By Lorna G. Williams
Fall is in the air! The temperatures are turning cooler, the holidays are just around the corner, and the autumn harvest provides us with a bounty of fruits and vegetables from which to make healthy and nutritious food choices. Fall produce is loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber. It is fat free, low in calories, and tastes great. The deep, rich colors of fall fruits and vegetables give us clues to their great nutritional value. It is important to have a variety of color in our diets: the more color the better, and the greater likelihood of an adequate and balanced eating plan.
Flavonoids are found in almost all fall fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids are naturally anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, anti-viral, and they have anti-oxidants which help to reduce the risk of cancer. Beta carotene is an orange pigment found in carrots, butternut and acorn squash, and sweet potatoes. Beta carotene is an important source of vitamin A, which is necessary for normal vision, healthy skin and mucous membranes, bone growth, and tooth development. Beta carotene is a powerful anti-oxidant which is essential for the efficient functioning of the immune system, cancer prevention, prevention of free-radical damage, and the reduction of cardiovascular disease risk.
Green vegetables are great fall choices to add extra nutrients to the diet. Spinach, Swiss chard, collards, and kale have lutein. Lutein promotes eye health, helping to prevent macular degeneration, and is a good source of calcium. Broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage all belong to the cruciferous family of vegetables and are good sources of calcium, potassium, folate and fiber. Folic acid (folate) is important in preventing birth defects. These vegetables are also potent cancer fighters, protect the immune system, help build strong bones, and protect against ulcers and rheumatoid arthritis. The fiber in these foods aids in colon health and helps to fill us up so we eat less. The autumn harvest also provides us with beets, cauliflower, avocados, leeks, turnips, eggplant, and parsnips to add variety and extra nutrients to the diet.
Fall fruits are also filled with important vitamins and nutrients. Apples and cranberries are a great source of fiber, quercitin, and vitamin C. Vitamin C is an important anti-oxidant that helps to reduce the risk of cancer. It is also necessary for the growth and repair of tissues, helps form the connective tissue collagen, keeps capillaries and blood vessels healthy, and aids in the absorption of iron and folate. The pectin fiber in these fruits forms a gel in the intestine which traps cholesterol and increases its excretion, thus helping in the fight against cardiovascular disease. Quercitin, found in the fruit skin, is also an anti-oxidant and may inhibit the production of LDL (bad cholesterol). Figs are a great source of calcium and fiber. Kiwi, pears, grapes, pomegranates, bananas, and citrus fruits are also healthy and flavorful fall fruit choices.
Truly, autumn offers us an overflowing cornucopia of healthy options. By choosing fruits and vegetables that are “in season” you will be getting them at the peak of their nutritive value as well as at the best prices. Help your family eat healthier this fall by picking up some of the best of the fall produce selections. Celebrate autumn’s harvest, not only for its great taste and variety, but also for all the healthy nutrients that fall fruits and vegetables pack.