The Top 5 Harvest Vegetables for Fall
By Johnathan Zamora
Growing up we have all been told to “eat your vegetables”, but with no real acceptable reason (as a child, anyway) to eat them other than they were good for us. As nutritional science and modern medicine have proven time and time again through published studies and new research, it turns out our parents were right. This article will explore the top 5 most nutritious vegetables to choose during the fall season and will also provide easy ways to include them into your regular eating plan.
Spinach – Popeye had the right idea choosing this near perfect food source to fuel himself. Along with blueberries, spinach is a food that should be a staple in every physique athlete’s diet. Spinach has been one of the most studied vegetables to date and its consumption has been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, including stroke and coronary artery disease. In addition to iron, scientists have discovered that the reason spinach is such a nutritional powerhouse is its unique combination of nutrients and how they work together as one unit. Among these nutrients are the carotenoids lucein & beta-carotene; the antioxidants alpha lipoic acid (ALA) and vitamins C & E and K. These compounds are great for your health, but when combined with Coenzyme Q10 (which plays a role in the skin’s defense mechanism against sun damage), B vitamins, plus the minerals calcium, magnesium, manganese and zinc as they are found in spinach – the end result is a super food worth its weight in gold.
Fit Chef’s Tip: Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil on medium high heat, add in 3 cloves of chopped garlic, 2 cups of spinach (fresh or frozen work equally well) and salt and pepper, to taste.Cook until heated through, about 4-5 minutes. Combine the spinach with a fillet of grilled Salmon and a side of brown rice for a muscle meal that can’t be beat.
Eggplant- Although it’s available year-round, eggplant is at its peak from August through October. A member of the nightshade family, this berry is a distant cousin to the potato and tomatoes.
Recent research has focused on a phytonutrient (chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants) found in the plant’s skin called nasunin. This antioxidant has been shown to help protect cells from free radical damage – good news for people who exercise regularly. In addition, the high fiber content in eggplant helps keep the digestive system healthy; not to mention, will also help keep your appetite in check.
Fit Chef’s Tip: Turn your grill on high. Cut off the tip and end of a medium sized eggplant, cut in half, lengthwise and slice into medium slices and drizzle some balsamic vinegar over the eggplant. Season with kosher salt and pepper, to taste and grill until about 5 minutes or until done.
Brussel Sprouts – A major source of many antioxidants, including vitamins C, E & A (as beta-carotene). This pint-sized vegetable packs a big nutritional punch – it helps combat inflammation by way of the essential anti-inflammatory Vitamin K. This vitamin is a direct regulator of inflammatory responses and plays a key role in reducing inflammation.
Fit Chef’s Tip: Pick up a microwaveable “steam-fresh” bag of brussel sprouts and cook them according to package directions. After cooking, open the bag of halfway, sprinkle some lemon pepper seasoning and shake well to ensure the vegetables are well coated. Serve with your choice of Tilapia, or Codfish and wild rice for a quick physique-friendly meal.
Pumpkin – Low in calories, high in vitamins C & E; high in fiber, potassium, magnesium and Pantothenic acid – the humble pumpkin is truly a food to include on your plate. Pumpkin is not a vegetable as is widely thought – it is a fruit, and like melons, pumpkin is a member of the gourd family. In addition to the abundance of good-for-you vitamins, it’s the carotenoids that make pumpkin a nutritional all-star. Carotenoids are the deep orange, yellow or red-colored fat soluble compounds that occur in a variety of plants. They protect the plant from sun damage and provide a sort of internal sun-block for your body. Foods rich in cartenoids have been linked to decrease your risk of various cancers, including lung, colon, cervical, breast and skin. All this goodness and at only around 80 calories per cup, this food makes an excellent alternative to sweet potatoes.
Fit Chef’s Tip: Here’s an idea for those Halloween pumpkin seeds – set out the pumpkin seeds overnight so they have time to dry out. The next day, preheat your oven to 300 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Toss the seeds with a little cayenne pepper or your choice of seasonings. Be sure the seeds are well coated. Bake for 1 hour, tossing every 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool the seeds before eating; you can store the toasted seeds in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months or refrigerate for up to 1 year.
Zucchini – This squash is a great source of manganese, Vitamin A (including the carotenoid beta-carotene), fiber, potassium, folate, copper, riboflavin and phosphorus. Many of these nutrients have been found to help prevent heart disease. The magnesium found in zucchini has been shown to reduce the incidence of heart disease and stroke. Working together with the potassium, the magnesium found in zucchini helps reduce high blood pressure.
Fit Chef’s Tip: Place 1 Tbs. olive oil on medium high heat and add 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced with 1 medium onion, sliced thin. Toss in 3 cloves minced garlic and salt and pepper to taste for a quick and vitamin rich side dish perfect for fall.
It’s important to include a variety of vegetables on your menu, it helps keep your meals interesting, provides a vast array of nutrients and also minimizes boredome with your meal planning. Give these vegetables a try, if you don’t already eat them – you may be suprised at how easy and simple it is to supercharge your plate.
The Fit Chef
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