Fall vegetables that should be on your plate
It’s always sad to see ripe summer vegetables fade out, but there is excitement that comes in with the even more interesting and complex vegetables of fall. We know that you can slice a tomato and put it on a plate, but do you know how to enjoy cabbage or Brussels sprouts?
It’s time to get serious about Fall and its variety of colorful vegetables. Here are 9 that we anticipate will wet your palate, and a quick look into their benefits and advice on cooking each one.
When you think about pumpkins, what comes to mind? Jack-o’-lanterns? Pumpkin pie? Charlie Brown? Pumpkin spice lattes? Well, there’s more to these orange gourds than Halloween and sugary desserts and drinks. So, With Thanksgiving just a few days away, it’s time to bust out our favorite fruit of the season. You heard me right…Pumpkin isn’t actually a vegetable, but a very large fruit! It is a cultivar of the squash plant.
→ benefits: We may not think of it, but this fruit is packed with beneficial stuff, both in the meat as well as the seeds.
- The seeds are a good source of protein, magnesium, copper, selenium, iron and zinc1, 2. The fiber and mono-unsaturated fatty acids found in the seeds are good for heart health.3 The fruit is a good source of vitamins like folates, niacin, vitamin B-6 (pyridoxine), thiamin and pantothenic acid.
- It contains a variety of phenolic antioxidants such as hydroxybenzoic, caffeic, coumaric, ferulic, sinapic, protocatechuic, vanillic, and syringic acids, as well as trigonelline and nicotinic acid have been shown to favorably affect insulin and glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in laboratory rats4-6.
- Pumpkin seeds contain many forms of vitamin E. Alpha-, gamma-, and delta-tocopherol, alpha-tocomonoenol and gamma-tocomonoenol are all forms of vitamin E found in pumpkin seeds. The last two have only recently been discovered, and their bioavailability might be greater than some of the other vitamin E forms7.
- Pumpkin is packed with Vitamin A (7 g of Vitamin A per 100 g of fruit), one of the highest within this family8. And who doesn’t already know the benefits of Vitamin A?
- Pumpkin is also an excellent source of many natural polyphenolic flavonoid compounds such as α, ß carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zeaxanthin, which give the fruit its orange or yellow color. Zeaxanthin is a natural antioxidant, specifically found in human retina9 and protects the eye from damage by blue (UV) light, improve vision and scavenge free radicals eyes10.
→ cooking tips: If you’re cooking pumpkin, especially for pie, make sure to buy a pie pumpkin — the little guys. The big ones tend to be too watery and not very flavorful, but work great for Halloween carvings. Once you have a pie pumpkin you can make pumpkin puree to use in homemade pumpkin pie or one of our household’s favorites, coconut curry pumpkin soup. Alternatively, you can roast the pumpkin and eat it like butternut squash or roast the seeds for maximum health benefits.
Rich in phytonutrient antioxidants, this cool season leafy vegetable belongs to the “Brassica” family, a broad family of common vegetables that also include brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, kale, and broccoli. The best time to spy cabbage out at your local farmers market is NOW. These cruciferous vegetables ripen at the end of the summer and also get a little sweeter as the weather gets colder. There are different kinds of cabbage: light-green, savoy, red/purple, bok-choy, and nappa.
→ benefits: Cabbage is an impressive vegetable, by any standard. The benefits literally top the charts, especially in Cancer prevention.
- Fresh, dark green-leafy cabbage is incredibly nutritious; but very low in fat and calories. 100 g of leaves provide just 25 calories.
- Fresh cabbage is an excellent source of natural antioxidant, vitamin C (35+ mg per 100 g)11. It is also rich in essential vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B-5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential in the sense that our body requires them from external sources to replenish.
- The vegetable is a storehouse of phytochemicals like thiocyanates, indole-3-carbinol, lutein, zeaxanthin, sulforaphane, and isothiocyanates12. Red cabbage is even more unique in that it contains a special class of polyphenols called anthocyanins (class of molecules called flavonoids)13.
