Known to aid in digestion, relieve symptoms of nausea, treat severe menstrual pain, and reduce inflammation, ginger is an amazing food to incorporate in your diet year round.
Ginger contains both phenols and gingerols. The phenolic compounds in ginger help relieve irritation in the stomach and intestines, and aid in digestion by stimulating saliva and bile production. Chewing raw ginger or drinking ginger tea helps treat nausea naturally, and is commonly used by pregnant women experiencing morning sickness. Gingerols, naturally occurring oils in ginger, are potent anti-inflammatories, and fresh ginger has been used for centuries to reduce inflammation. Recent studies have shown that ginger may help treat more serious inflammatory conditions such as Cancer, although further research is necessary. For women experiencing severe pain with menstruation, ground ginger taken in the form of capsules has been shown reduce the pain's severity.
Ginger root is typically harvested in then fall and winter months. Freshly cut ginger is a perfect addition to tea, and as temperatures begin to drop hot beverages are more and more appealing. Lemon-ginger Green Tea is one of my favorite nutrition-packed beverages for fall, and can help boost our immune systems for the "cold and flu season" ahead.
Kale is one of my favorite dark, leafy greens. Commonly harvested in the fall, it provides a wide variety of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Incorporating kale into your diet can aid in digestion, improve issues associated with diabetes, help protect again bone fractures, and maintain healthy skin and hair.
The high amount of fiber in kale ( g per serving), along with its high water content, helps promote digestive health and prevent constipation. High fiber diets have been proven to reduce blood-glucose levels, and may even improve the lives of Type 2 diabetics by stabilizing blood sugar, insulin, and lipid levels. Kale also contains the antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid, which has been found to lower glucose levels while also increasing insulin sensitivity. The high amount of vitamin K found in kale (550 micrograms: 680% of our daily requirements) improves calcium absorption and strengthens bone matrix proteins, helping protect against bone fractures. Our skin and hair benefit from eating kale as well. Collagen levels are maintained best when vitamin C is readily available from sources such as kale. Having adequate collagen helps skin stay supple and hair remain strong. Skin also benefits from kale, because it contains high amounts of vitamin A and iron.
Eaten cooked (in soups, stews, or stir-fry) or raw (in salads or as a taco-topper), kale incorporated into your diet can benefit health year-round.
Mushrooms aren’t plants so they don’t contain the phytonutrients (nutrients specific to plants such as beta-carotene) associated with my other “Superfoods of Fall”. They do however provide immense nutritional value from the vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients they contain.
Mushrooms have a higher level of antioxidants than many plants, including green peppers and zucchinis, due to their high levels of polyphenols. One powerful micronutrient found in high concentrations in mushrooms is the antioxidant ergothioneine. Cooking actually releases this powerful nutrient from the mushroom cells, and increases its anti-inflammatory effects. Mushrooms are a common part of homeopathic medicine and have been used in natural remedies for centuries. Certain compounds in mushrooms are now being studied scientifically by researchers to determine their anti-inflammatory effects. A few of the bioactive compounds discovered include polysaccharides, phenolic compounds, steroids, and lectins.
Along with the antioxidants listen above, mushrooms are also a good source of B vitamins (niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin) and contain the minerals iron, and selenium. Mushrooms contain no fat, are low in carbohydrates, and high in fiber. They are a definite “superfood” to include in your diet this Fall.
Rutabaga, first discovered growing wild in Sweden, are cruciferous vegetables related to broccoli, cabbage and kale. They are a root vegetable harvested in the fall and have a similartaste to turnips. They are a great source of potassium and phosphorus, vitamin C and iron, and also the cancer-fighting substance glucosinolate. Rutabaga is wonderful cooked and served warm like mashed potatoes, cooked in soups and stews, or eaten raw as a salad topper to add a bit of crunch.
Potassium found in rutabaga (8% RDA in one cooked-cup) aids in protein and carbohydrate metabolism, and helps maintain proper fluid balance in the body. Rutabaga also contain 10% of your daily recommendation for phosphorous. Phosphorus aids in the metabolism and synthesis of proteins, and is an important mineral to maintain strong bones. Proper neurotransmitter function and collagen production both require adequate levels of vitamin C. 20-30% of your daily vitamin C requirements can come from eating just one serving of this “super food”. The vitamin C in rutabaga also allows for greater absorption of iron. One rutabaga contains about 5% of your daily needs.
Rutabaga has proven beneficial in protecting against cancer-causing carcinogens, and even aids in the reduction of colon and prostate cancers. Cruciferous vegetables, such as rutabagas, are excellent sources of sulfur-containing substances called glucosinolates. These compounds are responsible for the bitter taste and pungent aroma of cruciferous vegetables. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, glucosinolates may help eliminate carcinogens before they can damage DNA or alter certain cell-signaling pathways. In turn, normal cells aren't transformed into cancerous cells.
Mild and sweet, rutabaga is a great comfort food for fall.