Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of The GRID DIET healthy lifestyle eating plan all year round, but with the Fall Harvest around the corner, getting your servings of fruits and vegetables is more delicious than ever! Fruits packed with fall flavor are a wonderful way to welcome in the crisp autumn season. Fruits are not only an obvious source of natural sugars for quick energy but are also an excellent source of vitamin C and the B complex vitamins. These vitamins are vital for many aspects of normal body functioning and need to be replenished in the diet daily since the body cannot store them. Vitamin C boosts the immune system and contributes to good heart health. The B vitamins are essential for normal carbohydrate metabolism and energy production and for normal nervous system functioning as well. Fruits are also rich in many other nutrients, including essential minerals like potassium and magnesium and many health-promoting phytonutrients that, along with vitamin C, serve as powerful antioxidants. Eating fruit daily helps maintain a healthy immune system and reduce the body’s susceptibility to degenerative diseases associated with the oxidation of harmful free radicals. As you can see, there are many ways that fruits can help you feel your best so you can enjoy the best of the season- leaves, pumpkin patches, and time with loved ones instead of that nasty fall flu or the sniffles!
A Change in Season Calls for a Change in Fruit Choice
If you’re wondering which fresh fruits are best this time of year, we have the answers! Fruit in any form–fresh, canned, frozen, dried, or juice–counts, but fresh is by far the best and most nutritious way to eat fruit. During the summer, it’s easy because it’s the peak season for many different types of fruits. But starting in September, and continuing through fall as the weather gets cooler, even though you can still probably find most summer fruits at the supermarket, their quality and nutritional value won’t be the same.
Fortunately, Mother Nature saved the best for last and several fruits have their peak season in the fall, including Apples, Cranberries, Grapes, and Pears. All four fruits are delicious eaten raw, any time of day, either as part of a meal or for a snack. They are also easily transportable, so they are perfect to take along for a lunch or snack at the office. But these options only scratch the surface of the many different ways you can incorporate these tasty and healthy fresh treats into your diet. The Nutrition Factors database is filled with recipes using these fruits, and we’ve included some of our favorite Fall grape and pear recipes on this blog so you can start enjoying the fruits of Fall today!
Why We’re Goo-Goo for Grapes
Grapes are not only grown in many regions all over the world; they are also one of the most popular fruits worldwide, including America. Grapes exist in many varieties. They can be either seeded or seedless, and color varies considerably, from pale green to amber, red, dark purple, and blue-black. Grapes are also extremely versatile. Besides the many varieties of fresh grapes that are delicious either alone or paired with other foods, we also enjoy grapes in many other forms: jellies, jams, wine, juices, and dried, as raisins.
Grapes date all the way back to Biblical times. They were first cultivated near Northern Iran as early as 6,000 B.C. and in the U.S. as early as the 17th century. But, of course, we know a lot more today about growing hardy, disease-resistant varieties. So every time you serve yourself this remarkable fruit, you can be certain of getting valuable nutritional benefits without the problems associated with earlier crops. Since their beginning to today, grapes have played a delicious cultural role. From winemaking to being the perfect packed fall picnic snack, they’re a historical classic and a modern favorite.
Besides being readily available, delicious, and portable so you can have them on hand whenever you want them, anytime, anywhere, grapes offer so many diverse health benefits that many nutritionists have labeled them a superfood. How could this be, you may be asking yourself, knowing that grapes are not a good source of protein, but contain a lot of sugar.
The answer lies in their many other components. Among them are several essential vitamins and minerals–notably the B-complex vitamins, vitamin C, manganese, and potassium–along with dietary fiber and, most importantly, high concentrations of carotenoids, polyphenols, phenolic acids, and other phytonutrients with strong antioxidant properties.
Grapes are especially rich in manganese, which is both a potent antioxidant in its own right and a key player in protein and carbohydrate metabolism and the utilization of the B complex vitamins, which the body also needs for energy production and normal nervous system functioning. Vitamin C is needed for a healthy immune system, while potassium is vital to heart health.