- The total antioxidant strength (TE) measured in terms of oxygen radical absorbance capacity or ORAC value, green cabbage scores 529 µmol TE/100 g. Red cabbages contains an impressive 2,496 µmol TE/100 g.
- It also contains adequate amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.
- Cabbage is a very good source of vitamin K, which plays an important role in bone metabolism.
*Note: Cabbage may contain “goitrogens,” certain plant-derived compounds, especially found in cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, etc., may cause swelling of thyroid gland and should be avoided in individuals with thyroid dysfunction.
→ What to do with it: Cabbage is a staple in our kitchen; shred it and use it in this delicious Apple Cabbage Salad with Cider Vinaigrette. Here’s a couple of our favorite ways to eat it.
Sautéed Cabbage with Cumin (side dish for fish, chicken or beef).
- Shred one small head of green cabbage
- Slice one medium size onion
- One teaspoon cumin, salt and pepper
- Sautee onion in coconut oil. Add the cabbage, cumin, salt and pepper and let it cook until cabbage turns a bit soft. Enjoy!
Red Cabbage Salad
We dedicate this recipe to our friend Bruce, who shared it with us some time ago and has since become one of favorite, yet simple salads.
- Chop and shred one small head of cabbage
- Chop one bunch of parsley
- Add salt (we use Pink salt), pepper and cumin
- Add balsamic vinegar and olive oil and enjoy!
Don’t forget about pickled cabbage! It’s filled with probiotic goodness…your tummy will love you for it.
Although carrots are available throughout the year, they are in season by end of the summer and fall season when they are the freshest and most flavorful. While we usually associate carrots with their usual orange color, carrots can actually be found in a host of other colors including white, yellow, red, or purple. In fact, purple, yellow and red carrots were the only color varieties of carrots to be cultivated before the 15th or 16th century.
→ benefits: Carrots are perhaps best known for their rich supply of the antioxidant nutrient, beta-carotene. However, these delicious root vegetables are the source of a wide variety of other phytonutrients.
- Carrots are a rich source of carotenoids (alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, lutein), Hydroxycinnamic acids (caffeic acid, coumaric acid, ferulic acid), Anthocyanindins (cyanidins, malvidins)
- Carrots contain another category of phytonutrients called polyacetylenes, the most important of which are falcarinol and falcarindiol14. Several studies have identified these carrot polyacetylenes* as phytonutrients that in conjunction with beta-carotene can help inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells15.
- Different varieties of carrots contain differing amounts of phytonutrients. Red and purple carrots, for example, are best known for the rich anthocyanin content. Orange ones are rich in terms of beta-carotene, which accounts for 65% of their total carotenoid content. In yellow carrots, 50% of the total carotenoids come from lutein.
*Note: At high concentrations, some polyacetylenes are known to be potent skin sensitizers (think Poison Ivy), and to be neurotoxic, but at low concentrations (such as those present on most fruits and veggies), they show selective cytotoxic activity against cancer cells.
→ What to do with them: Roast, sautee or puree! Oh, Moroccan Carrot Soup is absolutely delightful too. We can’t forget carrot cakes (with bananas…kids love them). Cooking significantly increases the bioavailability of the phytonutrients (e.g., beta-carotene, lutein, etc) in carrots compared to the raw form16. Check out these tips on cutting carrots: How To Cut, Slice & Dice Carrots. We love using carrots in juices:
The Rainbow juice (talk about a super food)
- 2 large carrots
- 1 beet
- 1 cup of Kale (this can add bitterness to the juice so don’t overdo it).
- 2 large apples
- spinach and parsley
- Add all these ingredients in your juicer and squeeze
*Note: This juice is a potent drink packed with nutrients…we recommend it during the day or in the morning. You can add your favorite fruits for a bit of sweeter taste, especially for kids who don’t like to eat veggies and fruits.
4. Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts have been the sexy little thing the last few years. Their small shape and mild cabbage flavor have made them a hit in healthy kitchens. The small size means that they roast beautifully, with crispy charred edges.
