October Produce is Totally Nothing to be Scared About

October 17, 2016

Fall produce is not only really fun to display on your front porch, but it is so good for you! Fruits and vegetables that are dark and rich in color, are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber. For those following a heart-healthy diet, fiber binds to cholesterol to be removed from the body, which is especially important for those watching their LDL levels. LDL cholesterol is the "bad cholesterol" (think of it as L = [wanting] LOW levels of this kind in your body) that collects in the walls of your blood vessels and can cause blockages. Brussels sprouts are a great source of the antioxidant vitamin C and they also pair really well with carrots. Carrots have beta-carotene which are wonderful for the eyes. In fact, did you know if you cut a carrot in half the center looks like the pupils of the eye? There are plenty of squash varieties out there -- one of them being butternut squash. Butternut is high in Vitamin A and C. There is a lot you can do with butternut squash -- simply by baking it cut in half (flesh side up) at 400 degrees for about an hour with a bit of EVOO and seasoning, or make it with a risotto, or cube it and add antioxidant rich cranberries & kale (100% daily value of vitamin K), or puree it for soups. Which by the way... healthy risotto? You can! Short-grain BROWN rice in place of Arborio. Short-grain has more amylopectin (giving off starch as they cook), which is ideal for a risotto dish or things like sticky rice. Acorn squash is another great option, similar baking to the butternut squash, but once sliced in half they make GREAT individual size portions. Feel free to stuff them with brown rice, beans, or lean beef. Beets are great, especially for athletes. Beets have nitrates, which convert to nitric oxide, helping in blood flow, blood pressure, and muscle soreness. Golden or red, beets are another great roasted veggie full of immune-boosting vitamin C and fiber. Comfort foods are often craved in the fall months and we cuddle and snuggle in warm clothing and blankets. While soup (butternut, for example) is great, opt to mash some sweet potatoes -- a healthier selection than white or red potatoes. Sweet potatoes are incredibly rich in beta carotene. And, mash with the skin to increase fiber content. Craving a pasta dish? Roast spaghetti squash (cut in half just like the butternut and bake) and fork it once it is cooked and use just as you would with regular pasta noodles! Make your own sauces or eat plain with salt and pepper! Spaghetti squash has a wonderful savory flavor that hits your comfort food cravings. Another healthy comfort staple? Parsnips are absolutely divine. NOTE: While mentioning these great fall produce picks, don't forget to pair it with a protein. Lean chicken breast, roasted turkey, herb/seasoned tofu, omega-3 rich salmon, or fibrous black beans pair really well with these items. Also, take some of these great items and toss in a dark leafy green salad. Cranberries, in-season pears or apples, roasted pumpkin seeds, leftover butternut squash cubes, are just some of the many add-ins to a healthy and hearty salad. Toss in the turnip greens from roasted turnips you may have made. Turnip greens have a profile rich in vitamin C, K, A, folate, fiber, calcium, B12... they are just the absolute all-star greens! And last but not least, the pumpkin. When finished with fall décor or simply during the process of pumpkin carving, roast the seeds! Magnesium, copper, protein, fiber, and zinc are all great nutrients from pumpkin seeds. Zinc and magnesium are powerful antioxidants and may help with your brain power. Not into the seeds? Pureed or canned pumpkin is excellent for pies, soups... and great fat replacer in baking! Use pumpkin as a one to one ratio for oil. For example, one cup of oil is replaced by one cup pumpkin. As for butter use 3/4 of the total amount originally called for in the recipe. For example, for one cup of butter, use 3/4 cup pumpkin. Note: Do NOT use canned pumpkin pie FILLING. If you aren't totally ready to jump into the healthiest side, just do 1/2 and 1/2. Baby steps are totally acceptable.   Happy Fall, ya'll! Jenna Stranzl, RD