By Carolyn Malcoun
If the craze for pumpkin-spice everything is any indication, many of us love fall vegetables (at least in latte form). But even a true fall-vegetable lover can get into a cooking rut. Particularly when fall’s bounty of colorful squash, leafy greens and hearty roots arrives and summer’s easy-to-love tomatoes and peppers are harder to come by at the farmers’ market.
If you need a little fall-vegetable cooking inspiration to keep you excited about dark leafy greens, root vegetables and gourds, find a few new fall veggies to add to your repertoire. Many of these fall favorites are great candidates for high-heat oven roasting, which makes them deliciously crisp and brings out their inherent sweetness. And, as if their good taste weren’t enough, there are some compelling health reasons to eat these vegetables too!
You may not love their earthy flavor, but beets are rich in naturally occurring nitrates (as are cabbages and radishes.) You didn’t hear wrong — yes, nitrates. Unlike the unhealthy artificial nitrates found in processed meat, these nitrates may be beneficial.
These compounds may help poor blood flow, which contributes to age-related cognitive decline. Older adults who ate a nitrate-rich diet got a boost in blood flow to the frontal lobe of their brains — an area commonly associated with dementia — according to a study published in the journal Nitric Oxide. Nitrate-rich foods can also help people with hypertension by widening blood vessels and aiding blood flow, according to research published in the journal Hypertension. Green leafy vegetables may have a similar effect, so eat up!
You’re probably already a coleslaw fan, but there are many more ways to enjoy cabbage. It’s loaded with vitamins C and K, fiber and detoxifying sulfur compounds. Red cabbage also boasts anthocyanins, antioxidants thought to keep your heart healthy and brain sharp.
You may only pick up leeks at the store if you need them for a specific recipe, but consider buying them more often to use in place of onions. Just a single leek contains 10 grams of fructans, a type of fiber associated with better gut health.
As with fellow members of the brassica family like broccoli and cabbage, turnips may help decrease your risk for certain cancers. Don’t miss out on their tasty greens too. They’re packed with vitamin A, a nutrient important for bone growth, as well as K, which aids in blood clotting.
Maybe you tend to skip over the squash in the produce aisle, since they can be a little tricky to tackle and take a while to cook. Reconsider now! Sure squash requires a little extra time to prepare, but it’s a worthy endeavor. Winter squash is high in fiber, an excellent source of vitamins A and C, and also provides vitamin B6, folate, vitamin K and potassium.
(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at www.eatingwell.com.)