HEALTHY, SEASONAL PRODUCE! #479 09/28/11
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10 Fit Foods for Fall

By Joe Wilkes

We all know the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. They contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients to help keep our bodies running in peak condition. Study after study shows that people who consume the most fruits and veggies are less at risk for a host of illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. Because of this, farmers' markets have cropped up all over, and supermarkets have expanded their produce sections to accommodate increased demand. In some places, fast-food restaurants have given way to community garden plots. The garden on the White House's South Lawn has proved to be a great success in its third season.

Two Red Peppers

The best fruits and vegetables to eat are ones that are in season and grown locally. Crops are more bountiful during their natural harvest times, and your pocketbook benefits from the surplus. Plus if you buy locally, you won't incur the economic cost of food being transported to your store from far-off places, and the planet won't incur the environmental cost of fossil fuels being burned to ship that food. But even if money were no object and global warming weren't an issue, the best reason to eat locally and seasonally is taste: The sooner you eat a fruit or vegetable after it's picked, the fresher it'll be, and the more pleasing it'll be to your palate.

The following 10 foods are reaching their seasonal peaks, and they're available locally in most regions of the United States.

  1. AppleApples. An apple a day can keep the doctor away in more ways than one. Studies have shown that the nutrients found in apples can help lower cholesterol, manage diabetes, and prevent several diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis, and asthma. Make sure you don't peel the apple though, because the peel contains quercetin, an antioxidant shown in a Finnish study to help reduce the risk of heart disease and inhibit tumor growth. Additionally, apple skin contains insoluble fiber, and the fruit's flesh contains pectin, a soluble fiber. While apples are great on their own, they're also yummy and crunchy when added to salads, and sweet and tasty when baked in desserts.
  2. Corn. Generally, our society eats way too much corn. It's in almost every food we eat, especially in its most nefarious form—high fructose corn syrup. It's easily America's number-one crop. But fall is the time when we get the harvest of the tastiest sweet corn. Besides being delicious, in its unprocessed state it's actually quite healthy. A food study at Cornell University showed that ferulic acid, an antioxidant produced when sweet corn is cooked, can also be helpful in fighting heart disease and cancer. Plus corn is a good source of vitamins B1, B5, and C; folate; and fiber. Besides eating it on the cob, try corn in salads or as a colorful, crunchy addition to salsa.
  3. CucumbersCucumbers. Some people never see cucumbers until they've been pickled, sliced, and added to two all-beef patties and a sesame seed bun. However, in their fresh, unpickled state, cucumbers are very low in calories (just 4 calories per ounce), are a natural diuretic, and are thought to help in the prevention of pancreatic, liver, and kidney diseases. Cucumbers also contain potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure. Their skin contains silica, which helps strengthen the body's connective tissue. And cucumbers aren't just for eating; the juice makes a great skin lotion. Those spa ladies with cucumber slices on their eyes aren't doing it for nothing. Cucumber juice reduces swelling, and not just for under-eye bags—also for burns and skin disorders.

    One tasty way to enjoy cucumbers is my Russian grandmother's simple recipe of thinly sliced cucumbers, thinly sliced onion, low-fat yogurt, and chopped dill. (She actually used sour cream, too, but we won't go there.)
  4. Eggplant. Eggplant contains lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and also high levels of antioxidants, including nasunin, which has been shown to help protect cells from free radical damage. Eggplant also contains terpenes, which are believed to help lower cholesterol. Eggplant is a very versatile ingredient in all kinds of cooking, including Italian, Indian, and Chinese dishes. It can be baked, stewed, or sautéed, among other cooking methods. One thing to watch out for is that the flesh of the eggplant is highly absorptive, so if you fry it in oil, it'll soak it all up. One helpful technique is to lightly salt sliced eggplant, let it sit for a half hour, and rinse the salt off before cooking it. This will cause the cell structure of the eggplant to contract, making it a little less spongy. My mom's been dealing with a bumper crop of eggplant from her backyard garden and has been putting eggplant in everything. A recent success was replacing the pasta in her favorite lasagna recipe with thinly sliced eggplant. It absorbed the tomato sauce instead of the oil and made the dish richer and creamier.
  5. Grapes Grapes. There's been much written about the benefits of wine, but you don't have to get loaded to get the benefits of grapes. In their unfermented state, they're a great source of vitamins A, B6, and C; folate; potassium; calcium; magnesium; zinc; and fiber. Like apples, they contain the antioxidant quercitin. They also contain resveratrol, which has been shown to help prevent blood clots and protect arteries from free radical damage. Generally speaking, the darker the grape, the higher the antioxidant levels. Grapes are great snacks that are low in calories. They're great when added to salads, or you can freeze them for a frosty treat.
  6. Okra. This may be the most intimidating ingredient on this list. Many people are put off by okra's bristly outside and somewhat slimy inside, but it has a lot of health benefits that should make you take a second look. It's full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And it has great gastrointestinal benefits. Its high mucilage content, which thickens stews and gumbos, also helps absorb cholesterol, toxins, and bile, and has a gentle laxative effect. Its seeds contain amino acids and protein. Plus it's believed to be good for the skin and hair. (It's been said that Cleopatra ate okra as part of her beauty regimen.) Okra is great in soups and stews, or lightly sautéed as a side dish.
  7. PearPears. This is my favorite fall food. The biggest, juiciest pears start showing up in farmers' markets right about now. Besides being a great source of stains on my shirts, they have high levels of vitamins C and K, copper, and fiber. They contain even more of the soluble fiber pectin than apples, which can play an important part in digestive health and in lowering cholesterol. Pears have also been shown to reduce kidney inflammation and colitis. Asian pears, which are crunchy, like apples, are also in season now and contain the health benefits of both fruits. Pears are great plain, broiled, or poached. Plus Asian pears can be shredded as a healthy addition to a slaw.
  8. Peppers. Whether you like them spicy or sweet, now is prime pepper-picking time. Fiber-rich peppers have high levels of vitamins A, C, and K; red peppers have the most. Red peppers, like tomatoes, are also good sources of lycopene, which studies show may be linked to cancer prevention. Hot peppers contain capsaicin, which has been shown to help prevent ulcers and lower cholesterol. Plus hot peppers can help ramp up your metabolism. I can't think of many dishes that couldn't be improved with a little peppery zip. Soups, stir-fries, salads . . . I even had some chocolate cayenne ice cream that was pretty good.
  9. RaspberriesRaspberries. Raspberries are some of the healthiest—but priciest—berries out there. So now, when they're in season, is the most economical time to enjoy them. Raspberries contain several flavonoids called anthocyanins, believed to have antimicrobial properties, which can help prevent fungal and yeast infections and aid with irritable bowel syndrome. A Netherlands study showed that raspberries contain 10 times as many antioxidants as tomatoes. Like apples and pears, they also contain high levels of pectin. While they're great as snacks and desserts, think about trying them in salads too.
  10. Tomatoes. The big new star of the tomato nutritional profile is lycopene. This carotenoid has increasingly been shown to be a powerful antioxidant that may play a big role in preventing cancer and heart disease. They're also great sources of vitamin C. And for those of you who don't care for raw tomatoes (as George Carlin said, they look like they're in the larval stage), tomatoes lose very little of their nutritional value when cooked. So they can be enjoyed stewed, in sauce, and even as ketchup (although we recommend a ketchup free of high fructose corn syrup and low in sodium). This is a prime time to seek out tomatoes at the farmers' market. Especially exotic are the heirloom varieties that come in yellows, greens, purples, browns, and reds. They can make a beautiful multicolored and antioxidant-rich salad.

