Kitty Finklea

Autumn brings on crisp cool weather, logs on the fire and delicious food to keep us warm.

Beautiful and colorful seasonal produce is abundant this time of year — in grocery stores, farmer’s markets and roadside stands. There are many delicious fall foods to choose from, and here are six — each with a few of their many health benefits and easy ways to add them to your fall menus.

Apples: With hundreds of varieties ranging in color from red to yellow to green, apples are high in vitamin C, potassium and antioxidants. Apples are a low glycemic fruit if the high-fiber skin is consumed. Apples are easy to eat with nut butter as a snack and add to sandwiches and salads. Keep them from browning by adding a little lemon or orange juice. Kids love these in their lunch box! Also, bake apples for a delicious desert. Core and fill apples with raisins along with walnuts or pecans, plus a little honey and cinnamon, bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until soft.

Broccoli: America’s most popular vegetable and a star member of the cruciferous family along with other veggies such cabbage, collard greens,and turnips. Cruciferous veggies contain nutrients that can help control blood sugar in people with diabetes, decrease risk of cancer and heart disease and may help suppress tumor growth in people with cancer. Broccoli is easy to eat raw or add to salads, serve as single side or add to stews, stir-fries, roasted veggies, casseroles and more.

Cabbage: With colors ranging from green to red to purple, cabbage is another powerhouse food that helps fight cancer and even helps protect against the negative effects of radiation. Fermented foods made from cabbage such as sauerkraut and kimchi improve digestion and absorption and help strengthen the immune systems. Cabbage is very easy to cook — make healthy coleslaw, chop and cook in broth on top of the stove or roast in the oven.

Collard greens: These dark greens are high in choline, a neurotransmitter that aids the brain with positive effects on mood, sleep and learning. Most dark greens are also high in folate, a vitamin that helps fight depression. Greens are easy to sauté or chop and add to soups and stews.

Beets: Both the red and golden varieties are chock full of nutrients and research indicates that eating beets might help improve athletic performance, increase blood flow and lower blood pressure. Beets are easy to roast alone on their own or with other root vegetables.

Turnips: It’s a creamy-white root vegetable with a purple top and another cruciferous veggie. Like others in the family, turnips are high in dietary fiber and might play a role in regulating the immune system and inflammation. Eating more cruciferous veggies help decrease the risk of inflammation-related conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity. They are easy to boil and mash like a potato or chop into bite-size squares and roast in the oven. Toss root vegetables with broth or olive oil and seasonings, spread evenly on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes or until soft.

If you need more reasons, eating local seasonal is good for you. These foods taste better since they are fresh and packed with tons of nutrients. They save money, promote our local economy and decreases our carbon footprint.

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For more information on adopting healthier lifestyle changes, contact Kitty Finklea, lifestyle coach, registered dietitian and personal trainer at McLeod Health and Fitness Center, 843-777-3000.

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