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5 Gut-Healthy But Underrated Foods to Try this October

October is time for reflection, sweaters, hot cocoa, and snuggles with your furry fam. October is also a time to eat colorful, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Read on to learn how to incorporate apples, cabbage, potatoes, radishes, and turnips this October!





APPLES:

According to USapple.org, the United States is responsible for growing over 100 apple varieties. This points towards the robust plant variety offered throughout the United States. We are all familiar with the big names in the Apple world: Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Jazz, and Pink Lady, but, which other varieties can we expect to see on the shelves?


There is also Empire, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala, and McIntosh.


What can you do with apples besides just bite into them (and proceed to clean up all the juice for the next several moments)?


  1. Make a pie

  2. Make your own applesauce

  3. Stew them with cinnamon and nutmeg

  4. Make a Fall-inspired salad

  5. Make a gut-healthy smoothie


What makes apples so great for gut health?


Apples are primarily made up of water but they also contain several macro and micronutrients (and phytonutrients) that are important for gut health.


One medium-sized apple contains approximately 100 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 1 gram of protein, 0 grams of fat, and 25 g of carbohydrates of which 19 are from naturally-occurring sugar(s).


In addition to the macronutrients, several micronutrients are present which include vitamin C, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin E.


If you think apples can’t get any cooler, they also contain several polyphenols that are beneficial for human health.


The polyphenols that make apples an anti-oxidant powerhouse include compounds such as quercetin, anthocyanins, flavanols, and hydroxycinnamic acids.



CABBAGE:

Do you look at cabbage and think, “What the hell do I do with this thing?”


Me too.


Sauerkraut, Polish sausages, and German foods may come to mind when you think of cabbage but it is an extremely versatile vegetable.


You will find green cabbage, purple cabbage, and savoy cabbage in the shelves in the Midwest - mostly year-round.


What makes cabbage so great for your gut health?


One cup of chopped cabbage boasts the following nutrient profile:

  • 1 gram protein

  • Just shy of 1 gram of fat

  • 5 grams of carbohydrates of which

    • 2 grams are fiber

  • Calcium

  • Iron

  • Magnesium

  • Phosphorus

  • Zinc

  • Copper

  • Selenium

  • Various flavanoids (polyphenols)


What can you do with cabbage besides slowly watch it wilt away in your crisper?


  1. Use on top of tacos

  2. Bake it in the oven

  3. Fry it

  4. Make a salad

  5. Add to a Fall-inspired soup



SWEET POTATOES:

Who doesn’t love sweet potatoes?


They are a gour-geous orange color that takes on the flavor of whatever you spice it with!


You can make cinnamon-inspired mashed sweet potatoes or pull out the tried-and-true salt and pepper sweet potato fries for a weeknight staple. (This may or may not be what I do every week).


Sweet potatoes are a kitchen staple - along with avocado, olive oil and salt and pepper. It is just smart home-making.


But what’s inside sweet potatoes that make them amazing for you?


100 grams (~3.5 oz) of sweet potato gives you a huge boost for your health. Boasting roughly 1.5 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and 17 grams of carbohydrates (of which 4.5 is from fiber), calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, vitamin C, copper, selenium, and B vitamins such as B1 and B6, sweet potatoes are truly a nutrient powerhouse!


What about those powerful phytonutrients?


Sweet potatoes contain phenolic and flavonoids - two major polyphenols that are present in the food kingdom. Both are important to help quench low-levels of inflammation that occur due to natural metabolic processes.


Switch up your sweet potato fry recipe with these ideas:

  1. Veggie fritters

  2. Stuffed potatoes

  3. Sweet potato smoothie

  4. Sweet potato Mac N’ Cheese



RADISHES:

Enter the edible root family. Radishes are an underrated vegetable, most likely due to people not knowing what to do with them.


The only memory I have of anyone eating radishes in my family growing up was my grandpa who would rinse them and then proceed to eat them like an apple. He said he loved the peppery taste of them.


