CAT | Digestive Health
The bounty of summer produce may be coming to an end, but the fall season has a lot to offer in the way of healthful fruits and vegetables. And since a recent study found that eating seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily reduces your risk of death at any age by 42 percent (and decreases your risk of heart attack and stroke), here are five of our favorites!
Apples: In addition to beneficial vitamins and antioxidants, apples are chock full of soluble fiber—which is not only important for digestive health and regularity but also promotes cardiovascular health and healthy cholesterol levels. Because of their high fiber content and fewer digestible sugars, Granny Smith apples are a great choice. They have also been shown to help increase the numbers of beneficial bacteria in the gut and may support weight loss and healthy weight management, according to a recent Washington State University study.
Pumpkin: Put down the carving knife… unless you’re carving up that pumpkin for soups and smoothies! The Halloween staple is loaded with essential nutrients like vitamin A for healthy vision (a cup of cooked pumpkin contains more than 200% of your RDA), vitamin C to support immune health, the antioxidant beta-carotene, potassium, iron and of course plenty of fiber. And did we mention the seeds? In addition to magnesium and zinc, pumpkin seeds contain the amino acid tryptophan, which is linked to serotonin production and a positive mood.
Arugula: Spice up your fall salads with arugula! Dark leafy green are essential for healthy detox, gut health and overall wellness—and arugula stands out in particular. Its peppery leaves are high in fiber, antioxidants and health-promoting plant compounds called glucosinolates, as well as vitamin K (needed for calcium absorption), essential B vitamins and beneficial compounds that support a healthy inflammatory response in the body. Arugula is also an aphrodisiac!
Cranberries: Cranberries are low in sugar and loaded with vitamin C and fiber—not to mention they have more immune-supporting antioxidants (including vitamin E) than nearly any other fruit or vegetable. In studies, cranberries have been shown to support immune function as well as promote healthy blood pressure levels, and research shows they also promote urinary tract health. Just remember to avoid high-sugar juices and sauces!
Brussels Sprouts: Gone are the days of turning up our noses at these little green bulbs. Belonging to the same family as broccoli and kale, non-starchy Brussels sprouts are loaded with good things like fiber, vitamin C, folate, iron, potassium and B vitamins—along with powerful antioxidants and other plant compounds shown to support immune function and overall health. And the best part? Brussels sprouts are really simple to prepare: just cut off the ends, mix them with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them in the oven for about 35–40 minutes.
When shopping for fall fruits and veggies, go organic whenever possible and check out your local farmers market first. You should be able to find locally grown, in-season produce that’s fresh and affordable—in addition to being a healthful and delicious addition to your table!
Many studies point to the health benefits of probiotic supplements, the “friendly” bacteria in the gut that promote a balanced digestive environment and in turn support healthy digestion, regularity and immune function. To find them in our daily diets, we often look to fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir and kombucha, but a new study shows the same beneficial microbes can be found in your wine glass.
Researchers from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid in Spain recently looked at nearly a dozen strains of bacteria commonly found in wine, including some strains of Lactobacillus (found in yogurt). They discovered that not only could those strains survive exposure to gastric juices and enzymes in our saliva—which can damage bacterial cell walls—but that they did it even better than many commonly used strains.
In addition, the strains of bacteria isolated from wine were shown to be especially good at sticking to the intestinal walls, which means they could help harmful bacteria from entering the gut and potentially damaging our health. One strain in particular (P. pentosaceus CIAL-86) was even able to help protect against harmful E. coli bacteria, the study showed.
However, before you decide that a glass or two of your favorite vintage is all you need to support a healthy, balanced gut, keep in mind that it may not be enough. Much of the good bacteria used in the wine-making process are eliminated during another process called sulfating—during which sulfites are added to help preserve the wine and prevent oxidation. Still, says study author study author Dolores González de Llano, probiotics “could be isolated from wine in order to be commercialized as probiotics, or added to functional foods.”