Autumn is in full swing and is beginning to show off her fall colors in the landscape around us – red, orange and yellow. This is the perfect time of year to look for these same colors in the produce section at the grocery story to reap bountiful health benefits. Foods with these bright colors provide a multitude of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to keep you healthy and well-nourished. Here are foods to look for and try during this colorful season:
Cranberries – This mighty berry is packed with vitamin C, fiber, proanthocyanidins, antioxidants and has only 45 calories per cup. It is well known cranberries can prevent bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract wall helping to prevent urinary tract infections. Fresh cranberries can last up to two months in the refrigerator in a sealed plastic bag. Also try dried cranberries added to cereal, muffins or to a homemade trail mix. Drink 100% cranberry juice for a tasty change.
Red Bell Pepper – Loaded with almost a days’ worth of vitamin A (4,666 international units), one cup contains 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin C. This beauty will keep your eyesight sharp and your immune system running like a charm. Its bright red color comes from the antioxidant lycopene which may prevent prostate cancer in men.
Beets – Yes, beets! Maybe not your favorite food (or maybe it is) but give it a chance. Look at it this way – there are only 26 calories in one-half cup, no fat and it’s a good source of folate, vitamin C, potassium, and manganese. This ancient food grows naturally along coastlines in North Africa, Asia and Europe, and can help lower blood pressure and fight inflammation. Its crimson red color comes from phytochemicals that may help reduce cancer.
Carrots – What’s not to love about carrots. This root vegetable is available year round and is often a mainstay in backyard gardens. Well known for being “good for the eyes” carrots are rich in beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A in the liver and can help decrease your risk of developing macular degeneration, cataracts and night blindness. Beautiful skin, preventing cancer and improved immunity are other benefits carrots provide.
Sweet Potatoes – Fall just wouldn’t be the same without eating a sweet potato. Native to Central and South America, Christopher Columbus brought sweet potatoes back to Europe in 1492. Abounding in vitamin A and C, fiber and iron, this potato lives up to its name “sweet” as it can promote healthy skin, reduce inflammation and may help reduce cancer.
Oranges – Maybe you think of oranges as a summertime fruit, but the season for navel oranges begins in November and lasts through April. This is when oranges are at their peak and a great time to savor their sweetness. With over 170 different phytochemicals and more than 60 flavonoids, one medium orange contains 80 calories, 0 grams of fat and 3 grams of fiber. Eating one orange will provide 130 %t of your vitamin C needs for the day and may possibly reduce your risk of stroke, blood pressure and cancer.
Yellow Peppers – Don’t overlook the yellow pepper. This sweet tasting pepper is a good source of vitamin C and also contains fiber, iron and vitamin A. Its vibrant eye-catching yellow hue is courtesy of a pigment called carotenoids which promote a strong immune system and healthy skin and eyes. Fiber found in yellow peppers helps prevent constipation, lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Pineapple – This fruit is second only to bananas as America’s favorite tropical fruit. Their resemblance to pinecones is what gave pineapples their name and surprisingly, did not originate in Hawaii. Again, Christopher Columbus brought them back to Europe after an expedition to South America. Rich in vitamin C, pineapples are also a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B6, potassium and folate. Fresh pineapple is also a source of an enzyme called bromelain, which studies have shown its effectiveness in alleviating arthritis, joint pain, reducing inflammation and inhibiting tumor growth.
Winter Squash – Different from summer squash, winter squash is harvested and eaten as a mature fruit when the seeds inside have fully developed and the outside skin is hardened into a tough rind. Butternut, spaghetti and acorn squash are common varieties of winter squash you will find in the grocery store. Don’t let their “tough” demeanor intimidate you into trying them out. Their yellow color means they are packed with carotenoids which may help reduce heart disease. They contain minimal fat and one-half cup of acorn squash provides 4.5 grams of fiber. Potassium and vitamin A are other good sources of nutrients squash provide.
Eating the “colors” of fall can add tasty benefits towards good health. Have your breakfast, lunch, and dinner plates include a splash of the seasonal colors – red, orange and yellow. Doing so will help you “fall” into good health in no time.