Eating Superfoods this Fall

The harvest is in full swing, and with it thoughts of warm, hearty, comforting foods and holiday indulgences are starting to emerge.  Apple and pumpkin pies and slow-cooked hearty stews start replacing fresh green salads and heaping bowls of berries.  Often, the diet of fall and winter tends to be low in nutrients and high in unhealthy fats and refined carbohydrates.  This is because our bodies still believe it is time to go into storage mode so that we can get through the harsh winter months. So what can you do to ensure that your fall menus are both comforting and nutritious?  Add these 10 local superfoods to your meals, and you’ll not only get a ton of nutrients, but you will also satisfy the comfort of rich and hearty foods throughout the cold months.

Apples & Pears
  • Soluble fibre (pectin) and Insoluble fibre
    • Lowers cholesterol and improves gut health
      • 1 large apple per day has been shown to reduce serum cholesterol by 8-11%
      • Reduces both constipation and diarrhea
  • Phytonutrients (flavonoids, antioxidants)
    • High in quercetin – stabilizes immune cells and reduces symptoms of asthma and seasonal allergies
    • Help stabilize blood sugar
  • Reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, asthma and type 2 diabetes

Best Served: raw with skins on

Beets
  • Beet greens are highly nutritious and can be eaten like Swiss chard, kale or spinach
    • High in calcium, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C
  • Beet root contains a number of highly potent antioxidants and many vitamins and minerals
    • Folic acid, manganese, potassium
  • Both contain significant amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, iron and Vitamin B6
  • Improve liver detoxification processes
  • Beet root has significant anti-inflammatory effects on the body
  • The purple-red pigment (betacyanin) is a powerful anti-cancer agent – specifically cancers of the gut
  • Reduces cholesterol levels and improves bowel function through high fibre content

Best Served: raw with skin intact, or steamed lightly for less than 15 minutes or roast for less than 45 minutes

Garlic & Onions
  • High in B6, manganese, selenium, vitamin C, phosphorous, calcium, potassium, iron, sulfur and copper
  • An entire article could be devoted to the health benefits of garlic and onions, so we’ll highlight the main ones:
    • Antimicrobial – inhibits growth of viruses, bacteria and fungi in all tissues of the body
    • Protective against heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels, raising good cholesterol (HDL) an reducing high blood pressure
    • Anti-cancer via the high content of antioxidants present
    • Regulate blood sugar and Reduce asthma through antioxidant and flavonoid content
    • Improve liver detoxification processes due to the high content of selenium
    • Anti-inflammatory properties – reduce inflammation in the system regardless of the source

Best Served: after being crushed or chopped and allowed to sit undisturbed for 5-10 minutes.  This allows the chemicals that are associated with improved health to be oxygenated and available for use.

Kale & Swiss Chard
  • Leafy green vegetable related to the cabbage family
  • Contains high amounts of vitamin A, C, B2, B2, B6 and E, manganese, copper, iron and calcium
  • Reduces cholesterol levels due to the high amounts of fibre present in the leaf
  • Excellent source of calcium, specifically calcium that is more easily absorbed than milk, and is therefore very important in bone health and osteoporosis
  • Anticancer properties due to its high antioxidant and nutrient content, specifically good at preventing bladder, breast, colon, ovary and prostate cancers
  • Significantly improves liver detoxification pathways, helping to reduce toxin load in the body and preventing chronic disease
  • Anti-inflammatory properties associated with the high levels of antioxidants and flavonoids present

Best Served: sliced into strips and steamed for 5 minutes to allow for better availability of all the health-promoting components

Pumpkin & Winter Squash
  • High in vitamin A, Vitamin C, B1, folic acid, B5, B6, B3 and potassium
  • High antioxidant content that help protect against many cancers, specifically lung, prostate, breast and colon cancers
  • High quantity of fibre present in winter squash help fight heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases as well as maintaining good digestive health
  • For more health benefits of pumpkin, see Optimum Integrative Health Centre’s article entitled “Pumpkins: not just for pies and decorations”

Best Served: lightly steamed (7 minutes for ¼” sized pieces) or baked for less than an hour

Yams
  • Most commonly, yet incorrectly referred to as sweet potatoes, yams are the bright orange coloured root vegetable
  • High in potassium, Vitamins B1, B6 and C and manganese
  • Important in women’s health due to the presence of phytoestrogens (plant based molecule) that can help regulate hormone cycles by increasing the amount of estrogen detoxified by the body
    • Thus reducing symptoms of PMS and menopause
  • High amounts of B6 reduce homocysteine levels in the blood which is known to be a major contributor to heart disease
  • Potassium helps reduce and maintain blood pressure, thus reducing the chance of heart disease
  • Anti-inflammatory and antioxidants present help stabilize blood sugar and reduce the risk of diabetes

Best Served: roasted in the oven for less than 60 minutes.

To keep your fall menu healthy and nutritious, make sure to include these 7 superfoods.  For more information on how to buy, store and cook these foods, check out the World’s Healthiest Foods website at www.whfoods.com.  Here you will find easy, nutritious and delicious recipes to get the biggest bang out of your superfoods.