How to give Autumn meals a nutritious boost

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Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love the colors. I love the crisp Autumn air. I love the crunch of leaves under my shoes. I love the horror movies and TV shows. And I definitely love the foods.

I’m not just talking about trick-or-treat candies and Thanksgiving feasts. I love all of the deep orange vegetables that are finally in season — carrots, butternut squash, acorn squash, sweet potatoes, yams and pumpkins.

The cooking options are endless. From hearty stews to wholesome soups, there are so many ways to incorporate the tastes of the season into your diet. Not to mention, all the nutritional reasons you should.

Value

Throughout Autumn, deep orange vegetables are plentiful and packed with nutritional qualities linked to numerous health benefits. According to Penn State Extension, teens and adults should consume four to six cups of red and orange vegetables weekly; children 4 to 8 years old should eat three cups a week and children two to three should eat 2 1/2 cups a week.

Some of the nutritional benefits include:

  • Deep orange vegetables provide a good source of beta carotene, a carotenoid and antioxidant that protects against free-radical damage. In the body, beta carotene is converted to Vitamin A, which helps in the differentiation of normal cells and may prevent the development of cancer.
  • They also contain alpha carotene, a type of Vitamin A, which prevents cancer cells from dividing and taking over other cells, stopping the growth of cancer.
  • The carotenoids present in these vegetables also have benefits for heart health. Studies have shown men with high cholesterol who ate a lot of dark yellow and orange vegetables lowered their chances of getting a heart attack more than men who did not eat these vegetables.
  • As it turns out, the old wive’s tale about eating carrots to maintain good eyesight has some backing as well. Studies have shown that people who eat a diet high in orange vegetables experience a 43 percent decreased risk of muscular degeneration — an eye disease that can lead to blindness in older people.

How to work orange vegetables into your diet

Don’t wait for pumpkin pie and yams at Thanksgiving to get your orange vegetable fix, there are plenty of creative ways to work them into your diet now.

Here are some ideas to try:

  • Make soups with pumpkin and squash.
  • Grill dark yellow and orange vegetables to serve with meat.
  • Use shredded or diced orange vegetables in rice and pasta dishes.
  • Blend pureed pumpkin and squash into smoothies.
  • Bake dark yellow and orange vegetables into quick bread or dessert.
  • Stir fry deep orange and yellow vegetables to serve as a side dish.
  • Swap baked sweet potato fries for french fries or a baked sweet potato for a traditional baked potato.

Recipe

Healthy Sweet Potato Fries

Ingredients

  • 3 large sweet potato
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/8 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Scrub potatoes and then cut each lengthwise into wedges.
  3. Place wedges in a bowl and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and cinnamon.
  4. Spread out wedges evenly on a cookie sheet and back for 45 minutes, tuning them after 20 minutes.

Source: For additional information, visit the Penn State Extension.

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Sara is Farm and Dairy’s online content producer. Raised in Portage County, she earned a magazine journalism degree from Kent State University. She enjoys spending time with her daughter, traveling, writing, reading and outdoor recreation.

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