Fall Produce for Health
Thanksgiving is a week away and staying healthy may not be at the top of your mind with all of the other planning, but it’s certainly something we all want. Luckily the supermarket’s produce aisle is filled with immune boosting fall fruits and vegetables that boast high levels of antioxidants, including vitamin C.
Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, is water soluble, therefore easily excreted from the body when consumed in excess. It's so critical for the metabolism of living creatures that almost all mammals use their own cells to make it. Humans, guinea pigs, gorillas, bats, chimps, and birds are some of the few animals that cannot make vitamin C on their own and thus need to eat foods that contain it.
There have been claims that vitamin C relieves stress, and can help you lose weight – but there are few studies backing these claims. In terms of relieving stress, vitamin C is used up faster in “stressful situations” i.e. smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, everyday detoxification, and the variety of other stresses we encounter on a daily basis. All types of stress can indicate a need for including more vitamin C rich foods in your diet.
One of the most important benefits of vitamin C is the formation of collagen, the basis of connective tissue in skin, capillary walls, bones, and teeth. Wounds heal faster and blood vessels are healthier when our bodies receive adequate vitamin C. Vitamin C deficiency results in scurvy, which causes lesions on the skin and mucous membranes (all collagen related).
Vitamin C helps with the absorption of iron (from plant sources) and continued research also shows that it stimulates the immune system. Its powerful antioxidants protect cells from damage from pollution, smoking, or exposure to other carcinogens.
Head to the produce aisle for vitamin C rich foods!
The richest sources of vitamin C during the late fall are apples, figs, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, fennel, persimmons, and turnip greens. Other vegetables high in vitamin C are okra, winter squash, cabbage, dark leafy greens, cauliflower, peas, and sweet potatoes. Vitamin C is heat sensitive so the longer you cook veggies, the more the vitamin decreases; raw fruits and vegetables contain the most. The faster the cooking method the better!
The other benefit of eating a lot of vitamin C rich foods is that they also contain other health boasting components including vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber - which all contribute to health.
Adding vitamin C to your diet is as delicious as it is easy. Although oranges and orange juice are the obvious, consider adding some of the seasonal veggies and fruit mentioned above. Keep in mind that the amount of vitamin C found in food varies greatly. In general, unripe food is much lower in vitamin C than ripe, but provided that the food is ripe, the vitamin C content is higher when the food is picked at its peak freshness. And as always, what’s local and seasonal will be the freshest and most nutritious.