Heart Smart Fall Foods
Fall is known around the world as the harvest season, with countless delicious and celebrated seasonal favorites reaching their peak as the days shorten and temperatures drop. Apples, pumpkins, pears, cranberries, acorn squash, leeks, brussels sprouts, and more are just a few of the crops that will appear in greater numbers in grocery stores and farmers markets everywhere. And one thing these foods all have in common beyond decorating autumn plates and tables is their benefits to heart health. For example, pumpkins are high in potassium, fiber, and antioxidants, all of which are great for the health and longevity of your heart. In fact, consuming apples and pears has even been linked by studies to having lower cholesterol and blood pressure. While there are countless ways to enjoy the abundant bounty of autumn’s harvest in your diet, here are a few heart smart suggestions to try incorporating into your meals and feasts.
The harvest foods of autumn are full of healthy perks and are easy to work into your menus. Consider the pumpkin. It’s one of fall’s signature fruits, adorning decorations and pumpkin patches everywhere. This orange gourd is linked to reduced risk of breast, stomach, lung, prostate, and colon cancers. Roasting and snacking on pumpkin seeds is a great idea, and making your own pumpkin puree by roasting and mashing the flesh can be a great addition to pancakes, oatmeal, and more.
Apples are a classic fall fruit, boasting many wonderful benefits for heart health. Apples are rich in fiber, polyphenols, and vitamin C, all nutrients that do great things for the body. Even better, apples are a very versatile fruit, easily incorporated into all types of meals and dishes. Sliced apples can be added to oatmeals, salads, or baked and used as dressing for meat dishes, as well as spiced and roasted for dessert.
Butternut and acorn squashes are a great source of potassium, magnesium, and manganese, as well as being high in vitamins A, C, and B. They can be very simple to prepare as well, either by simply roasting in the oven or sauteing them as a side dish.
Leeks are a flavorful fall vegetable that many people tend to overlook. But don’t sleep on leeks, these alternatives to onions are very nutritious, high in flavonoids which offer protection from heart disease. Leeks are easy to add to your favorite soups or pasta sauces, and can even be used as a pizza topping.
Pears are a powerhouse in the fruit world, filled with inflammation fighting elements, not to mention high in electrolytes, vitamin C, potassium and fiber. While they’re delicious and wonderful eaten raw, they’re also great when sliced up and baked. Add them to salads, oatmeal, top your desserts with them, or try something a little more elaborate, like topping crostinis with pear and bleu cheese.
Brussels sprouts, despite their appearance, are closely related to broccoli. These little cruciferous vegetables sometimes get a bad rap, but they not only make a delicious side dish, they can help prevent conditions like high blood pressure or cholesterol.