October 17, 2013 | by Bucky Mitchell
Fall flavors
cranberries, gay news, Washington Blade

Some of the fruits we most associate with fall, like cranberries, also offer great health benefits. (Photo by SeppVei; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

With fall comes the crispy cool air, hay rides, pumpkin spice lattes, warm sweaters, hiking, camping and best of all, the flavors, textures, colors and health benefits that fall foods have to offer.

While I could go on for days about my favorite foods and dishes for fall and why they are so healthy for you, I’ve narrowed it down to three of my favorites: apples, cranberries and pumpkin.

Cranberries 

Bright red, shiny, tart and tangy — what is there not to love about cranberries? I love cranberries because they’re super healthy and packed with:

Vitamin C that helps protect us from everything from heart disease, immune system deficiencies to eye disease.

Antioxidants that help prevent heart disease and keep our LDL (bad cholesterol) low, while increasing our HDL (good cholesterol).

Dietary fiber that helps fight against cancer, diabetes, inflammation and bacterial infections.

Cranberries are generally available from October to December. Look for berries that are bright red, firm to the touch and with the skin intact. The brighter the cranberries, the more antioxidants and flavor they have.

Cranberry/avocado Salad

This simple recipe consists of two ripe avocados (diced), ¾ cup of dried cranberries (no sugar added), ¼ cup of red onion (diced) and 2 tablespoons of chopped of cilantro.Add in 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice and honey and pinch of salt and black pepper for extra flavor. Mix all these ingredients in a large bowl and enjoy this beautiful, colorful salad.

Apples

From granny smiths to gala apples, you can’t go wrong with all the healthy options you have when it comes to apples.

Apples have something called Pectin, which in short, limits the amount of fat that can be absorbed into your cells and therefore, results in a fat flashing response in the body.

If you want to boost your endurance while working out, be sure to eat an apple beforehand. Apples have this unique antioxidant called quercetin, which aids in endurance by making oxygen more available to the lungs while working out.

Apples are packed with polyphenols, which have a variety of benefits some of which include anti-inflammatory/anti-aging properties that keep our joints happy and our bodies looking youthful.

Although fresh apples are available all year long, I find the varieties (granny smith, macintosh, red delicious) that are best to cook with are more readily available during the fall. Be sure to look for apples that are brightly colored, firm and that aren’t bruised, soft to the touch or brown in color.

Apple-Cranberry Granola

This simple recipe consists of three apples of your choosing (diced) with  ¾ cup of fresh or dried cranberries/cherries and 1 cup of rolled oats. Mix ingredients into a large bowl with 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of real butter, ¼ cup of agave nectar and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Spread ingredients out on a large cookie sheet in a 375-degree oven until the oats are golden and the apples are dry. Serve over some Greek yogurt for a great morning snack.

Pumpkin

To me there is no better, warmer, richer fall flavor than pumpkin.

Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A, which not only helps us keep the youthfulness and vitality of our skin, but it also keeps our eyes and vision strong.

The seeds in pumpkin contain an amino acid called tryptophan. While tryptophan is known for making us sleepy, it also helps in producing serotonin in our body, which stabilizes our mood and makes us happy and calm.

If you’re feeling a little tired after you workout, be sure to have a little pumpkin soup or a pumpkin bar. Pumpkin is backed with potassium and gives you a boost in energy!

Pumpkins are available all year long. Mature pumpkins should feel and look heavy to the touch. If you tap on the pumpkin, it should make a nice sound. Avoid pumpkins that look wrinkled, bruised or cut.

Pumpkin and Almond Soup

This simple recipe consists of combining 1 can of pumpkin,1 can of almond milk (unsweetened) and ¼ cup of agave nectar into a medium sauce pan on low heat. Add in 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and nutmeg and let simmer until the soup thickens. Add a ½ teaspoon of finely chopped mint for additional flavor.

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