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As the leaves begin to turn and the temperatures start to drop, signs of autumn are everywhere. Just what is it about the fall season that brings about feelings of nostalgia? Memories of Thanksgiving celebrations, football season and cozy sweaters come to mind — and the irresistible assortment of fall foods that accompany them.
“Evolutionarily, we are designed to eat according to the seasons for important reasons,” says Nicole Visnic, CCN, the ambassador of nutrition at LifeSpan Medicine. “Foods are at their nutritional peak, they provide properties that help keep our bodies comfortable during changing temperatures, and best of all, the flavor of in-season food is unparalleled. Fall foods are designed to prepare our bodies for low food supply in the winter and to provide rich sources of vitamins and minerals to fill our nutrient reserves.”
Looking for some new fall staples? Visnic shares her five seasonal favorites:
This fruit has enough varieties and flavors to appeal to everyone — sweet, tart and even sour make apples nature’s candy. Beyond the incredible taste, apples are an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, beta carotene and a class of phytochemicals called flavonoids.
“One flavonoid that deserves attention is quercetin,” Visnic says. “Quercetin helps quench reactive oxygen species, which are responsible for DNA damage. Quercetin is also effective in reducing allergy symptoms.”
She suggests choosing organic apples because conventional apples are heavily sprayed with pesticides and can be coated with wax. (The shinier the apple, the more wax.) Choose apples that are heavy and dense, which is an indicator there is more moisture and unlikely to be mealy. To retain nutrients and increase storage life, it’s best to keep them in the refrigerator.
Apple Cinnamon Black Tea
· 1 apple
· 15 oz water
· 1-2 black tea bags
· ½ tbsp honey
· cinnamon powder
1. Peel apple and chop into small pieces.
2. Heat skillet under medium-low heat, cook apple pieces with honey for about five minutes. Add water and one to two pinches of cinnamon powder. Bring to boil.
3. Soak tea bag(s) in mixture. Take out after three to five minutes.
Beyond the obvious fall foods like corn, squash and pumpkin, there is a category of fall vegetables called brassicas. Brassica vegetables — such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage — have unique properties like improving liver detoxification and have even been shown to prevent cancer. One particularly noteworthy compound found in brassicas is glucoraphanin.
“When you eat brassicas, your body converts glucoraphanin into sulforaphane,” Visnic says. “Sulforaphane is one of those compounds everyone living in the modern world needs in their diet. This powerhouse compound induces liver detoxification and even inhibits the development of cancer cells. Food truly is medicine!”
Choose Brussels sprouts and broccoli that are vibrant green and free of wilting. Store in the refrigerator to keep fresh.
· 2 cups Brussels sprouts, quartered
· 2 cups sweet potatoes, chopped
· ½ large honey crisp apple, chopped
· ¼ cup olive oil
· Juice of ½ orange + zest
· 3 cloves garlic
· 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
· ½ tsp sea salt
· shredded manchego cheese (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Grease bottom of large baking dish with butter, ghee or coconut oil. Place Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and apples in dish and bake 45 minutes.
3. Mix together olive oil, orange juice, apple cider vinegar, garlic and sea salt and whisk until thoroughly combined.
4. Once ingredients are done cooking, remove from oven and coat with dressing. Gently mix until dressing coats entire dish.
It’s hard to imagine fall without pumpkin. While pumpkin is most commonly associated with jack-o’-lanterns, pie and lattes, this stout fruit has much more to offer than the usual fare.
“Pumpkin is a part of the squash family and is a good source of fiber and also rich in beta carotene and vitamin C,” Visnic says. “A little-known fact about pumpkin flesh is that it works like an adaptogen for bowel function, meaning it helps normalize function — either slowing things down or moving things along, depending on what your body needs.”
The flesh can be used to make baked goods, ravioli, sauce and even smoothies. Pumpkin seeds are even more nutrient dense, containing protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. The seeds are an easy snack and a great topping for salads. Choose pumpkins with a hard, tough rind and avoid those that have soft, sunken or moldy spots. Like potatoes, pumpkins should be stored in a cool, dry location.
Savory Pumpkin Stir-Fry
· 1 cup pumpkin, small chunks
· 2 chicken thighs
· ½ onion, chopped
· 8 mushrooms, sliced
· 1 tbsp soy sauce
· 2 cups rice
· 1 tbsp butter
· sea salt
1. Cut chicken thighs into small pieces.
2. Heat skillet with butter, and saute chopped onions for about three minutes.
3. Add chicken and stir-fry until meat is cooked through.
4. Add pumpkin and mushrooms. Cook about two minutes and then remove from heat.
5. Add soy sauce and sea salt (to taste).
6. Rinse rice and put it into rice cooker along with 1¼ cups water.
7. Add stir-fried chicken and vegetables to rice cooker and start rice cooker.
8. Once stir-fry is done, it’s ready to serve.
If you’re looking for a simple way to increase exercise tolerance and stamina, look no further than beets. Beets have made a serious comeback since juicing became in vogue.
“Beets are a great source of inorganic nitrates,” Visnic says. “When you chew beets, the bacteria in your saliva convert nitrate into nitrite and eventually into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide dilates your blood vessels, which increases blood flow and oxygen delivery. In addition to nitrates, beets contain more polyphenolic content and higher antioxidant capacity than onions, celery, spinach and broccoli.”
Look for medium-size beets with smooth skin, firm roots and rich color. Beets lose their freshness if not stored properly, so cut off the stems, place them in a plastic bag, squeeze out the air and then store them in the refrigerator.
· 1 cup beetroot, chopped
· ½ cup garbanzo beans
· 2-3 tbsp sesame butter/tahini
· 1 lemon
· 2-3 garlic cloves
· 2 tbsp olive oil
· sea salt
1. Soak garbanzo beans overnight.
2. Cook beetroot and garbanzo beans in boiled water 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Put cooked beet, garbanzo beans, garlic, sesame butter, olive oil and sea salt in food processor.
4. Add lemon juice to mixture and blend until smooth. If mixture is too thick, add about 2 tablespoons water to thin it out.
Did you know sweet potatoes are unrelated to regular potatoes? Regular potatoes, peppers, eggplant and tomatoes all belong to the nightshade family, which contain a compound called solanine that can cause inflammation and contribute to pain. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, do not contain this substance.
“Even better, sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene and potassium,” Visnic says. “In fact, sweet potatoes have even more potassium than a banana.”
Choose sweet potatoes that are firm and free of cracks or soft spots. Store in a cool location but not the refrigerator.
Sweet Potato Pancake
· 7 oz mashed sweet potatoes
· 1 tbsp olive oil
· 2 eggs
· ¾ cup almond meal
· ¼ cup cane sugar
· sea salt
1. Add olive oil into mashed sweet potatoes and mix well.
2. Beat eggs with sugar and pinch of sea salt until you get a thick texture. (When it drips down in about three seconds after lifting, it should be good.) Mix with mashed sweet potatoes and almond meal. Do not overmix.
3. Heat skillet. Moisten paper towel with oil and rub skillet with butter. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons batter on skillet, and cook until surfaces turn brown.