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The bright side of fall vegetables

The beautiful colours of fall have started to warn us that winter is on its way. Fortunately, the fall season also provides us with many colourful vegetables that can help boost our immune system to fight the colds and flu winter will bring.

The beautiful colours of fall have started to warn us that winter is on its way. Fortunately, the fall season also provides us with many colourful vegetables that can help boost our immune system to fight the colds and flu winter will bring.

So, add fall vegetables to your diet. Enjoy them without butter or sauces and they’ll add no cholesterol or saturated fats, just flavour and nutrition to your meal.

Whether roots, heads or in between, fall vegetables are ideal additions to hot soups, casseroles and side dishes.

Beginning with the root vegetables, include sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beets, rutabagas and turnips in your menu. The deeply coloured vegetables generally carry the most nutrients. Bright orange vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which promotes healthy eyesight, generates retinol production and helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Carrots and sweet potatoes boost your immune system as good sources of the anti-oxidant Vitamin C, which helps improve your lung health and reduce your risk of respiratory illnesses, including emphysema. Parsnips, although not deeply coloured, carry these same nutrients. Sweet potatoes also contain a significant amount of calcium, potassium, iron, and Vitamin B6, and nearly five grams of fiber in one potato skin.

Beets contain fiber and potassium. According to research, the betacyanin that gives beets their dark red colour protects against cancer and reduces the blood vessel inflammation associated with heart disease. As an excellent source of folate, just half a cup of cooked beets supplies 17% of the recommended daily requirement of folate. Beets have betraine and nitrate which lower blood pressure, fight heart and liver disease, and improve the circulation to the brain.

Rutabagas and turnips are high in Vitamin C and have nutrients, which may help reduce the risk of prostate and lung cancers. As well, turnip greens are a good source of calcium and of glucosinolates, which have strong cancer-preventing properties. The three grams of fiber in just one cup of rutabaga helps keep your digestion system moving.

Although rutabagas are root vegetables, they belong to the cruciferous family and offer the same health benefits as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli. Cruciferous vegetables are all high fiber vegetables that contain the strong cancer-preventing properties of glucosinolates and sulforaphane. Different cruciferous vegetables offer additional health benefits.

Cabbage is rich Vitamin C. Research shows that cabbage activates the body’s natural detoxification system to help protect against various types of cancers, such as: lung, colon, and breast.

Brussels sprouts, a very nutritious member of the cabbage family, contain Vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E and K, as well as folate, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, protein, calcium, copper and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients strengthen the immune system and can protect against cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and birth defects, while supporting skin, colon and cardiovascular health.

Broccoli, with Vitamins A, C, K and B6, along with iron, calcium, magnesium and Vitamin E, also has cancer-fighting qualities. Broccoli helps prevent heart disease, stomach ulcers and stomach cancer, while strengthening bones and your immune system. Cauliflower, rich in Vitamins K and C, also contains a chemical (indole-3-carbinole), which helps repair DNA and slows estrogen-related cancer growth.

Like cruciferous vegetables, leafy fall vegetables – kale, mustard greens and spinach also boost your immune system. In addition to a high Vitamin A, C and K content, they all contain fiber and the essential minerals folate, calcium and manganese. As well, spinach is particularly rich in iron and calcium.

For the some vegetables, the root and/or the leaf can be used. Onions, garlic and leeks add more than just flavour to your meal; they improve your digestion by increasing the beneficial bacteria in your digestive tract and regulating bowel function. Their pre-biotics support your immune system, help regulate blood sugar levels and fight bacteria and viruses.

All onions reduce inflammation, cholesterol and cancer risk but different types of onions carry different levels of anti-oxidants. Shallots are the most potent and Vidalia onions the least. Leeks, sweeter and milder than onions, contain Vitamins C, and B6, as well as iron, manganese and folate, which can also reduce bad cholesterol, regulate blood sugar levels and fight cancer.

Pumpkins and squash are also traditionally healthy fall vegetables. The beta-carotene and potassium in pumpkins and squash help maintain healthy vision. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of and omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid, which reduces heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol. Squash contains fiber, potassium, iron and Vitamin A, which helps maintain healthy skin, hair, vision and bones.

This season, although your summer tan may be fading and falling leaves may signal that winter is just down the road, look on the bright side! A variety of bright orange and green vegetables on your plate will keep you moving ahead on a healthy path towards spring.

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