There was a time when we only enjoyed foods that were in season and from our own region. Railroads, highways, and air travel have made the worlds harvest at our local market year round. But that doesn’t mean they should be. Fruits and veggies in their designated season are at their peak of ripeness—which means they taste the best and contain the nutrients they should. Plus, eating seasonal produce means your food doesn’t have to travel so far to get to your plate—that means less fossil fuel emissions and supporting local farmers
With fall just around the corner what should we fill our carts with?
Pomegranates: The pomegranate looks like a red baseball but inside, they’re filled with tiny ruby-colored seeds the size of a pine nut. At roughly 115 calories in each, pomegranates are high in vitamin C and potassium, but the hype comes from the three polyphenols (types of antioxidants) it contains: tannins, anthocyanins, and ellagic acid. Antioxidants protect the body from cell damage.
Pears: The pear is actually a cousin to the apple, but you’d never know it since the pear has always played a supporting role. Pear’s are a good source of fiber (which helps promote colon and cardiovascular health), vitamin C (a potent antioxidant), copper (an essential mineral), and vitamin K (necessary for blood clotting) and come in at about 100 calories for one medium sized fruit. According to the Environmental working group, pears are at the top of the list in terms of pesticide use. To cut your exposure, purchase the organic variety.
Grapes: Grapes have beneficial compounds called flavonoids, which are phytonutrients that give the vibrant purple color to grapes, grape juice and red wine; the stronger the color, the higher the concentration of flavonoids. Quercitin and resveratrol are the two compounds and both appear to decrease the risk of heart disease by decreasing the risk of blood clots and protecting the arteries. Resveratrol has recently been studied as a possible cancer preventative agent in prostate, lung, and breast cancer. One half cup of powerhouse grapes has only 60 calories—a great snack alternative. I often freeze grapes and have them as an after-dinner sweet snack.
Squash: Squash is exceptionally high in vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), a very powerful antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties helping to prevent the progression of heart disease and potentially reduce the risk of colon cancer, and a very good source of vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. I like cubing squash, boiling it and drizzling with olive oil.
Cauliflower: Like other cruciferous vegetables (cabbage, kale, and broccoli), cauliflower contains compounds that may inhibit cancer causing agents from forming. Cauliflower is very low in calories—about 30 calories per cup. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K, folate (necessary for the production and maintenance of new cells—think pregnancy), and fiber. It even has a respectable amount of those prized omega 3- fatty acids (heart healthy and may reduce inflammation throughout the body). Roasted cauliflower with a little olive oil and grated parmesan cheese is a regular in my house.
Leeks: Leeks are a member of the onion, garlic, and scallion family—also known as the Allium family. Leeks have a sweeter, milder, more delicate flavor making them ideal for soups and sautéed with other veggies. They look like giant scallions. Research has shown that Allium vegetables may have the positive effect of lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) and at the same time raising the HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) as well as helping fight certain cancers, specifically prostate, and stabilize blood sugar levels. Next time your about to cook with an onion, stop and think about trying the sweet leek instead.