Monday, November 18, 2013

How to Get Antioxidants This Fall

Fall is officially upon us. The bright colors of fruits and vegetables have entered hibernation until the warm weather returns. Packaged with these bright colors are antioxidants, the vibrant pigments which protect our bodies from the development of chronic disease and illness. Just when you thought all was lost (including your tan), comes a new harvest of fruits and vegetables – pumpkin, squash, eggplant, cauliflower, cranberries, figs, and apples. These too, are bursting with colorful antioxidants!

Antioxidants in Autumn
Thanks to the American Institute for Cancer Research, fruits and vegetables that fight cancer are summarized for our convenience. Let’s take a closer look at their powerful antioxidant package:

Squash (Winter)
There are several varieties of winter squash depending on their color, texture, and flavor. Most importantly, each variety is high in the antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin C.  According to the AICR, diets high in these compounds have been shown to reduce your risk of developing cancers of the mouth, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, and lung. Steam, puree, or roast squash to release its rich, sweet flavor. Add in with your favorite whole grain, pasta, or stew for a squashingly, low-calorie fall meal.

Try this: Quinoa and Winter Squash Bake 

We all know the Ocean Spray commercials where the two guys stand in a bog filled with cranberries. Every autumn, cranberries are harvested at their peak flavor and color. Cranberries have long been known for their protection against urinary tract infections. High in vitamin C, cranberries are associated with a lower risk of esophageal cancer. Anthocyanins are the antioxidants that are responsible for their amazing red color. Studies are currently examining their effect on lowering risk of breast, colon, and prostate cancers. Typically consumed in their juice form, this tart fruit can be incorporated into baked goods, breakfasts, and smoothies.

Compared to the other green cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower is often overlooked due to its dull, white color. Cauliflower is blossoming with antioxidants including: vitamin C, carotenoids, and glucosinolates. Glucosinolates are currently being evaluated for their ability to suppress tumors and slow cancer growth. Vitamin C and carotenoids are active agents in preventing cancers of the mouth and esophagus. Steam, puree, or mash cauliflower into a bright, vegetable medley.

Apples may be the most commonly consumed fall fruit due to their versatility and variety of flavors. Some are best eaten raw and others are the perfect baking ingredient. From Honeycrisp to Honeygold, apples are bursting with antioxidants, quercetin and flavonoids. These potent plant compounds may have a role in slowing cancer progression in multiple stages including that of the breast, lung, and colon. I recommend enjoying apples fresh or dried for convenient snacks. Apples are great additions to desserts and other savory dishes.

Am I getting enough?

Now that you know how to get an ample amount of antioxidants this fall, how do you know if you’re getting enough? Since antioxidants are primarily found in plant foods, we can turn to the Dietary Guidelines for recommendations. Americans are advised to replace refined grains such as, white breads, white rice, crackers, and noodles with delicious whole grain options like, whole wheat breads, brown rice, oats, bulgur, and quinoa. The recommendations further suggest making half of your total daily grain intake from these whole grain foods. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, aim to consume at least two-and-a-half cups per day for heart health benefits. You’re all shouting, “Enough! Get to the wine!” One four-ounce glass of wine is considered one serving. Ladies benefit from consuming one serving, while men can drink up to two. It seems as if we always get gypped, but let’s face it ladies, we know how to do it right. At your next girls-only night, cut up some cheese with a plate of whole grain crackers and fruit, then pop open a bottle of red. 

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