Seeded grapes are a good source of the carotenoids alpha- and beta-carotene, which can be converted into vitamin A in the body. Vitamin E, healthy Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, and a type of polyphenol called proanthocyanidins believed to be important for blood, skin, and brain health, and in stopping the growth of cancer cells, are found in the seeds as well.
All of the major carotenoids–the aforementioned alpha- and beta-carotene and lutein and zeaxanthin–are found in grapes. These important phytonutrients, besides playing a key role in maintaining normal vision and good eye health, help protect the body from heart disease, cancer, and other serious illnesses. Another potent carotenoid, lycopene, which is found in red grapes but not green grapes, is believed to be very beneficial in helping to prevent prostate and breast cancer.
Another way red and purple grapes are superior nutritionally to green grapes is their high content of anthocyanin pigments, which not only give these grapes their deep color but provide powerful antioxidant protection.
Resveratrol, a phenolic fungicide found in both the skin and seeds of grapes, is another component that is both anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic. In fact, research studies show that resveratrol is effective not only in inhibiting the growth of certain types of cancer cells, but also in helping to prevent certain viral and fungal infections and other serious aging-related conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Because resveratrol can help lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of blood clots, it is believed to be cardio-protective. While grapes are growing, they produce resveratrol as a defense against environmental stressors like bad weather, insects, and fungi. When you eat the ripened fruit, the powerful antioxidant protection that resveratrol offers passes on to you.
It is not necessary to eat a lot of grapes to receive significant health benefits. One cup, or about 15 grapes, is sufficient. This size serving contains 62 calories along with an abundance of health-promoting nutrients, without any saturated fat or cholesterol. Diabetics can generally eat grapes in moderation but must be very careful not to overconsume due to the high sugar content. Fortunately, much of the sugar content is in the form of fructose, which is not as quickly digested as simpler sugars, so glucose blood levels are less likely to spike.
Whether they’re eaten as a snack or as part of your meal, grapes will satisfy your cravings and help feel full without consuming a lot of calories. Or have them for dessert. They are a much healthier dessert choice than cake or pastry for those watching their weight.
Selecting and Storing Grapes
While European grapes are available year-round, the best time to buy North American varieties, like Concord grapes, is in September and October. That is when these grapes are not only lower in cost, but have the highest concentration of nutrients and best flavor.
When shopping for grapes, you can tell whether or not they are fully ripe simply by looking at them. Choose grapes that are firm, plump, and wrinkle free, and whose skin, other than having a powdery finish (bloom) is rich and uniform in color. Green grapes should be yellow-green, red grapes pinkish red, and purple and blue-black grapes deeply and intensely colored. Avoid grapes that are soft, mushy, wrinkled, or shriveled, or have juice leaking, which are signs of over-ripeness. Organic grapes are best if you are concerned about pesticides. However, people with certain medical conditions, chemical sensitivities, or allergies may have to forego grapes entirely. Check with your doctor if you think you might be affected.
Grapes continue to respire after harvesting, so the best way to store ripe grapes that won’t be eaten immediately is wrapped in a paper towel, then placed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator away from other items with strong odors. Grapes stored in this manner should keep for up to five days. However, wait until you are going to eat them to wash the grapes because water will cause them to spoil faster.
Fresh grapes, in season, are equally delicious whether you eat them alone, pair them with cheese or other fruits, add them to yogurt or a salad, or take them with you for part of your office or picnic lunch or to eat on the go. Eating a food that’s high in protein, like chicken salad, fish, cheese, yogurt, nuts or peanut butter, along with grapes is especially recommended for those needing to lose weight. Since the food will then take longer to digest and have more staying power, you won’t be craving more food an hour later.
These fall appetizers are a simple, easy way to serve grapes. This recipe is great for a party or a picnic that only takes a few moments to assemble, but they’re so good that they’ll be gone as quickly as you make them! Pair your autumn grapes with your favorite cheeses!
This recipe is all the best flavors of fall in one dish! Crisp, fall apples, the toasty taste of walnuts, and in season grapes mixed together with your favorite yogurt, will leave you wanting it as a side dish and a dessert!