→ benefits: Brussels sprouts provide special nutrient support for three of our body’s systems, especially in relation to cancer; (1) the detox system, (2) the antioxidant system, and (3) the anti-inflammatory system.
- Detox system – There is evidence that the key enzymes in our cells required for detoxification of cancer-causing substances can be activated by isothiocyanates17, which are compounds made from glucosinolates found in Brussels sprouts18. Glucosinolates are important phytonutrients for our health because they are the chemical starting points for a variety of cancer-protective substances. The total glucosinolate content in Brussels sprouts is greater than the amount found in mustard greens, turnip greens, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, or broccoli. The cancer protection we get from Brussels sprouts is largely related to four specific glucosinolates found in this cruciferous vegetable: glucoraphanin, glucobrassicin, sinigrin, and gluconasturtiian19. Research has shown that Brussels sprouts offer these cancer-preventive components in special combination.
- Antioxidant system – Brussels sprouts are an important dietary source vitamins C and A, and manganese. Flavonoid antioxidants like isorhamnetin, quercitin, and kaempferol are also found in Brussels sprouts, as are the antioxidants caffeic acid and ferulic acid. Some of the compounds in Brussels sprouts are somewhat rare in other foods. One such compound is a sulfur-containing compound called D3T (3H-1,2-dithiole-3-thione), which is very effective at activating the body’s natural antioxidant enzymes20.
- Anti-inflammatory system – Brussels sprouts can help us avoid chronic, excessive inflammation through a variety of nutrients. First is their rich glucosinolate content. In addition to the detox-supportive properties (see above), glucosinolates regulate the body’s anti-inflammatory system. One of these glucosinolates is glucobrassicin, which when converted into an isothiocyanate molecule called I3C (or indole-3-carbinol) can act as an anti-inflammatory compound at the genetic level21, 22. A second important anti-inflammatory nutrient found in Brussels sprouts is vitamin K, which is a direct regulator of inflammatory responses. A third important anti-inflammatory component in Brussels sprouts is omega-3 fatty acids, which are among the body’s most effective families of anti-inflammatory messaging molecules.
- When steamed, Brussels sprouts can provide you with some special cholesterol-lowering benefits. It allows the fiber-related components do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract, facilitating for bile acids (which contain cholesterol) to be excreted, which results in reduction of your cholesterol levels23.
→ What to do with them: We recommend steaming Brussels sprouts for maximum nutrition and flavor. The fiber in steamed version binds more effectively to bile salts, lowering cholesterol (see above benefits). Fill the bottom of a steamer pot with 2 – 3 inches of water and steam for 6 minutes. While they are usually served as a side dish, they also make a great addition to cold salads.
Long prized for its deeply purple, glossy beauty as well as its unique taste and texture, eggplants are now available in markets throughout the year, but are at their very best from late summer through mid fall when they are in season. They belong to the nightshade family of vegetables, which also includes tomatoes, sweet peppers and potatoes.
→ benefits: Aside from a host of vitamins and minerals, this fall favorite also packs a punch when it comes to phytonutrients, which include phenolic compounds, such caffeic and chlorogenic acid, and flavonoids, such as nasunin.
- Eggplants are rich sources of 13 different phenolic compounds, with a predominance of chlorogenic acid, which is one of the most potent free radical scavengers found in plant tissues. Benefits attributed to chlorogenic acid include antimutagenic (anti-cancer), antimicrobial, anti-LDL (bad cholesterol) and antiviral activities.
- Eggplants contain an anthocyanin called nasunin, which is not only a potent free-radical scavenger, but is also an iron chelator24, 25. Nasunin has been shown to reduce cholesterol and improve blood flow in rats24.
→ What to do with them: Use a stainless steel knife when cutting eggplants as carbon steel will react with its phytonutrients and cause it to turn black. The larger ones and those that are white in color generally have tough skins that may not be palatable. However, most of the phytonutrient benefits are found in the skin. In our experience, the following works really well:
- Peel the skin in alternate pattern along the length of the eggplant. This will allow you to reap the benefits the skin provides without the bitterness. Talk about having your cake and eating it too!
