On Your Health

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Ten Healthy Foods to Eat Right Now

As we enter the fall and winter months, there are lots of things to look forward to: Sweater weather, holidays, football, chilly mornings and cozy evenings. It’s also a great time to revamp your diet according to the season. Soups and hearty stews, while not very appealing during Oklahoma summers, are perfect for cooler temps. Done right, they can be warming, tasty and packed full of nutrients. Same with fall/winter produce and breakfast ideas. Better yet, lots of our fall faves are slow-cooker and/or Instant Pot-friendly. Plan, chop, fill, set the timer and go! 

Cooking and eating seasonally is easier on the pocketbook, too, because those crops are abundant right now. And because they’re often picked at their peak (rather than picked green and stored to ripen) seasonal produce is fresher. If you buy your goods at a farmers market, you’re also doing the environment a favor because fruits and vegetables harvested locally don’t have to travel cross-country in trains or trucks.

Beans. A simmering slow cooker full of beans is a treat for the sense all day long when it’s chilly. Or when they’re chili (See what we did there?). Beans, peas and lentils are affordable, tasty, gluten-free, easy-to-prepare, versatile nutritional powerhouses. Adding beans to your diet are associated with a decreased list of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. They contain, on average, 7 or more grams of soluble and insoluble dietary fiber per serving. Most adults (and children) don’t consume the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of dietary fiber, which can help us feel fuller longer and improve our cholesterol scores. Beans are full of folate (a B vitamin), and contain nice amounts of antioxidants, potassium, iron, calcium and vitamin C as well. Add them to a breakfast burrito, in salads or roast some chickpeas for a snack.

Squashes. In 2014, squash was declared ‘the most underrated superfood.’ Truth is, orange-fleshed squashes like acorn, butternut and hubbard are incredibly nutritious. And remarkably delicious and versatile. Squash is one of the ‘three sisters’ crops, cultivated by indigenous cultures for thousands of years alongside beans and maize. Grown together, these crops helped one another thrive: bean vines used the corn stalks as a natural trellis, while low-growing squash with its large leaves shaded the soil, helping it stay moist. But back to squash. It contains up to 750% of the daily recommendation for vitamin A, and nice levels of magnesium. Winter squash has a low glycemic load and lots of fiber, plus minerals and micronutrients. In cooler months, squash shines at mealtime. It’s inexpensive, and delicious when cubed and roasted. Toss roasted squash into a pot of chili, or saute it with garlic and a couple of handfuls of kale or spinach for a terrific topping for pasta.   

Sweet potatoes. Maybe your only annual exposure to sweet potatoes is when they’re swimming in brown sugar butter sauce or hiding under a raft of broiled marshmallows. Yes, we love them that way, but when you release them from their sugary bounds and cook them in healthier ways, you might be surprised that they’re still gosh-darned delicious and sweet. They’re packed with vitamins A, C and B6 and minerals including manganese, copper and potassium and are good for gut health, thanks to their fiber content. 

Oatmeal. A steaming, cozy bowl of oatmeal is a great start to a chilly day in more ways than one. First of all, how delicious and versatile! You can top oatmeal with anything – sweet OR savory. It’s a perfect canvas for your culinary whims. It’s also a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber. The amount of processing your oats have undergone before they hit your bowl is important. Nutritionally, there’s not much difference between Irish/steel-cut and instant oats but the less-processed (steel cut) take longer to digest and have a lower glycemic index than rolled oats or instant oats. Lower glycemic index foods help keep blood sugar levels steady. A diet rich in low glycemic index foods can also help maintain weight loss.  

Beets. Stunningly beautiful, bright colored beets are also a uniquely healthful food choice. Don’t be intimidated – peel a bunch of beets, cut them in a one-inch dice, toss with olive oil, shake on a little salt and pepper and roast them at 425 degrees for about half an hour. Eat them as a side dish or top a salad with them. Beets give you a nice dose of beta carotene, folate and potassium. They have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, protect your cells from damage and are thought to help lower the risk of heart disease and some cancers. 

Avocados (surprise!). Do you think of avocados as a summertime food? Understandable. Turns out, though, that some varieties of avocados are at their best between August and December. Described as a ‘near-perfect food,’ avocados are a brilliant source of healthy fats (omega 3s) vitamins C, E and K, riboflavin, folate, niacin, B6, pantothenic acid, potassium and magnesium. A whole medium avocado also contains about 10 grams of fiber. Try topping a bean-filled chili with diced avocado or topping your scrambled eggs with them. 

Cabbage. A nutritional powerhouse! One cup of raw, chopped green cabbage clocks in at a mere 22 calories and also gives you 54 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C, 85 percent of the RDA for vitamin K, a gram of protein and more than two grams of fiber. Cabbage contains antioxidants, specifically anthocyanins, 

Citrus. As fall turns to winter, bright pretty oranges, clementines, grapefruit, limes and lemons are a welcome burst of juicy freshness in our diets. Citrus fruit is a terrific source of vitamin C, which helps keep your blood vessels, skin and bones healthy by supporting your immune system. They also contain thiamin and potassium. Their high volume of insoluble fiber can help relieve constipation. Citrus is so versatile and delicious, too. Clementines are a great snack, oranges and grapefruit add a lovely zing to salads, and lemons and limes are an excellent flavor booster for salad dressings, marinades, desserts and more. 

Apples. One medium applies packed with three grams of fiber (soluble and insoluble), a gram of protein, a nice boost of vitamin C and just 95 calories. Apples are an easy, portable snack. They’re rich in pectin and quercetin, the latter of which is a naturally occurring plant chemical with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Pectin, a soluble fiber, can aid in relieving constipation and may have a good effect on lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol.  

Cruciferous vegetables include bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage, arugula and collard greens. The National Cancer Institute has found that certain substances in cruciferous vegetables (glucosinolates) break down during cooking and chewing to become active compounds including indoles, isothiocyanates, nitriles and thiocyanates, which have been found to potentially inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the bladder, colon, breast, stomach, liver and lung.

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