Diet & Nutrition
Fall Fruit and Vegetable Guide
With fall come brisk days, turning leaves – and a bounty of tempting, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Here, the experts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offer tips on what fruits and veggies are best right now, and how to pick the best in the market:
F R U I T S
According to the HHS, apples are “nature’s perfect snack.” Whether they’re sweet or tart, they’re great for baking as well as eating. The benefits of apples (besides the exercise you get if you pick them yourself!) is that they’re high in vitamin C and soluble fiber. They may also have a role in preventing heart disease. The HHS experts recommend choosing richly colored, firm, unbruised apples.
- Store them in the refrigerator, and keep in mind that firmer apples like Gala and Fuji will last longer than a softer variety like Golden Delicious.
Not only are they nutritious – they’re festive. They’re a must-have at Thanksgiving, and look great on a garland looped around a Christmas tree, the HHS experts say. Try to keep them in your diet all year round!
- Like apples, cranberries are a good source of vitamin C and fiber. They also have several antioxidants, the HHS experts say, that have been linked to cancer prevention. Get them fresh in 12-ounce bags. They also freeze well and can be kept for a few months, the experts say, in either an airtight container or the bag you bought them in.
A great fruit, but one that requires patience. Unlike apples, pears don’t do well ripening on the tree. Instead, they are picked before they are mature. They also undergo post-harvest cold storage to continue the ripening process. (Editor’s note: According to experts from Oregon State University, there’s a “relatively narrow window” between a pear being too hard and too soft.)
Every kind of pear is available in the fall, according to the HHS experts. Besides snacking on them, you can have oven-roasted or poached pears. Each medium pear, the HHS experts say, has about 100 calories and 6 grams of fiber.
- Let pears sit at room temperature. Put them near other ripening fruit, the HHS experts say, or in a brown bag with a ripe banana. That stimulates ripening). Most pears won’t change color when they’re ripe; instead, evaluate them with touch. Pears are ready when they can be gently pressed near the stem.
This red, round fruit can look rather forbidding, but once you cut one open, the HHS experts say, you’ll see dozens of juicy, edible seeds. The pomegranate, which averages about 70 calories is high in potassium, fiber and vitamin C. It’s also high in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that’s been with reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers.
- When shopping, look for pomegranates that feel especially heavy; that indicates many ripe seeds inside. The HHS experts say that pomegranates can be stored at room temps for up to three weeks; in the refrigerator, they will last up to two months. The juice and the seeds can be frozen for up to 6 months.
V E G E T A B L E S
As for veggies, the HHS experts have singled out four fall treats: broccoli, chard, mushrooms and potatoes. They’re all delicious in everything from soups to stews as well as side dishes. Here’s what each has to offer:
It’s one of our favorite “everyday” vegetables, the HHS says. It’s affordable, easily available and has plenty of nutrients. Raw broccoli is the healthiest way to eat it, so consider adding it to your salad.It’s a good source of fiber as well as vitamins C, K, A and folate. Additionally, it has compounds called isothiocyanates that energize the body’s natural detoxifying enzymes.
- Supermarkets usually sell full heads of broccoli, crowns or tiny florets. Look for dark green broccoli with no signs of yellowing. The HHS experts say broccoli is good in the refrigerator for at least a week. Dry florets can be revived by wrapping the head in damp paper towels.
Chard, an earthy, sweet vegetable, is easily available, the HHS experts say. Though there are several different colors of stalks and leaves, green chard is usually the mildest.
Cooked chard is a great source of vitamin K and vitamin A. The most common types available are rainbow, white, green and red. Whatever color you choose, the experts say, look for fresh, brightly colored leaves and stems. Don’t buy any that are wilted or blemished.
- When storing chard, the HHS experts say, wrap the stem ends in damp paper towels. Refrigerate in a plastic bag for up to a week.
Mushrooms come in a variety of sizes and brands from the tiny white button mushrooms to the large portabello (or portabella). Other kinds include cremini (“baby bellas”), oyster and shiitake. All varieties have crucial nutrients including potassium, copper, niacin and selenium. There’s some indication, the HHS experts say, that white button mushrooms may have more antioxidants than other kinds.
- When shopping for mushrooms, look for ones that are firm and smooth.
- Keep mushrooms in their original container for up to a week in the refrigerator. After they’re opened, put them in a paper bag to prolong shelf life. Don’t store in airtight containers, because that will make them spoil faster. And never freeze fresh mushrooms.
This versatile veggie comes in a variety of sizes and textures, allowing you to use it for any number of dishes. You can stuff baked russet potatoes with vegetables, or mash them with nonfat milk, the HHS experts say. Boiled red Turn boiled red-skinned potatoes into a creamy potato salad. Yet another kind of potato – the small, long type known as fingerlings – can be steamed and then tossed with fresh herbs. Small, long, flavorful potatoes called fingerlings make an elegant side when simply steamed and tossed with fresh herbs. Because they’re high in carbs, potatoes have somewhat of a bad reputation. But they’re excellent sources of vitamin C and potassium, and they have a lot of fiber, especially if you eat them with the skin on.
- When shopping for potatoes, look for firm ones without spots. If a potato has begun to sprout, it’s been stored too long, the HHS experts say.
- Don’t ever refrigerate potatoes, the experts say. Instead, keep them in a cool, dark place with good air circulation. If a potato begins to sprout but is still firm, remove the sprouts and eyes before you eat them. Discard any green skin before eating, the HHS experts say. Potatoes can keep up to 12 weeks, except for small, thin-skinned potatoes such as fingerlings. These should be used in a few days.
Adapted from material for One Million Hearts, a campaign by the federal Department of Health and Human Services to avoid one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. For more information, visit www.millionhearts.hhs.gov.