Fall foods really have some amazing health benefits when prepared correctly.
No, I'm not talking about your pumpkin flavored chips or cookies, but the actual naturally grown foods like sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, berries, apples, and of course, pumpkin.
Not only are they delicious, but they all pack a punch in the nutrient department and can leave you healthier from the inside out.
Take a look at how beneficial these foods can be and discover some delicious recipes in the meantime.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF FALL SUPERFOODS
Pumpkin seeds pack about 1.7 grams of dietary fiber per ounce, while mashed pumpkin has only 50 calories per cup and 3 grams of fiber. Fiber helps keep you fuller longer, which keeps your appetite at bay so you eat less overall.
A cup of cubed pumpkin contains almost twice the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which promotes good vision, especially in dim light, according to the National Institutes of Health. It has also been found to slow the decline of retinal function in those with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that can lead to blindness, according to researchers from Harvard. Bonus: Vitamin A also helps form and maintain healthy skin, teeth and bones.
Lower Blood Pressure
Pumpkin seed oil is full of phytoestrogens, which research shows are beneficial for preventing hypertension. When researchers fed rats a diet supplement with the oil, they found that it helped lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in just 12 weeks.
Pumpkin seeds are rich in tryptophan, the amino acid that contributes to post-Thanksgiving dinner sleepiness. Tryptophan is also responsible for helping the body make serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter that helps you relax and unwind. Not only do pumpkin seeds promote better sleep, the serotonin will improve your mood. Bonus!
Have a Healthier Heart
All that fiber can also help protect your ticker, research shows. One Harvard study of over 40,000 male health professionals found that those who ate a diet high in fiber had a 40 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease, compared to those who ate a diet low in fiber. A more recent study by Swedish researchers found that women who ate a diet high in fiber had a 25 percent lower risk of heart disease compared with women who ate a low fiber diet.
"An apple a day keeps the doctor away" is an old Welsh proverb that most of us are familiar with, but what makes this fruit so special?
Apples are extremely rich in important antioxidants, flavanoids and dietary fiber.
The phytonutrients and antioxidants in apples may help reduce the risk of developing cancer, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.
Apples have been found to protect neuron cells against oxidative stress-induced neurotoxicity and may play an important role in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease.
Three servings of apples (and other fruits, such as blueberries and grapes) is linked to a 7 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes. This may be due to their beneficial role in blood sugar regulation, as apples contain compounds that may lessen absorption of glucose from your digestive tract, stimulate beta cells in your pancreas to secrete insulin and increase uptake of glucose from your blood by stimulating insulin receptors.
Eating apples is associated with a lower risk of death from heart disease, an association that's thought to be related to their content of antioxidant flavonoids.
Because much of the antioxidant content of an apple is found in its peel, you'll want to leave the peel on when you eat it. For this reason, look for organic apples, which will be free from pesticides and other chemicals.
Apples are one of the most pesticide-contaminated fruits there is, so if you're planning to eat more apples, make them organic. If you purchase conventional apples, briefly soaking them in a solution of 10 percent vinegar to 90 percent water may help to remove some pesticides (and bacteria).
BLUEBERRIES (in certain areas)
While blueberries are more of a late summer/early fall type of fruit, they are still worth mentioning either fresh or frozen.
Blueberries are one of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world and contain large levels and a broad range of antioxidants.
Some blueberry benefits include fighting cancer, losing weight and glowing, young skin. Blueberries are also rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and other antioxidants that lead to its numerous other health benefits.
Antioxidants are your best friend to keep Father Time at bay. They help reverse damage done by toxins and free radicals and help your body defend itself against dangerous pathogens.
Not only are blueberries rich in antioxidants as a whole, but they are especially rich in proanthocyanidins, which have been observed to have additional anti-aging properties in several animal studies.
Much of the research has linked this to the ability of proanthocyanidins to reverse inflammation, the No. 1 of chronic disease in the world. Inflammation is at the root of most diseases and taxes the body like no other — it causes heart disease, diabetes, cancer and almost every illness known to man.
