Fall’s Fab 5

The temperature may be getting cooler, but you’re still sweating it out at the gym. Let these five fall favorites help you kick inflammation to the curb, while keeping your cardiovascular and immune systems in top fighting shape.

1) PUMPKIN

Synonymous with the season, pumpkins aren’t just for carving at Halloween. This gourd-like squash is best known as the star ingredient in holiday pies, however, pumpkin can also be the heavy in soups and vegetable dishes for healthier uses. Simple additions of stevia, ground cinnamon, and canned pumpkin to your morning oatmeal or to plain Greek-style yogurt will give a healthy seasonal spin to these nutrition staples. This high fiber food—boasting vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium— is also rich in beta-carotene, a member of the carotenoid family of phytonutrients with potent antioxidant and immune enhancing properties.

2) SWEET POTATOES

Another beta-carotene superstar, sweet potatoes supply your body with potassium, manganese, fiber, and vitamins A, C, and B6. Although the beta-carotene containing orange flesh of sweet potatoes is most common, the inside of this root vegetable can also range from creamy white and yellow to deep purple. The purple-fleshed sweet potatoes provide abundant anthocyanin pigments (also found in blueberries), which not only boots your antioxidant protection but also anti-inflammatory support. After tough workouts, replenish your glycogen storage with a simple baked or mashed sweet potato seasoned with ground cinnamon.

3) WINTER SQUASH

There are many types of winter squash—some actually looking quite strange and almost inedible with their bumpy outer coverings. Don’t let that fool you. Popular and versatile varieties—such as acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash—are worth looking into for their nutrient density as well as their mild, sweet, nutty flavors. Potassium, manganese, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, B, and C highlight the nutrient profile of this large vegetable family. Butternut is the smoothest and sweetest of the group and is easy to peel. It is also quick to roast, sauté, or mash, and it works great in soups. Cooked spaghetti squash pulls apart into stringy spaghetti-like strands, and can be served as a lower carb and lower calorie version of pasta.

4) APPLES

Apples have a low glycemic index and contain a number of nutrients, including fiber, vitamins B and C, and antioxidant flavanoids such as quercetin. Apples make a quick snack, enriching your body with blood sugar and cardiovascular, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory support. Wash and eat with the skin on for maximum health benefits. With flavors ranging from the sweetest Golden and Red Delicious to sweet-tart Braeburn and Fuji to the tartest Granny Smith, there’s something for everyone’s taste buds. Whichever type you prefer, try to buy organic, as conventional apples have recently been rated one of the highest pesticide and chemical sprayed types of produce.

5) CINNAMON

Harvested from the brown bark of the cinnamon tree, this spice has anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, it helps to lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar, and it gives a possible boost to cognitive function. Cinnamon is a great addition to glycogen restoring sweet potatoes, as well as a flavor boost to your oatmeal and Greekstyle yogurt. It can also be easily added to black bean and other vegetable dishes, or simmered in its stick form with almond milk and honey as a healthier winter beverage alternative to high sugar hot chocolates and ciders.

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