The weather is about to become a lot cooler and pumpkin-everything is in vogue. Yes, it does give you the excuse to order a pumpkin spiced latte, but an expanding waistline may come with it. Instead of running off to the nearest coffee shop to ring in fall, start piling your plate with this season's super foods. These foods will hit your body with an array of health benefits like an increased immune system and a faster metabolism.
1. Brussels Sprouts
There’s a reason why this vegetable gets a bad rap—steaming them produces the offensive, sulfurous smell and taste. To save your nose, roast them, it will bring out a sweet, nutty flavor. One cup of this vegetable contains almost 130 percent of the RDA for vitamin. C. Having appropriate levels of vitamin C can help suppress cortisone levels, which gets released when you’re stressed.
The “apple a day” adage does have some justification. Besides the fact that an apple can help pack a lot of fiber, it also promotes heart health and prevents strokes. Experts believe that this is due to an apple’s antioxidant compounds. As for working out, eating an apple as a pre-workout snack can enhance your endurance. The reason: apples contain quercetin, a flavonoid that has been seen to increase oxygen to the lungs.
Cauliflower is in the cruciferous family, typically overshadowed by it’s green relative, broccoli. Falling into the superfood category, cauliflower can help fight cancer, boost heart health, fight inflammation, and improve cognitive and liver function. A study from the University of Hawaii indicated that three servings a week of cauliflower could improve liver function, allowing your body to burn fat more effectively.
4. Sweet Potatoes
One medium sweet potato contains 160 calories, 37 grams of carbs, 4 grams of protein, and is loaded with vitamins and minerals. And surprisingly enough, sweet potatoes contain more potassium than bananas, helping to ward off muscle cramps. To achieve more health benefits from it, eat sweet potatoes with the skin. The skin is rich in fiber and quercentin. As mentioned before, quercentin can enhance your endurance during a workout.
The fall really means it’s the season for everything pumpkin: bread, beer, coffee…the list is endless. A cup of this well-loved fruit can aid in weight loss, improve your mood, and protect your skin. At only three grams of fiber per cup and 49 calories, pumpkin can keep you feeling fuller for longer and it’s carotenoid profile can help minimize any wrinkles. For it’s muscular component, turn pumpkin into a post-workout smoothie to refuel your system with electrolytes—decreasing your chances of a painful cramp. Pumpkin is another food that contains more potassium than bananas.
Cooler days can sometimes spike cravings such as wanting a pasta dinner. When this happens, cook up some spaghetti squash using winter squash. Winter squash is an excellent source of vitamin B6, manganese, and thiamine. Thiamine works to metabolize the foods that you eat for energy and it enhances mental focus and mood.
It’s a cross between turnips and cabbage and fairly uncommon in most dishes, but rutabaga is one root vegetable that you should get to know. For starters, rutabaga is a low calorie, high fiber food—helping you feel fuller while regulating bowel movements. It’s also potent in antioxidants, helping fight off free radicals, which can cause damage within the body. When you're looking to indulge on mashed potatoes but don't want to destroy your carb macros, sub in rutabaga. One cup of mashed rutabaga only has 15 grams of carbs and they can be cooked the same way as mashed potatoes.
Start eating more fungus because they’re low on the caloric scale and contain zero grams of fat. Because of their nutrient profile, they rank higher than fruit and vegetables and are considered a functional food. When it comes to the B vitamins, mushrooms have you covered—converting your food into energy. Their high selenium content can also improve an immune response by increasing the production of T-cells. As for the vitamin D in mushrooms have been linked to regulating cell growth, inhibiting the growth of cancer cells.
It’s quite obvious by now that antioxidants are beneficial for your health. But when it comes to working out, pomegranate juice has seen to improve muscle recovery. The University of Texas at Austin conducted a study in which two groups either drank four ounces of pomegranate juice or a placebo twice a day. Each group participated in heavy lifting workouts, and it was seen that the pomegranate group was less sore and had a reduced muscle weakness for close seven days.
Cranberries peak in September and are a Thanksgiving fruit favorite. They offer antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer health properties. This red, tart fruit is best known for helping cure urinary tract infections (UTIs) because of its high level of proanthocyanidins, which helps decrease the amount of bacteria. Also, proanthocyanidins boost oral health by preventing gum disease. Top your salad with some or throw them into a smoothie to get that tart flavor.
Studies suggest that the naturally occurring nitrates in beets help vasodilate (widen) blood vessels. This increases blood flow to working muscles, allowing them to work more efficiently.
Each 3-ounce serving delivers 20 grams of protein and a measly gram of fat. So gobble it up without the restraint that you should show for Mom’s pecan pie.