Today I’m highlighting six fruit and veggie all-stars at the peak of taste, nutrition and affordability in the US in October and the nutrients each offers. Use the list following this post to learn these nutrients’ specific health benefits.
With over 7500 varieties available, every person should be able to find at least one she enjoys. Which is handy since apples provide vitamins A, B-1, B-2, B-6 and C; minerals phosphorus and potassium; phytonutrients beta carotene, epicatechin, lutein, quercetin, procyanidin B2 and zeaxanthin. Consume with the peel to get all the fiber they offer.
Apples run the spectrum from sweet to tart, soft to firm and juicy to dry. Some brown quickly after cutting, others are more forgiving. The specific properties each variety has makes it ideal for some preparations but not so for others. For example, gala apples are sweet, juicy and relatively small, making them perfect snacks for kids. While Granny Smith apples are firm, tart and slower to brown after slicing, making them great for fresh salads. Do some homework before purchasing to ensure you get the right apples for the job.
Turns out Grandma was right to tell us carrots are good for our eyes. Carrots contain the known eye-health antioxidants vitamin A, carotenes and lutein. These root veggies also boast vitamin C and the vitamin B complex. In addition to the antioxidant falcarinol, they also contain the minerals calcium, copper, manganese, phosphorus and potassium.
Like most vegetables, carrots offer plenty of fiber. You can boost the fiber by consuming with the peels. It’ll take a little extra time and elbow grease to scrub the dirt off but it’s worth the effort in nutrition and flavor.
These beautiful, tart berries have an impressive list of nutrients including vitamins A, B-9 and C and the minerals manganese and potassium. But the real beauty of cranberries is their highest score of all berries on a scale that measures antioxidant levels (ORAC scale) in foods. Cranberries contain the phytochemicals anthocyannis, quercetin, carotenes, lutein and zeaxanthin. This unique combination at high levels gives cranberries powerful anti-bacterial properties especially in blood vessels and teeth, as an anti-plaque agent, and in the urinary tract and bladder to fight infections and stones.
Fresh cranberries are available now, so get them while you can. But, consider buying them in frozen form out of season to take advantage of their health benefits year round.
The same oils found in anise are found in fennel, giving both the tell-tale odor and taste of licorice. One of these oils, anethole, is believed to have anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Known primarily for its use in Italian dishes, the fennel bulb contains the B vitamin complex but boasts a high amount of folate in particular. Fennel also contains vitamin C, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium and zinc.
The fennel bulb, which resembles a fattened celery bunch base, can be sliced thin and eaten raw in salads. In its raw form, it has a fresh, cool, mild flavor. To impart more of an anise flavor, cook the fennel. Any cooking method that induces caramelization, such as braising, roasting or grilling, will add a sweet element close to candied licorice. The entire plant is edible. So don’t toss the dill-like leaves which can be utilized like an herb in any dish.
Sweet potatoes, as the name suggests, do contain natural sugars. But they’re in the form of complex carbohydrates and are absorbed slowly, which makes them acceptable tubers for diabetics. They offer vitamins A, B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5 and B-6; minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese and potassium. This particular combination of vitamins and minerals make these tubers dynamite for heart health. Sweet potatoes also have ample amounts of carotenes and fiber, particularly if the peel is consumed along with the flesh.
I’ve seen grocers display sweet potatoes and yams interchangeably. However, they’re different, each reigning from two separate tuber families. If your store has mixed them up, note that sweet potatoes are smaller than yams and have thinner, smoother skins.
Otherwise known as butternut squash, winter squash is off the charts with vitamin A levels. This along with the phytonutrients carotenes, cryptoxanthin and lutein make them optimal for eye health and lowering risk for lung and oral cancers. In addition, butternut squash is high in the B vitamin complex, fiber and the minerals iron, zinc, copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
Whole winter squash can be stored for weeks, even months, under the proper conditions. Keep them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place for the longest possible shelf life.
See below for a list of the nutrients and their benefits cited in this post and enjoy the first fruits of fall!
Vitamin A: Antioxidant promotes immunity function and eye, skin & red blood cell health
Vitamin B-1 (Thiamin): Metabolism of carbohydrates
Vitamin B-2 (Riboflavin): Converts food to energy
Vitamin B-3 (Niacin): Generates energy for cells
Vitamin B-5 (Pantothenic Acid): Metabolic necessity
Vitamin B-6 (Pyridoxine): Blood health and to feel energized
Vitamin B-9 (Folate): Necessary for new blood cells & fetal development
Vitamin C: Antioxidant boosts immunity
Calcium: Electrolyte for strong teeth and bones
Copper: Antioxidant promotes healthy blood and eye, brain, skin and bone tissue
Iron: Antioxidant for blood health
Magnesium: Electrolyte for nerve function and heart & blood glucose regulation
Manganese: Antioxidant for bone health and blood sugar regulation
Phosphorus: Healthy bones, digestion & hormone regulation
Potassium: Electrolyte assists blood pressure control
Selenium: Antioxidant for DNA synthesis
Zinc: Antioxidant for healing and healthy skin
Fiber: Technically not a nutrient but essential for digestive health & an aid in weight control
- Anthocyannis: anti-allergy, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial
- Carotenes (Alpha & Beta): anti-aging & eye health
- Cryptoxanthin: anti-inflammatory carotene
- Epicatechin: May reduce risk for heart disease, diabetes & cancer
- Falcarinol: Studies show it destroys pre-cancer cells in tumors
- Lutein: eye health carotene
- Procyanidin B2: Anti-aging, pro hair growth
- Quercitin/Flavonols: heart & respiratory anti-inflammatory
- Zeaxanthin: eye health carotene
Sources: visualnews.com, wisebread.com, nutrition-and-you.com, Harvard.edu, webMD