- Soak for 30 minutes in salt water (not too salty).
- Remove from salt water and wash.
- Cut the eggplant along its length (thickness of ~0.5cm).
- Sautee in a healthy oil such as coconut oil for 2 minutes on either side.
- Add freshly chopped garlic to this mix and allow to sautee together.
- (optional); Add tomato sauce (or paste) and mix in your favorite spices (black pepper and turmeric work really well)
- Serve while hot
Potatoes are available year-round, and yes, they tend to be more associated with starches than proper veggies. When eaten plain, are good sources of nutrients and vitamin C, and they are great fall meal basics that go with just about anything in your fridge.
→ benefits: This staple food is known for its starch content and depending on it’s prepared, this starch can have a high or more moderate glycemic load (i.e., sugar content) in the system. Potatoes are also a high source of potassium and vitamin B6.
→ What to do with them: The healthiest way to eat potatoes are by far the most boring; Bake them, mash them, put them in the fridge (important) and eat. As boring as this sounds, the cooling allows amylose (a polymer of glucose found in potato) to tightly aggregate, forming what is called resistant starch. Basically, this means that the salivary enzyme amylase cannot break the starch into individual glucose monomers and the starch goes down to the intestines undigested where the gut flora will metabolize it into short chain fatty acids and other beneficial metabolites.
Below is a potato salad recipe that Liza has perfected which gives this staple food a more tasteful flare.
- 4 large potatoes
- 1 large carrot
- 2 hard boiled eggs
- 6 large pickles
- half a package of frozen green peas
- mayo, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper
- chop all these ingredients and mix them in a bowl. Add desired amount of mayo, one teaspoon mustard, and one tablespoon vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste.
7. Sweet Potatoes
Although they are a traditional holiday favorite, these sweet delights can be a meal all by themselves in the fall! Be sure to include them in your diet, year round. They are some of the most nutritious vegetables around. But, before we go nuts, do you know the difference between sweet potatoes and yams? Confusing, perhaps. Good to know, you bet!
→ benefits: How sweet it is for your health to eat sweet potatoes (or yams)! Where do we begin when describing the health benefits of sweet potatoes (or yams)? Many people think about sweet potatoes as nothing more than “flavorful” plain old potatoes. Yet, cutting-edge research tells us that nothing could be further from the truth as they have so many unique nutritional benefits to offer!
- Sweet potatoes may be one of nature’s unsurpassed sources of beta-carotene with a superior ability to raise our blood levels of vitamin A.
- Sweet potatoes are not always orange-fleshed on the inside but can also be a spectacular purple color as a result of activation of two genes, IbMYB1 and IbMYB2 that produce the purple anthocyanin pigments—primarily peonidins and cyanidins—responsible for the rich purple tones of the flesh26. These anthocyanidins have important antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory properties in our digestive tract, where they lower the potential health risk of heavy metals and oxygen radicals.
- Cooking also affects the nutritional benefits derived from sweet potatoes. For example, steaming shows excellent preservation of anthocyanins by deactivating the peroxidase enzymes that break down anthocyanins27. On the other hand, boiling exhibits better blood sugar effects (including the achievement of a lower glycemic index, or GI value) compared to boiling28.
- Anthocyanins in sweet potato are equally valuable for their amazing anti-inflammatory health benefits. For example, extracts of sweet potato can reduce typical markers of inflammation such as nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB), inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), and malondialdehyde (MDA)29. We believe that sweet potato phytonutrients will mark a clear role for this unappreciated food in inflammation-related health problems.
- Equally fascinating about sweet potato phytonutrients is their impact on fibrinogen (a key player in blot clot formation). Excess presence of fibrinogen and fibrin can trigger unwanted secretion of pro-inflammatory molecules (including cytokines and chemokines). Sweet potato extracts have been shown to reduce these inflammatory signals, through regulation of fibrinogen levels.
