Ah, autumn. Cool crisp weather, vibrant changing leaves—and loads of unhealthy food. Candy, desserts, fat-filled dishes, calorie-laden snacks, and all sorts of dietary pitfalls seem to dominate the holiday season. But this time of year does offer several healthy food options as well. Rather than indulging in all those empty calories in the coming months, make these nutrient-rich, vitamin-packed, seasonal veggies mainstays in your diet. Your health—and your waistline—will benefit.
Broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse that protects against cancer of the colon, breast, bladder, lung, and prostate. Along with cauliflower and other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli contains sulforaphane glucosinolates (SGS) and other phytonutrients that shield cells from DNA damage, boost immune function, and neutralize carcinogens. In a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, older men who ate broccoli or cauliflower more than once a week were about half as likely to be diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer as men who ate these foods less than once a month. The richest source of protective phytonutrients is young broccoli sprouts, sold in grocery stores under the name BroccoSprouts. Call 877-747-1277 or visit broccosprouts.com to find a store near you.
2. Brussels Sprouts
Many people shy away from Brussels sprouts but these much-maligned vegetables are packed full of health benefits and should grace your table on a regular basis this fall. In the same family as broccoli and cauliflower, Brussels sprouts have anti-carcinogenic properties—and they are rich in calcium. They also boast a decent amount of protein and contain lots of fill-you-up fiber and free-radical-scavenging antioxidants. Believe it or not, Brussels sprouts can actually be quite delicious when prepared properly. Try lightly coating them with a little extra-virgin olive oil, seasoning with salt (or salt substitute) and a little pepper, and roasting in a 400 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes. (Shake the pan every now and again so they brown evenly.) Another option is to steam your sprouts and then toss them in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, and pepper.
3. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes dripping with sugary syrups and marshmallows are often a Thanksgiving staple. But these healthy tubers are loaded with the carotenoid beta-carotene as well as potassium and calcium. And they can be good for you, provided you lay off the unhealthy toppings. Try serving baked sweet potatoes in place of regular potatoes with a little Greek yogurt and nutmeg as a topping. Or roast them with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a little butter (organic preferred). Sweet potatoes also make a wonderful addition to soups and stews.
The “meat” of the pumpkin is chock-full of healthy fiber, beta-carotene, and other carotenoids. But the real superstar is the seeds. Pumpkin seeds contain phytonutrients called cucurbitacins, which help slow the growth of the prostate. They do so by inhibiting the transformation of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone, the hormone that fuels benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or age-related enlargement of the prostate. In addition, pumpkin seeds contain high levels of zinc, which not only protects the prostate but also promotes bone, eye, and immune health. In addition, they are loaded with omega-6 essential fatty acids, manganese, and other nutrients. I recommend eating a small handful of pumpkin seeds daily. You’ll find them in your health food store.
Like broccoli, cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable packed with phytonutrients and known for its protective effects against cancer. It’s high in immune-boosting vitamin C and very low in calories. Cauliflower contains very little fat and is also a good source of fiber. Watching your weight? An entire cup (100 g) of raw cauliflower only contains about 25 calories, so feel free to snack away. Raw, steamed, or mashed, you can’t go wrong with this vegetable powerhouse.
So, there you have it. Five fresh, seasonal, health-enhancing foods you simply shouldn’t go without this fall. Bon Appétit!