Health Beat: Fall fruits abound

Published 8:19 pm Friday, November 4, 2016

With the fall season upon us, get ready for the cool weather fruits and vegetables that are appearing in the produce aisle of the grocery store. Colors of deep red, orange, and purple will take the place of the greens and yellows of summer. This season usually reminds of apples, grapes, squashes, sweet potatoes and pumpkins, to name a few. Each of these orchard jewels offers a wide variety of nutritional benefits. Proper selecting, storing and serving fruits and vegetables is important.

An Apple A Day …
Whether or not they keep the doctor away is another story, but they certainly can’t hurt. Apples are relatively high in vitamin C and potassium, but the healthiest part of the apple is the fiber it contains. It is a food high in carbohydrate, however, 70 percent of the total fiber is in the fleshy part of the apple with a non-soluble fiber in the peel. Most of the fiber is in the form of pectin, a water-soluble fiber, which interferes with the body’s absorption of dietary fats. The whole apple can also be used as an anti-diarrheal.

Choose apples that are firm and brightly colored: shiny red, clear-green or golden-yellow. Avoid bruised or soft apples. When an apple is damaged in one spot, a chemical reaction tends to quickly cause rotting of the whole apple. Apples need to be stored in the refrigerator to keep them crispy and crunchy.

Never peel or slice an apple until you are ready to use it, but if you must peel it early, dip the cut apple pieces in a solution of lemon juice and water or vinegar and water to prevent browning.

Apples are great as a dessert after any meal, but also can be sliced into cakes or breads, salads, baked with a little brown sugar or even paired with various vegetables.
Glorious Grapes
Fortunately, grape growing is a major industry throughout the country. Grapes make a great snack, but also can produce a wonderful juice, jelly or jam for your morning toast.

As with most fruits, grapes are a major source of carbohydrate, but like the apple, offer lots of nutritional value. They are an excellent source of fiber, potassium, vitamins A and C, the B vitamins and phosphorus.

Look for plump, well-colored grapes that are firmly attached to the stems. Grapes should be stored in the refrigerator in plastic bags. Wash them when ready to use by rinsing them under running cold water.

Try adding washed, cut grapes to chicken salad or leafy greens dressed in a tangy vinaigrette dressing and walnuts.
Winter Squashes, Sweet Potatoes and Pumpkin
You can’t miss the bright orange color of these vegetables. Winter squash comes in several varieties: acorn, butternut, Hubbard or spaghetti squash. Butternut has the most vitamin A, but all are a good source. The darker the yellow in color, the more vitamin A in the squash. Actually, baking squash preserves more vitamin A than boiling them, as heat does not destroy the vitamin. Vitamin A is a known anti-oxidant that may prevent certain cancers.

Purchase firm, heavy squash with smooth and unblemished skin. Store in a cool, dry cabinet to protect its nutritional value, but do not refrigerate. Winter squashes stored at cold temperatures convert their starches to sugar.

Pumpkins are very similar to squashes, but are even higher in vitamin A, providing over 400 percent the daily value for a healthy adult. They are an excellent source of fiber, B vitamins and potassium. Don’t overlook the pumpkin seeds. One ounce of dry pumpkin seeds provides 7 grams of protein, iron, thiamin and lots of fiber. Clean the seeds of the stringy pulp of the pumpkin. Bake them in the oven until crisp and brown.

We all are familiar with pumpkin pie, cookies or cakes, but have you ever had a pumpkin milkshake? Add ¼ to ½ cup cooked pumpkin to your next low-fat vanilla milkshake. Sprinkle with cinnamon, and enjoy a wonderful, healthy treat.

So instead of serving the family salty, fried snacks before bedtime, try passing around a tray of frosty cold grapes or apples with cheddar cheese slices, and watch them disappear.

Colleen S. Bucher, RDN, LDN, is coordinator of Vidant Nutrition Clinic at Vidant Wellness Center and can be reached at 252-847-2387.