I'm so excited to say that fall has arrived! The nighttime lows are a dead give-away that cooler temperatures during the day will soon follow....I hope. Fall is a fabulous time for foodies. So much wonderful produce is in season, providing the starting point to some tasty creations in the kitchen. Here are 5 fall foods that are packed with health-boosting nutrients for both athletes and non-athletes:
The orange color is a good hint that pumpkins are filled with beta-carotene, which is converted to Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A plays an essential role in vision, cell differentiation and growth. Vitamin A is also one of the major antioxidants in the body (along with vitamins C & E), and so plays an imperative role in muscle recovery and repair after training. Pumpkins also contain ~3 grams of fiber and 560mg of potassium per cup.
These little seeds are packed full of nutrients! Pumpkin seeds are a great source of mono-unsaturated fat, protein (including the amino acids tryptophan and glutamate), vitamin E, manganese, and zinc. As mentioned above, vitamin E is an important antioxidant that aids with the removal of free radicals from muscles after training. Consumption of mono-unsaturated fats (MUFAs) has been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) in the body.
Did you know there are over 600 different types of figs? They can be eaten whole and raw (seeds and skin too!). Figs are unique in that they have the highest calcium content of any fruit. At ~12% of daily value, or DV, which equals 120mg per 1/2 cup, figs are considered a good food source of calcium (between 10-19% of DV). Calcium is a main contributor to bone health (along with its sidekick vitamin D) and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. These little fruits are also a great source of fiber.
There are hundreds of different kinds of apples. Like many of the foods here, apples are also a great source of fiber (one apple contains ~4gm). One important nutrient they contain is vitamin C - another one of those powerhouse antioxidants! Vitamin C plays a significant role in collagen synthesis, which is a structural protein found in skin, bones, tendons, and cartilage (good to know if you are an athlete!). But make sure you eat the skin of apple as almost half of the vitamin C content is contained right under the skin.
Just like pumpkins, the orange color gives away that these are a great source of beta-carotene or vitamin A. When eaten with the skin on, a medium sweet potato has 4x the amount of beta-carotene recommended daily! Note that vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin, so be sure to enjoy your sweet potato or yam with a small amount of fat (such as trans-fat free butter) to enhance its absorption. Other great nutrients in the potato/yam include vitamin C, fiber, manganese, and complex carbohydrates. Manganese is a trace mineral in the body that plays a role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism and blood sugar regulation.
Do you have a favorite recipe that incorporates any of the above foods? I'd love to hear about it - Please comment below!