Boost the Brain
Because they contain such a high amount of phenols, particularly gallic acid, blueberries are known as “neuro-protective agents.” According to researchers from Iran, this means that they can literally protect our brains from degeneration, neurotoxicity and oxidative stress.
Another study found that consuming more blueberries slowed cognitive decline and improved memory and motor function. The scientists in this study believed these results were due to the antioxidants in blueberries that protect the body from oxidative stress and reduce inflammation.
Clinical studies have even discovered that, unlike radiation and chemotherapy strategies, gallic acid-rich foods like blueberries can kill cancer without harming healthy cells!
For instance, the Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology published a study evaluating the anticancer effects gallic acid has on breast cancer cells. Like countless studies before, researchers discovered that blueberries and gallic acid slow and even destroy breast cancer.
Blueberry benefits cancer primarily due to their wide range of antioxidants, with gallic acid the primary and resveratrol also offering support.
Being a natural source of soluble and insoluble fiber, blueberries can help regulate your gastrointestinal track by just eating a couple handfuls a day.
Wild blueberries have prebiotic potential, which promotes growth of good bacteria (probiotics) in the colon and promotes digestive and health benefits.
Promote Heart Health
The journal Circulation published a study showing that eating strawberries and blueberries together has a superpower tag-team effect that actually decreases your risk of heart attack by up to 33 percent.
After conducting research with more than 93,000 women 25 to 42 years of age, they did not observe this type of benefit in other types of antioxidants that were studied. Blueberry health benefits have also been shown to lower LDL cholesterol naturally, raise HDL cholesterol and lower blood pressure naturally.
Benefit the Skin
Blueberry extract skin care products are becoming very popular around the world. It’s been reported that the wide spectrum of vitamins and minerals help restore hormone balance, which counteracts acne. That makes blueberries an excellent home remedy for acne.
Also, blueberries contain resveratrol, which is proven to reduce damage from over-sun exposure and can naturally darken your skin. Along with blueberry skin benefits, they have also been shown to naturally treat macular degeneration and improve vision.
By far, one of the most beneficial nutritional aspects of sweet potatoes is that they are an unusually high resource of vitamin A. In fact, no other food on the planet contains more vitamin A than sweet potatoes!
Eating sweet potatoes can greatly enhance the health of your skin due to the high content of beta-carotene, which helps convert vitamin A in your body that triggers DNA responsible to produce new skin cells. Ever wonder why most of your skincare products have retinoic acid and retinol in them?
As your body makes new cells, your old skin is sloughed off and you end up with a vibrant sheen that is more resistant to chemicals and damage. Also, some experts claim that beta-carotene helps reverse free radical damage, which leads to wrinkles.
If you want healthy glowing skin, consider using sweet potato products to help keep your skin hydrated.
Weight Loss Benefits
Sweet potatoes are also a great food to help you lose weight because they are:
- Lower in calories
- Low on the glycemic index (which means that they won’t spike your blood sugar)
- High in fiber
- High in potassium
And, according to the Mayo Clinic,
“Because low glycemic index foods are absorbed more slowly, they stay in your digestive tract longer. This is why these foods are sometimes called slow carbs. These foods may help control appetite and delay hunger cues, which can help with weight management. Balanced blood sugar also can help reduce the risk of insulin resistance.”
Support a Healthy Immune System
Sweet potatoes contain iron and support a healthy immune system.
Most people are aware that we need the mineral iron to have adequate energy, but iron plays other important roles in our body, including red and white blood cell production, resistance to stress, proper immune functioning, and the metabolizing of protein, among other things.
Their rich orange color indicates that they are high in carotenoids, like beta carotene and other carotenoids, which is the precursor to vitamin A in your body. Carotenoids help strengthen our eyesight and boost our immunity to disease, they are powerful antioxidants that help ward off cancer and protect against the effects of aging.