- One of the more intriguing nutrient groups provided by sweet potatoes are the resin glycosides—batatins and batatosides30—which have been shown to have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
→ What to do with it: There are a number of great options for cooking sweet potatoes. While healthy steaming is our favorite, here are some additional options: Boiling has been shown to be very effective at increasing the bioavailability of beta-carotene from sweet potatoes. Consumption of boiled and mashed sweet potatoes has been shown to raise blood levels of vitamin A in children31, 32. Compared to roasting or baking, boiling has a more favorable impact on blood sugar regulation and provides sweet potatoes with a lower glycemic index (GI) value33. However, boiling in water could result in the leeching of water-soluble nutrients from the sweet potato.
To throw another wrench in this sweet equation, beta-carotene is best absorbed with fat-containing foods. Stir-frying in oil is one way to enhance this bioavailability. But heating the vegetable in oil compromises some of the nutrients in the sweet potato.
So, what are we supposed to do? Boil or stir-fry? While we recognize boiling and stir-frying as viable options, our favorite way is steaming of sweet potatoes for maximum nutrition and flavor. What about the fat you ask? Well, it’s simple really. It’s easy to add a small amount of fat (e.g., a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil) to your sweet potato recipe after the sweet potatoes have been cooked. This way, you will avoid any heating that may damage their heat-sensitive nutrients. At the same time, you’ll avoid submersion of the sweet potato in boiling water.
Steaming sweet potatoes
The steaming method for sweet potatoes is quite simple:
- Fill the bottom of a steamer pot with 2 – 3 inches of water and bring to a boil.
- While waiting for the water to boil, slice potatoes into 1/2-inch slices.
- Steam for ~7 minutes
Here’s where things get a bit more interesting:
- Take a Tbsp of virgin coconut oil and heat it in a pan
- Add ½ tsp of turmeric to it and cook slowly
- Add black pepper to the mix (tidbit: Peperine, the active ingredient of black pepper increased bioavailability of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric by 2000%34)
- Fine chop a handful of cilantro/parsley and add this to the oil mixture and stir for 30 seconds
- Add on top of the potato slices and enjoy
Sweet Potato side dish
- 4 – 5 sweet potatoes, washed, peeled and sliced
- one table spoon of organic cane sugar or brown sugar (to your taste)
- sliced almonds
- one cup of prunes
- organic coconut oil.
- One cup of orange juice (add more if needed)
- Sautee the sweet potatoes in coconut oil for 8-10 minutes. Add sugar, orange juice, almonds and prunes and cook until potatoes are soft.
Caution: Sweet potatoes are among a small number of foods that contain measurable amounts of oxalates (naturally occurring substances found in plants, animals). When there’s too much oxalates in body fluids, they crystallize. Individuals with already existing and untreated kidney or gallbladder problems may want to avoid eating sweet potatoes (and other oxalate containing foods such as spinach, beet greens, or rhubarb). Studies have shown that oxalates may also interfere with absorption of calcium from the body. Here’s a LIST of foods that contain oxalates.
Cauliflower is at its best and freshest in the fall. It is a cruciferous vegetable, belonging to the same plant family as broccoli, kale, cabbage and collards. It has a compact head (called a “curd”). Surrounding the curd are ribbed, coarse green leaves that protect it from sunlight, delaying the development of chlorophyll. This process contributes to the white coloring of most of the varieties we see. Like all these other vegetables, it’s wonderful roasted, but it can do so much more.
→ benefits: Like Brussels sprouts, the nutrients in cauliflower provide support for three of our body’s systems; (1) detox, (2) antioxidant, and (3) anti-inflammatory.
- Detox system – The detox support include antioxidant nutrients to boost Phase 1 and sulfur-containing nutrients to boost Phase 2 detoxification activities. Like Brussel sprouts, cauliflower does this through phytonutrients called glucosinolates that activate detoxification enzymes and regulate their activity. The three major glucosinolates in cauliflower are glucobrassicin, glucoraphanin, and gluconasturtiian19.
