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nutrition

Fall Superfoods

Posted September 09, 2013

Seasonal veggies that pack a nutritional punch

As you plan your Thanksgiving meal, consider packing it full of nutritious harvest foods that are as enjoyable as they are healthy. Enjoyed as sides or desserts, they can be full of flavor without being laden with harmful saturated fat, sodium and calories. Fall’s bounty of apples, Brussel sprouts, pumpkin, cranberries and root vegetables come to mind. And you don’t have to wait for Thanksgiving to savor these foods; they appear as early as September and remain available through the winter.

Cranberries

Why add them to your table?

Cranberries While too tart to be eaten fresh on their own, cranberries are full of fiber and antioxidants, particularly vitamins A and C, which contain a number of health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. Just a half-cup has more than 10 percent of vitamin C’s RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) and 2 grams of fiber.

What you can do with them

Cranberries are delicious chopped and mixed into brown rice pilaf, dessert crumbles, stuffing, chutneys and even in quickbreads. Cranberries can also be dried for later, adding a twang to cookies and salads. Frozen cranberries work just as well and can be as nutritious as fresh cranberries.

Pumpkins and other winter squashes (like acorn and butternut)

Why add them to your table?

Along with sweet potatoes, these festive produce are full of beta-carotene, a known antioxidant, as well as vitamins C, fiber and potassium. These store well and can be eaten all winter long. Pumpkins in particular are full of iron, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin, the latter two antioxidants offering heart-protective benefits as well as anti-aging and eye health benefits.

Canned pumpkin offers the same health benefits of fresh but can be a little more convenient to purchase and use. Although canned pumpkin may have slightly less fiber than fresh, it has more bioavailable beta carotene due to heat used in the canning process. And pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitos, are a good source of protein, fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and other nutrients.

What you can do with them

Winter squashes can be used in anything from soups to pies to pancakes. They’re also delicious just roasted on their own. And don’t forget to roast pumpkin seeds to bring out their delicious flavor.

Root vegetables

Why add them to your table?

These vegetables, such as celeriac and turnips, are rich in fiber and can also be stored for longer periods than other produce.  

What you can do with them

Roasted root vegetables are a welcome surprise on the Thanksgiving table and can be delightfully accented with persimmons, another winter fruit that is rich in vitamin C.

Apples

Why add them to your table?

Don’t let pumpkins get all the fall glory; apples are nature’s perfect grab-and-go snack and a good source of soluble fiber which can help lower “bad” artery-clogging LDL cholesterol. Packed with antioxidants, apples have been linked in research to lower risk of heart disease and the related metabolic syndrome.

What you can do with them

There are many varieties that can be enjoyed as part of a meal or as satisfying desserts or baked goods. Whether tart or sweet, soft or firm, apples are so versatile that any palate can find a pleasing option.

Brussel sprouts

Why add them to your table?

This cabbage cousin delivers more than 3 grams of cholesterol-lowering soluble fiber per cup and has its best flavor when harvested in winter. They are full of disease-fighting phytonutrients as well as iron, folate, antioxidants, potassium and fiber.

What you can do with them

Who can resist a Brussel sprout? Just steam them and serve (make sure you don’t overcook them or their slight sweetness will turn bitter.)  You can also grill or sauté them with cooking spray or a dab of soft tub margarine.

 

 By Teller Stalfort