The mornings are brisk and the sun is setting earlier- it’s definitely fall out there. With the seasonal change also comes a change in the local produce that is available. The markets start to fill with apples, pears, pumpkins, acorn squash, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and other delightful fall produce.
While we will miss the high levels of antioxidants present in fresh berries and cherries that are now not easily available, this season’s produce offerings still have lots of health benefits.
Apples and pears
We all know the old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but a recent study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health really did show that healthy plant based food choices reduces the development of heart disease and diabetes.1 Another study showed that participants with a diet high in fresh fruit consumption had lower blood pressure and reduced blood glucose levels.2 The key seems to be in staying away from highly processed foods and grains and keep the food consumption as a whole food rather than juice or dried fruit.
Apples and pears also contain fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. The fiber in these fruits supports a healthy digestion system. The phytochemicals such as phenolics, flavonoids and carotenoids have been shown to aid in lowering blood pressure and reducing CVD risk.3 In addition, these fruits contain vitamins and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, zinc and vitamins A, B1, B2, and B6.3
We’ve all had them, and likely as a kid we all turned our noses up to the brassica family. Broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage and brussels sprouts are all member of this family and while it may be hard to get kids to eat them- they certainly deliver in the nutrition category. Brassicaceous vegetables contain many phytochemicals, minerals and vitamins for our body including vitamins C and E, carotenoids and antioxidant enzymes.4 The phytochemicals and antioxidants they contain play a role in preventing oxidative stress and boost immune function. They have also been associated with the reduction of inflammation.4
Oxidative stress can lead to atherosclerosis and other heart health concerns by blocking arteries and causing inflammation- combating this with antioxidants from plant based foods such as brassicaceous vegetables can help maintain heart health.5
Squash come in many different varieties, colors and shapes. And while each one varies in nutrient value, they all offer high levels of fiber, carotenoids, potassium, and vitamins A and C.6 According to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), most Americans consume far too little potassium.7 Consuming higher amounts of potassium from food intake is associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease, including stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases including hypertension.6,7 Additionally, vitamin C found in squash can help with immune function. The fiber in these vegetables may help maintain proper digestion as well as improving blood glucose and lipid levels.2
An article published from the Physicians Health Study by Liu, et al., found that those who consumed diets high in carotenoids, such as squash, brassica, and apples, had a reduced risk for coronary artery disease. So get to your local grocer and enjoy some lovely fall produce to keep your body healthy.
- Apples contain high fiber and antioxidants which can help lower blood glucose and blood pressure levels
- Brassica is known for its high levels of phytochemicals which help combat inflammation and atherosclerosis
- Squash contains potassium and carotenoids to lower risk of heart disease
- Satija A, Bhupathiraju SN, Spiegelman D, et al. Healthful and Unhealthful Plant-Based Diets and the Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in U.S. Adults. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2017;70(4):411-422.
- Du H, Li L, Bennett D, et al. Fresh Fruit Consumption and Major Cardiovascular Disease in China. New England Journal of Medicine. 2016;374(14):1332-1343.
- Boyer J, Liu RH. Apple phytochemicals and their health benefits. Nutrition Journal. 2004;3(1)
- Kapusta-Duch J, Kopeć A, Piatkowska E, Borczak B, Leszczyńska T. The beneficial effects of Brassica vegetables on human health. Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig . 2012:389-395.
- Nowak WN, Deng J, Ruan XZ, Xu Q. Reactive Oxygen Species Generation and Atherosclerosis. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2017.
- Hu F. Plant-Based Diets and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. Phytochemicals. 2006:127-136.
- Cogswell ME, Zhang Z, Carriquiry AL, et al. Sodium and potassium intakes among US adults: NHANES 2003-2008. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012;96(3):647-657.
- Liu S, Lee I-M, Ajani U, Cole SR, Buring JE, Manson JE. Intake of vegetables rich in carotenoids and risk of coronary heart disease in men: The Physicians Health Study. International Journal of Epidemiology. 2001;30(1):130-135.