- Antioxidant system – As an excellent source of vitamin C, and a very good source of manganese, cauliflower provides us with two of the core conventional antioxidants. But this support extends far beyond the conventional nutrients into the realm of phytonutrients. Beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, caffeic acid, cinnamic acid, ferulic acid, quercetin, rutin, and kaempferol are among cauliflower’s key antioxidant phytonutrients, which help lower the risk of oxidative stress in our cells.
- Anti-inflammatory system – cauliflower is packed with vitamin K, a direct regulator of our inflammatory response. In addition, one of the glucosinolates found in cauliflower—glucobrassicin (also found in Brussels sprouts)—can be readily converted into an isothiocyanate molecule called ITC, or indole-3-carbinol, a potent anti-inflammatory compound21, 22.
→ What to do with it: We suggest sautéeing cauliflower rather than the more traditional methods of boiling or steaming, which makes them watery, mushy and causes them lose flavor. Cut cauliflower into quarters and let them sit for 5 minutes before cooking. For an exceptional taste, add 1 tsp of turmeric (don’t forget theblack pepper) when adding the cauliflower to the skillet.
Yes, yes, we know…Kale has gotten so much Media attention, it’s become a fad of sorts. Everybody from every corner of life seems to talk about it. But it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still cold weather staple, and it’s at its best this time of year (well!! actually, it is in season from the middle of winter through the beginning of spring when it has a sweeter taste and is more widely available… After the first frost or even snow kale gets so mild and sweet but what’s a few months?)— you won’t find a more perfect time to put it to good use.
→ benefits: Kale is an excellent source of vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids), vitamin C, vitamin K, copper, and manganese. It is a very good source of vitamin B6, dietary fiber, calcium, potassium, vitamin E, vitamin B2, iron, magnesium, vitamin B1, omega-3 fatty acids phosphorus, protein, folate, and niacin.
Kale’s health benefits have been clearly linked to its unusual concentration of two types of antioxidants, namely, carotenoids and flavonoids. Within the carotenoids, lutein and beta-carotene are standout antioxidants in kale. Researchers have demonstrated the ability of kale to raise blood levels of these carotenoids. This is important because lutein and beta-carotene are key nutrients in the protection of our body from oxidative stress.
With respect to flavonoids, Over 71 different flavonoid glycosides have been identified in kale35. With kaempferol and quercetin heading the list, kale’s flavonoids combine both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits in way that gives kale a leading dietary role with respect to prevention and regulation chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. Kale is a top food source for at least five glucosinolates—glucobrassicin, glucoraphanin, gluconasturtiian, glucopaeolin, and sinigrin—once kale is eaten and digested, these glucosinolates can be converted by the body into cancer preventive compounds. Kale’s glucosinolates and the ITCs made from them have well-documented health properties.
The isothiocyanates (ITCs) made from kale’s glucosinolates have been shown to help regulate detox activities in our cells. Most toxins that pose a risk to our body must be detoxified by our cells using a two-step process, usually called Phase I and Phase II detoxification system. The ITCs made from kale’s glucosinolates have been shown to favorably modify both detox steps (Phase I and Phase II). In addition, the unusually large numbers of sulfur compounds in kale have been shown to help support aspects of Phase II detoxification that require the presence of sulfur. The ITCs make from kale’s glucosinolates should help protect our stomach lining from bacterial overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori and should help avoid too much clinging by this bacterium to our stomach wall.
→ What to do with it: To get the most health benefits from kale, let sit for a minimum of 5 minutes before cooking. Sprinkling with lemon juice before letting them sit can further enhance its beneficial phytonutrient concentration. Steaming Kale has special cholesterol-lowering benefits23. Like Brussels sprouts, the fiber-related components in kale do a better job of binding together with bile acids in your digestive tract when they’ve been steamed. When this binding process takes place, it’s easier for bile acids to be excreted, and the result is a lowering of your cholesterol levels. Alternatively toss it with your favorite greens such as this delicious Kale salad with tomatoes, olives and feta cheese. Or simply use it in making your favorite juice.
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