The cookouts, corn on the cob and fresh fruits of summertime may be history for another year, but fresh-food fans need not fret. The fall harvest season brings a whole new assortment of delicious and heart-healthy fresh fruit and vegetables. Apples, pears, beets, broccoli, collard greens and Brussels sprouts are fresh in the market – or in your garden.
“Autumn is a time to shift from the seed fruit that we eat in the summer to all the nutrition-rich goodies, like the grapes and persimmons we get in the fall,” said Riska Platt, M.S., R.,D., a nutritionist at Mt. Sinai Hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program and a volunteer with the American Heart Association.
These fresh foods are not only tasty, but can help you feel better, get healthier and may protect against heart disease and stroke.
Colors of Fall
Fall brings its own color wheel of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Deep colors like greens, oranges, reds, and purples are especially prominent in the cooler months. However, it’s important to strive for variety with your fall favorites, Platt said.
“Each season presents many different colors, but I really encourage people to try to eat a rainbow of colors,” she said. “Don’t just have a green salad; add all different colors into the salad. More colors usually means there is good nutritional value in your meal.”
Fruits and vegetables with color contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals that have different disease-fighting elements. These compounds may be important in reducing the risk of many conditions, including cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends at least 4-5 servings per day of fruits and vegetables based on a 2,000 calorie diet as part of a healthy lifestyle that can lower your risk for these diseases.
Fruits, Vegetables and Your Weight
The autumn months bring additional health and nutritional challenges. The shorter, cooler days can make it harder to get physical activity outdoors. And there are the looming (and calorie-packed) temptations of football party snacks, Halloween sweets and Thanksgiving buffets.
However, one good way to avoid those extra seasonal pounds is to keep eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
“Apples are thought to have a unique source of fiber that is excellent for weight control,” Platt said. “This is great during the fall, because this is when they are harvested and why they’re so crisp and delicious right now.”
Other Fresh-food Benefits
While grocery stores will carry an assortment of fruits and vegetables throughout the year, buying seasonal produce can take some of the strain off your wallet. When fresh foods are in season locally, they are usually more abundant and affordable.
For free recipes that use fresh, fall harvest foods, visit www.heart.org/recipes.
About the American Heart Association
Founded in 1924, we’re the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke. To help prevent, treat and defeat these diseases — America’s No. 1 and No. 4 killers — we fund cutting-edge research, conduct lifesaving public and professional educational programs, and advocate to protect public health. To learn more or join us in helping all Americans, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit www.heart.org.