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Excerpted from Healing the Vegan Way: Plant-Based Eating for Optimal Health & Wellness by Mark Reinfeld. Copyright © 2016. Available from Da Capo Lifelong Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
It’s important that we take the opportunity to learn about seasonal foods and feel the power of plants to heal and transform our lives.
My mission is to show people how fun and easy it is to prepare delectable, world-class, plant-based cuisine that is good for our health and the planet.
Here is a list of some of my favorite fall produce with their benefits excerpted right from my book: Healing the Vegan Way.
Apples: There’s some truth to the saying that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” mostly because of the antioxidant flavonoids contained in the peel. Apples also reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and high cholesterol. Bake them in a warm apple crumble or juice into a warm fall cider.
Beets: Beets have the most natural sugar of any vegetable, and their most common use, in fact, is as a source of manufacturing beet sugar. Just out of the ground, their earthy flavor is a big draw, as are their naturally occurring nitrates. A good source of folate, beets also feature niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, iron, manganese, magnesium, and copper.
They are one of the only vegetables to feature glycine betaine, which protects cells and enzymes from external stressors. Beets are considered to be a blood-building and a liver-loving food. Boil and mash into a fall-spiced beet chutney.
Broccoli: A cruciferous vegetable best known for its large quantities of vitamin C and fiber, broccoli also packs in vitamin A, B complex, iron, zinc, and phytonutrients. It is reputed to lower the risk of a common cold, keep digestion smooth, lower cholesterol, and protect against diabetes, heart disease, as well as some cancers.
Its phytonutrients act as anti-inflammatories and can lower the effects of some common allergens while concurrently boosting the immune system. Cream it as a soup or incorporate it into your favorite salad.
Cabbage: From the Brassica family, cruciferous cabbage ranks extremely high in terms of its delivery of some of the most powerful antioxidants, such as glucosinolates, which encourage detoxifying enzymes to do their work in the body. The humble and inexpensive green cabbage boasts a lot of vitamins C and K, as well as dietary fiber: one of the best sources out there.
Red cabbage has some slight advantages over green: 10 times more vitamin A, more vitamin C, and double the iron, with all the dietary fiber and antioxidants and a beautiful dark red purplish color. Mix up a warm cabbage salad or roast it with some fall root vegetables.
Kale: Kale is a low-fat, no-cholesterol leafy green renowned for its extraordinary nutrient density and healthy antioxidant properties. Its concentrated nutrients, high fiber, and sulfur-containing phytonutrients strengthen the immune system, and are said to protect against heart disease, and certain types of cancer, such as prostate and colon, detox the liver, and lower blood cholesterol levels.
Kale contains plant-based omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, and is high in vitamins A, B6, C, and especially K (an Alzheimer’s preventative). Its minerals include copper, calcium, potassium, manganese, and phosphorus, and also naturally occurring carotenoids, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which provide eye health.
Consuming kale allows for high iron and calcium absorption, while protecting from vitamin A deficiency, osteoporosis, anemia, and cardiovascular disease. Add to a smoothie or toss a fall-inspired salad with kale as the base.
Pecans: Pecans are a tasty source of energy, with their high fat content including monounsaturated oleic acid. Consuming pecans is said to decrease the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) and increases good cholesterol (HDL). They also contain beta-carotene, ellagic acid (an anti-carcinogen), lutein, zeaxanthin, and exceptional vitamin E.
Additionally, pecans have many minerals, such as manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, and selenium. Put pecan pie on the menu for dessert.
Pumpkin Seeds: They offer a wealth of nutrients including seven grams of protein per ounce. Pumpkin seeds also contain amino acids, unsaturated fatty acids, and bountiful minerals, such as calcium, potassium, niacin, and phosphorus. They also offer ample amounts of most B vitamins, and vitamins C, D, E, and K, as well as beta-carotene and lutein.
If that isn’t enough, pumpkin seeds are anti-inflammatory and contain the third-highest content of phytosterols after sunflower seeds and pistachios.
Phytosterols are known to reduce blood levels of cholesterol, enhance the immune response and decrease risk of certain cancers. Bake and spice the seeds and eat them as a snack or top on creamy fall-themed soups (like my Curried Pumpkin Soup!).
Mushrooms: Although they come in many different varieties, most mushrooms deliver good quantities of protein (almost twice the amount of other common vegetables), vitamins, unsaturated fatty acids, and cholesterol-lowering and heart-healthy dietary fibers. Selenium, potassium, riboflavin, and niacin are prolific in mushrooms.
Additionally, mushrooms are low in calories and sodium and can be very filling, resulting in some cases in weight loss. The daily recommended allowance of calcium can be met by consuming servings of mushrooms. Warm yourself up with a hearty plate of mushroom risotto.
Radishes: A root vegetable with a 90 percent water content, radishes are low in saturated fat and cholesterol while also anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Providing plenty of roughage, radishes are filling, which can help with weight loss. Radishes have been used successfully to treat jaundice because they increase supply of fresh oxygen to the blood, purifying and detoxifying.
They also relieve symptoms of piles disease, since they aid digestion and the excretory system. Their high water content acts as a diuretic and thereby aids urinary disorders by increasing urine content. The flavonoids that color radishes may reduce heart disease, cancer, and inflammation, and their potassium can help lower blood pressure. Roast with garlic and drizzle with balsamic glaze.
Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes are a reliable source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene with 400 percent of your daily needs met in one medium size potato. Fiber and potassium are the other heavy hitters in these satisfying carbs, which can be sweet as candy and filling as can be. They also come in colors: some are orange, while others are shades of yellow and purple.
Sweet potatoes also deliver vitamins B6, C, D, plus iron and magnesium. Their skin alone provides potassium, fiber, and quercetin, an immunity-booster. Give into your temptations and enjoy a naturally sweet, sweet potato with a sprinkle of warm cinnamon as a fall side dish.
This is just a small sampling of the abundance of superfoods available to us during the harvest season. Visit a farmers market near you and discover the local treasures that can grace your table in the coming months.