LIVING LIVELY | By KATE ROBITELLO
Undeniably one of the best times of year for our taste buds is fall. From the abundance of squash choices to the crisp crunch of a McIntosh apple, the air is filled with the lingering scent of cinnamon-spiked treats that are not only tasty, but healthy to boot (pun intended – tis indeed the time of year to go boot shopping!) but I digress. Here are three popular foods that would fall into the fall category that boast much more than the ability to fill a pie, but also provide us with essential nutrients.
Although filling, pumpkin is quite low-calorie, providing only 26 calories per 100 grams. But lack of calorie content is not indicative of lack of nutrients, and the pumpkin is no exception. That same amount of pumpkin provides more than double the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin A, an essential nutrient for healthy skin, hair and eyes. Pumpkin is also rich in various minerals like potassium, copper, magnesium and phosphorus. No need to take a B-complex supplement if you’re eating pumpkin regularly, as it is full of energy-converting B vitamins that also play an important role in development, health and growth. When buying canned pumpkin, try to go for the BPA-free organic choice. I use organic canned pumpkin in combination with oats, raw cacao, dates, stevia, cinnamon and organic peanut butter and make a pretty mean batch of chocolate pumpkin balls to store in the fridge — perfect for eating on the go without sacrificing optimal nutrition! Not into pumpkin? Go for any type of squash, which provide similar benefits, are equally as delicious and slightly more versatile.
Fortunately for Vermonters, there is certainly no shortage of apple orchards in Vermont. From the pale greenish-yellow Pippins to the late-summer Paula Reds, there are dozens of apple varieties, likely within 30 minutes of where you live. For those struggling with high cholesterol, apples are an absolute staple. Apples have shown to actually prevent the absorption of Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” via pectin, a soluble fiber found in citrus fruits and apples. As far as fighting that cool-weather cold, apples are an ideal choice to incorporate into the diet, as they are rich in antioxidants like beta-carotene and Vitamin C which help give the immune system that little boost that it needs when the body is under stress. Apples and almond butter are quite an amazing combination, and I also like to add some diced apples into the batter of my gluten-free banana muffins — it becomes nearly impossible to only eat just one.
Little do most know, there are actually hundreds of types of cinnamon out there, however only four are used commercially in food, spice and beauty products: Ceylon, Cassia, Saigon, and Korintje. The most popular of the four is Cassia cinnamon, which is what you find in the grocery store. If you ever happen to check out the diabetic foods and supplements section of most grocery stores and pharmacies, you will find that it is quite common to come upon cinnamon capsules. But, why? Because cinnamon has been clinically proven to aid in lowering and stabilizing blood sugar levels and increase sensitivity to insulin — an ideal choice for those who have metabolic derangement that commonly manifests as type 2 diabetes and or polycystic ovarian syndrome. Better yet, cinnamon is rich in antioxidants, contains anti-inflammatory compounds, and helps fight bacterial and viral infections due to its primary component, cinnamaldehyde. Naturally, cinnamon goes well with a plethora of foods. In the cooler months I prefer to add Ceylon cinnamon to a piping hot mug of flax milk and add a couple drops of stevia for added sweetness, and the warmer late summer afternoons — nothing quite beats banana ice cream blended with fresh cinnamon.
Whether you’re spending the weekend baking in the kitchen or simply whipping up a quick snack, rest assured that the foods that are in-season are packed with nutrients that will keep you in good health!
Kate Robitello is a plant based nutrition expert based at Rutland’s Pyramid Holistic Wellness Center. She’s a proponent of clean eats, abundant health, and living vibrantly.