Autumn's crisp colors, cool winds and sunny afternoons make it an ideal time to celebrate this beautiful season's abundance. The fall gives us foods in vibrant orange, yellow and red hues, in the form of pumpkins, squash and apples. Best of all, these harvest foods are packed with nutritional value.
Apples: come in countless varieties, each with its own color, flavor and texture. There are about 2,500 known varieties grown in the U.S. Apples are a powerhouse of flavonoids as well as a great source of cholesterol-lowering phytosterols. Apples are also noted for being a great source of vitamin C to boost your immune system as well as beta-carotene and lutein for healthy eyes. In addition, apples with their skins are one of the best known sources of pectin a type of soluble fiber shown to help reduce cholesterol. Apples are fat free, saturated fat free, sodium free, cholesterol free and a high source of dietary fiber.
Orange, Yellow and Green Squash: contain significant amounts of carotenes as well as some lutein and antioxidants. Butternut is a great source of calcium, magnesium and carotenes. Try using spaghetti squash in place of traditional spaghetti. Acorn and Hubbard squash are great sources of potassium and fiber. The yellow and orange flesh of winter squash is more nutritious and richer in vitamins than summer squash. Squash are fat free, saturated fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free.
Pumpkins: are becoming increasingly popular because of their versatile use in both sweet and savory recipes. Pumpkins are a great source of alpha- and beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin (an antioxidant), vitamin C, riboflavin, and iron. Pumpkins are fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free.
Pumpkin and Squash Seeds: can be toasted for a crunchy high-fiber snack. The seeds are great eaten by the handful or added to fruit and vegetable salads. The nutritious seeds contain vitamins; folate, carotenoids and tocopherols; and minerals, including phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.
A few things to remember:
- Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables to destroy bacteria and remove pesticides and herbicides.
- Select produce without soft spots, blemishes or cuts.
- Eat fruits and vegetables fresh or lightly cooked to obtain the most nutrient value avoid boiling.
- Select produce that smells fresh, not musty.
- Avoid discolored produce
- Check for decay and remove to prevent other produce from doing the same.
Encourage those you care for to try some new and different varieties of fall produce this year and give them the gift of health along the way. For some seniors, establishing and maintaining a regular, nutritious diet is one reason for considering a move to a retirement community or personal care facility.