Pumpkins are more than just props to ward off evil spirits on chilly October nights. The popular Halloween gourd also happens to be ultra-versatile, ultra-delicious and ultra-healthy. According to this article from the Huffington Post, pumpkin contains over 200% of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin A, which is – like other orange-colored vegetables – converted from beta-carotene. Even better, pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses as well, containing magnesium, zinc, and plant-based Omega-3 fats, which combine to offer a wide range of benefits to your heart and immune system.
Photo courtesy of TLC’s Pumpkin Patch Pictures.
Persimmons look like quirky heirloom tomatoes on the outside, but they offer something a little bit different inside. At first bite, the taste is hard to describe. It’s subtle, but sweet, with dense tomato-like flesh that makes it a great addition to salsas and salads. According to this article from Science Daily persimmons (as compared to apples) have higher atherosclerosis-fighting concentrations of dietary fiber, minerals, and phenolic compounds. They also contain 80% of the daily recommended intake of Vitamin C, as well as other antioxidant compounds like Vitamin A, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zea-xanthin and cryptoxanthin, which combined can help prevent cancer and promote longevity among.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.
Avocados are fruits from the Persea americana evergreen tree. The flesh beneath its hard shell is smooth and buttery, not to mention ultra-healthy. Not only is the avocado packed with a variety carotenoids itself, but its high monounsaturated fat content (aka the good, heart-healthy fat) also increase the absorption rate of carotenoids from other vegetables into the blood stream. In addition, avocados are a good source of fiber, potassium, and vitamins C, K, folate and B6. Avocado are peeled and pitted and eaten raw. They are great on salads and sandwiches.
Photo courtesy of Persea americana at Biopix.
Sunchokes, also called Jerusalem artichokes, are root vegetables similar to potatoes in texture and ginger roots in appearance, with a flavor that’s nutty, yet sweet. They are a great source of the inulin, a unique starch that stabilizes blood sugar levels while stimulating the growth of healthy bacteria in your stomach and colon. Sunchokes are also high in fiber, potassium, magnesium, and iron. Like potatoes they can be steamed, boiled, grilled, or roasted. They can also be eaten in the raw on salads or even juiced.
Photo courtesy of What’s So Great About Sunchokes? from Eat Local Northwest.
A fruit salad just isn’t a fruit salad without kiwi. Its emerald green flesh and neatly speckled black seeds can turn just about any dish into a work of art. But the kiwifruit is not just another pretty fruit. It’s jam-packed with more vitamin C than an orange, making it the perfect weapon to combat the change in season, especially for those who suffer from respiratory problems like asthma.
The kiwifruit’s health are not relegated to respiratory problems. According to this article from The World’s Healthiest Foods, the kiwi is unique in its ability to protect DNA from oxygen-related damage and provides antioxidant protection against inflammation and cancer. It is also a good source of dietary fiber which controls blood sugar and promotes colon and cardiovascular health.
This article from Wikipedia says there are around 60 species of kiwifruit, with variations in size, shape, hairiness, color, juiciness, texture and taste. According to the California Kiwifruit Commission, the California harvest begins in late September and peaks in October and early November making it one of the few homegrown California fresh fruits available in winter.
Photo courtesy of Kiwifruit: Curious Chromosomes Of A Curious Fruit from Science Daily.
No vegetable in nature – not even the carrot for which it is named – packs as big a beta-carotene punch as the sweet potato.
According to this WebMD article, beta-carotene is a carotenoid that the body can quickly convert to vitamin A, which is key to healthy skin, strong immunity and good vision. It’s also an antixodant that protects the body from free radicals, a which lowers one’s risk for cancer and heart disease.
To get the most from the sweet potato’s long list of health benefits, steam or boil and serve with a little olive oil. According to this article from The Worlds Healthiest Foods, just 3-5 grams of fat per meal (which comes from olive oil) can significantly increase the body’s uptake of beta-carotene from sweet potatoes.
Photo courtesy of Coconut Curry Sweet Potato Casserole from Dulcet.
In the berry world, the blackberry stands out for its striking color, which can add a level of elegance to a range of dishes, mostly salads and desserts.
The blackberry’s dark color, however, isn’t just for show. According to this article from Health Dairies, the color comes from antioxidants called anthocyanins, which destroy free radicals in the body that can lead to cancer. Blackberries also contain vitamin C, which protects the immune system and may further reduce your risk of cancer. In fact, when it comes to antioxidant content, blackberries, according to this article from The Worlds Healthiest Foods, are at the top of the list.
So stock up on blackberries while they’re in season and freeze some for use throughout the holiday season.
Photo courtesy of Afternoon Snack: Blackberry Parfait at Glamour.com