Studies at Harvard University of more than 124,000 people showed a 32 percent reduction in risk of lung cancer in people who consumed a variety of carotenoid-rich foods as part of their regular diet. Another study of women who had completed treatment for early stage breast cancer, conducted by researchers at Women’s Healthy Eating and Living (WHEL), found that women with the highest blood concentrations of carotenoids had the least likelihood of cancer recurrence.
Brussels sprouts have been voted as the most-hated vegetable in both the US and Britain, perhaps because they can be notoriously smelly. But the offensive odor only occurs when these nutritional powerhouses are overcooked – something you definitely want to avoid to preserve both their flavor and nutrients.
Brussels sprouts nutrition is real because it provides many important health benefits: gives plenty of antioxidants, helps to fight cancer and heart disease, restores healthy digestion, alkalizes the body and much more. Brussels sprouts also have a surprisingly high amount of protein for a vegetable, similar to their other leafy greens and cruciferous vegetable family members.
Just a one-cup serving of Brussels sprouts will meet your daily requirement for vitamin C and vitamin K for the day, while also providing plenty of folate, potassium, B vitamins, manganese and loads of other nutrients.
Brussels sprouts are a part of the cruciferous vegetable family, a group of nutritional powerhouse vegetables that are especially important for helping to fight cancer.
Helps Protect Against Cancer
Cruciferous vegetables including Brussels sprouts are associated with a lower risk of cancer because they protect against free radical damage, or oxidative stress, and DNA-mutation.
Researchers have concluded that the antioxidants and enhanced detoxification enzyme levels that people experience after eating Brussels sprouts are partly responsible for stopping DNA damage in which cancerous cells mutate and form tumors.
This decreases the risk for such cancers as skin cancer (melanoma), esophageal, breast, prostate, colon and pancreatic. Additionally, Brussels sprouts also contain a high amount of chlorophyll, which can block carcinogenic effects of cells.
Boosts The Immune System
Brussels sprouts supply a large amount of immune-boosting vitamin C. Vitamin C acts as a protective antioxidant in the body, reducing inflammation and cell damage.
Essential for a strong immune system, in addition to many other functions within the body like normal growth and development, vitamin C’s antioxidants keep your immunity strong against bacteria, viruses, toxins and other harmful invaders that can cause disease and illness.
Because of the protective effects of vitamin C, Brussels sprouts help to maintain the health of your digestive tract, skin, eyes, teeth and gums. Vitamin C foods also protect your cells from free radical damage — and thereby reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, autoimmune responses and more. Pretty awesome!
According to research, cruciferous vegetables can significantly reduce the risk for heart disease. The studies show that high levels of inflammation are directly correlated with an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders.
Brussels sprouts anti-inflammatory abilities are found in its supply of vitamin K, vitamin C, various antioxidants, and even small amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.
They contain phytonutrients, antioxidants and compounds which help to detoxify the body, support liver function, slow down free radical damage and prevent the formation of many common diseases including heart disease.
Just one cup of cooked Brussels sprouts provides 4 grams of dietary fiber, which is important for maintaining digestive health.
Fiber keeps your digestive system running smoothly, encouraging regular bowel movements, preventing constipation or diarrhea and detoxifying the body by pulling toxins and waste out of the digestive tract.
The fiber found in Brussels sprouts also has other important benefits too, such as helping to reduce cholesterol levels and slowing down the absorption of glucose into the blood flow, which means it helps to protect from diabetes and heart disease.
As you can see, fall has it's perks when it comes to good, nutritious food options.
Take advantage of the season and cook up some of these delicious recipes for your friends and family!
You can't go wrong with any of these recipes. They are jam-packed with nutrients and antioxidants that will please even the pickiest eaters.
Enjoy the tastes of fall this season!
What are your favorite fall foods and recipes? Let me know in the comments below!
Yours in Health & Happiness,
P.S. For even more health benefits, be sure to pair your fall foods with Oolong tea twice a day. The antioxidants in the tea provide anti-aging properties, clearer skin, protection against disease and cancers, a boost to your immune system, stronger teeth and bones, and even some awesome weight loss benefits!