We all know that chicken salad is a classic, but by adding grapes, cashews, and tarragon you can revamp this dish into a Fall season sensation!
Why You and Pears make a Perfect Pair
Pears are another fruit that has been around and revered for many centuries. Furthermore, even without the knowledge we have now why pears are a powerhouse from a nutritional standpoint, our ancestors sensed that this food had special qualities. The Odyssey by Homer calls pears the “gift of the gods” and Louis XIV reportedly loved pears, as did Thomas Jefferson. Based on taste alone, it’s easy to see why pears have continued to be very popular all over the world, even among those who don’t ordinarily eat a lot of fruit. But good taste is far from the only reason to make pears a frequent part of your diet.
Pears are low in calories. An average size pear contains 98 calories, of which less than 6 are from fat. Instead, pears contain an abundance of health-promoting nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin K, and copper, all of which help protect the cells from oxidative damage. Vitamin C strengthens the immune system and lowers the risk for a very wide range of illnesses from colds to cancer. Vitamin K is essential for proper blood clotting and strong, healthy bones. Copper also contributes to good bone health and is essential for the normal thyroid gland and nervous system functioning and for maintaining the integrity of cell membranes. Copper also facilitates the body’s utilization of iron.
The flavonoids found in pears, like catechin and quercetin also add to this fruit’s antioxidant protection and are associated with lower risk for cancer. Pears also contain phytosterols, which inhibit cholesterol absorption. In addition, pears promote better digestive health, Just one pear contains more than 15% of the DV for dietary fiber. The soluble fiber in pears works with vitamin C and the phytosterols to help lower cholesterol, while the insoluble fiber improves regularity and may help prevent colon cancer. Last, but certainly not least, unlike some other popular fruits such as grapes and strawberries, pears are hypoallergenic. Pears are well tolerated by almost everybody, even infants.
Selecting and Storing Pears
Pears come in many different varieties. Bartlett pears, with yellow-green skin, are the most common variety. They are in season from late summer to early fall, followed by Bosc and Comice pears, which are in season from fall through winter. Bosc pears have a rough yellow or reddish brown skin and creamy white flesh and are best for cooking and baking. Comice pears, on the other hand, have dull green skin but are sweet tasting and excellent for eating raw. D’Anjou pears, which are oval-shaped and have yellow-green skin and creamy flesh, are a readily available all-purpose variety available year-round but best from mid-fall through winter.
Pears are highly perishable. The ones you see in the market may still be too hard to eat, but in a few days, they should be fine. Look for pears that are firm, but not too hard, with no bruises or mold. Don’t be deterred by brown speckles though. You will know that a pear is fully ripe and the flavor and nutritional value are at their peak as soon as it yields to gentle pressure. Avoid pears that are soft and brown, an indication that they are overripe.
Pears continue to respire after harvesting, so if you don’t plan to eat them right away, unless they are hard and need further ripening, store them in the refrigerator rather than at room temperature. If necessary, the best way to ripen pears at home is to stand them upright well spaced on a flat surface or place them in a paper bag. After a few days at room temperature, they should be fully ripe and ready to eat. Just before serving, pears should be washed under cold running water for protection against pesticides. Don’t discard the skin or you will lose many of this fruit’s great nutritional benefits. Organic pears are an excellent choice.
Pears are delicious eaten alone, but there are other ways to serve them, too, like in salads, as a garnish on your dinner plate, or for making juice or jam. Pears can also be poached, baked, roasted, or broiled or incorporated into a baked goods recipe. The recipe shown here is for roasted pears with strawberry relish.
The warm colors and aromas of this elegant side dish will have you and your guests experiencing the wonderful flavors of fall. You’ll want to have these autumn aromas and flavors all year round with the pairing of strawberries, toasted pecans, orange zest, and crystallized ginger with the season’s sweetness of pears!
Rudrappa, U. (2009-17). “Fruit Nutrition Facts.” Retrieved from http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/fruit-nutrition.html