1 cup of roughly chopped radishes gives you about 1 gram of protein, 0 grams of fat, and 4 grams of carbohydrate (of which 2 grams comes from fiber). Additionally, radishes will boost your calcium, zinc, vitamin C, magnesium and vitamin B6 intake for the day.


The phytochemical properties of radishes include compounds such as flavonoids, terpenes, glucosinolates, and more!


Phytonutrients found in plants and vegetables are what give them their anti-oxidant benefits. What’s more, it is now understood that the bacterial species present (or not), in your colon is what determines the bioavailability and activity of these plant compounds. Mind blown.


If you haven’t tried radishes yet in your life, you need to. Here are some of my top ideas:

  1. Air Fryer Parmesan radishes (find this recipe of THIS MEAL PLAN)

  2. Radish Toast

  3. Julienne and place on chicken tacos



TURNIPS:

Also a root, turnips are great baked or mashed - similar to potatoes.


When cooked, turnips turn slightly sweet, earthy, and nutty.


Again, this isn’t a popular vegetable but with a bit of education and experimentation I think I can convince you to give this under-rooted vegetable a try.


One cup of cubed turnips gives you the following:

  • 1 gram of protein

  • 0.1 gram of fat

  • 8 grams of carbohydrates (of which 3 grams are fiber)

  • Calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, vitamin C, folate


In one study, it was reported that Turnip greens contained a whopping 129 phytochemical compounds.


We know that eating fruits and vegetables is good for us because of what they contain - vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals - but also of what they don’t contain: corn oils, soybean oils, processed grains and sugars.


Here are some ideas on how to enjoy turnips this October!

  1. Mashed turnips

  2. Baked turnips

  3. Turnip fries



CONCLUSION/MAIN TAKEAWAYS

The main takeaway here is that Fall is a beautiful time to introduce new produce into your daily diet. We are so fortunate to have a wide variety of plant varieties available to us for human consumption. Trying new fruits and vegetables doesn’t have to be scary or complicated.


Tap on THIS LINK to download a Fall-inspired meal plan featuring these five Fall veggie favorites!


After you download, don’t forget to share this article with a friend who wants to learn how to include more veggies into her daily life!



Keep Calm and Feed Your Microbiome!


Brianna Mesenbring

Functional Medicine Nutritionist

Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist




Resources:

  1. https://extension.illinois.edu/sites/default/files/cjmmwhatsinseason.pdf

  2. Franková, H., Musilová, J., Árvay, J., Šnirc, M., Jančo, I., Lidiková, J., & Vollmannová, A. (2022). Changes in Antioxidant Properties and Phenolics in Sweet Potatoes (Ipomoea batatas L.) Due to Heat Treatments. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 27(6), 1884. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27061884

  3. Oyenihi, A. B., Belay, Z. A., Mditshwa, A., & Caleb, O. J. (2022). "An apple a day keeps the doctor away": The potentials of apple bioactive constituents for chronic disease prevention. Journal of food science, 87(6), 2291–2309. https://doi.org/10.1111/1750-3841.16155

  4. https://www.usda.gov/

  5. K. B. Martinez, J. D. Mackert and M. K. McIntosh. In: Nutrition and Functional Foods for Healthy Aging, edited by R. R. Watson. Academic Press 2017. DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-805376-8.00018-6

  6. Gamba, M., et al. (2021). "Nutritional and phytochemical characterization of radish (Raphanus sativus): A systematic review." Trends in Food Science & Technology 113.

  7. Dejanovic, G. M., Asllanaj, E., Gamba, M., Raguindin, P. F., Itodo, O. A., Minder, B., Bussler, W., Metzger, B., Muka, T., Glisic, M., & Kern, H. (2021). Phytochemical characterization of turnip greens (Brassica rapa ssp. rapa): A systematic review. PloS one, 16(2), e0247032. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0247032

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