are “Present in high concentrations in brain cell membranes,” and “are now known to possess important cell signaling functions in addition to their structural role”. Furthermore, there are now Vitamin K-dependent proteins that are key players in the central and peripheral nervous system. So use that brain (and reward it for its service!) by adding some cabbage into your diet this fall.
Pumpkins may be the gourds that are considered synonymous with fall, but their buttery cousins should be the real superstars. High in fiber, 5 B-vitamins (for energy and pep!) and potassium it’s quite the nutritious fruit (which it is due to its seeds). These benefits pale in comparison to the power of its pretty orange color—which means it’s chock-full of heart health carotenoids and beta-carotene (the best form of vitamin A for the eyes!).
Dr. Talia Wolak at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev found that “Carotenoid consumption also improves the metabolic profile, decreasing the incidence of diabetes, lowering LDL levels, and improving blood pressure control”. Furthermore “The favorable anti-atherosclerotic effects of carotenoids was also demonstrated in cross-sectional population studies showing a positive correlation between low carotenoid levels and adverse cardiovascular outcome”.
The more naturally occurring carotenoids you have in your system then, the less likely you’ll have an “adverse” heart event, so add this festive “fruit” into your diet today!
This miniature tree-like vegetable is the king of the Brassica family. It has it all, and there’s plenty of data to prove it. It has more vitamin C than an orange (ounce for ounce), more fiber than a slice of wheat bread in one medium-sized spear, and as much calcium as a glass of milk!
It’s the superior preventer of cataracts in its family, and according to the Journal of American Nutrition one of the best foods for potentially preventing colon cancer. These mighty spears are also bactericidal when being digested by your GI tract. Dr. Jed Fahey of Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at Johns Hopkins University of Medicine found that “The isothiocyanate (ITC) sulforaphane…derived from…broccoli is potently bactericidal against Helicobacter, including antibiotic-resistant strains, suggesting a possible dietary therapy”. According to Dr. Fahey’s associate, Dr. Paul Talalay M.D. (also at Johns Hopkins University) broccoli also has potent cancer-fighting capabilities. It turns out they are rich in substances called isothiocyanates which are capable of stimulating the body’s own production of a unique cancer-fighting substance known as a phase 2 enzyme. And according to the work of Dr. Lund of the Institute of Food Research in Norwich UK “A high intake of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a reduced risk of cancer, particularly lung and those of the gastrointestinal tract”.
I always stress that digestive health is the means to overall health, so protect your gut with these high fiber foods.
Be sure to imbibe members of the mighty Brassica family and while pumpkins may be the glamorous gourds of the season, try something new by incorporating it’s underrated cousin the butternut squash into some dishes! Happy eating and happy health for all!