If you can't get to the farmers' market, just can't stand eating fruits and vegetables, or don't have the time to get your recommended number of servings each day, fear not. Try out Shakeology®, the shake from Beachbody® that contains more than 70 healthy ingredients. It takes the guesswork out of nutrition. It's the Healthiest Meal of the Day®.

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Denis Faye, Beachbody Fitness Advisor, in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, October 3rd, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

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And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve Edwards' views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

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Embracing the Farmers' Market

By Jeanine Natale

As summer gives way to fall, many farmers' markets across the country are still in full swing all across America, offering up plentiful harvests of fresh, dried, and canned fruits and vegetables (especially root vegetables and edible gourds), plus a variety of other herbs, grains, legumes, nuts, honey, milk, meat, and poultry—as well as breads, preserves, cheese, flour, and even baby food.

People at Farmers' Market

I used to think farmers' markets sounded like a nice idea, but were probably way too expensive, too much trouble to get to, or just not worth the effort. However, after a particularly disappointing trip to the supermarket for a bunch of fruits and veggies, and encouraged by my many friends who are farmers' market aficionados, I decided to see for myself to how the farmers' market a couple of miles away stacked up. Once I tried it, I was hooked. I have a feeling you will too, once you follow this 4-step approach to making your local farmers' market part of your life.

  1. Farmers' Market Sign"Outdoor Event, Rain or Shine." You can call or check online to see the location of your local farmers' market, the hours it's open, the parking availability and cost (plan on walking at least a few blocks), the approximate size, and the number of vendors, as well as any special events that are planned (musical performances, rides, petting zoos, etc.). Markets often feature live musicians and other fun stuff; this helps make your trip to the market a lively and entertaining time to celebrate and support local growers and all the amazing produce and other things they've grown, picked, and brought to you.
  2. Buying Produce"Driver Carries Less Than $20.00 Cash"? Maybe not. I expected that everything would be expensive at the farmers' market, and I also knew I'd probably want to buy everything I saw, so I limited the amount of money I brought so I could avoid splurging and regretting it later. As it turns out, I didn't need to—for the record, every item I bought at the farmers' market was either cheaper or the same price as supermarket produce, and of much, much higher quality. I was truly impressed. Quick tip, though: If you get to the market late in the day, or even as the farmers are packing up to head home, they're generally more willing to give you a break on the price, because they'd rather see the food they packed and carried all the way there go home with you than back with them.
  3. Woman with Shopping Cart"My Mama Told Me You'd Better Shop Around!" Great advice. You might want to do a complete walk-through of the whole market before buying anything. The area where you live has different items that are in season at any given time, so it stands to reason that several farms will be offering similar produce at their stalls. But there will also be interesting variations or even hybrids of certain fruits or veggies that you'll wind up preferring over others, and they may not be the first ones you see. (And, for the record, these farmers tend to be staunchly anti-GMO. Their hybrids, special variations, or other stuff you might never have seen before are strictly natural, guaranteed non-Frankenstein creations.) Remember, too, that prices will vary between stalls, often depending on the size of different farms' harvests. Ask questions, and don't be afraid to handle the merchandise, which leads us to . . .
  4. Woman Sampling Produce"Try Before You Buy." Unlike your regular supermarket, farmers' markets allow you to indulge your inner "kid in a candy store"—you can actually sample pretty much anything you want. The people who grew the produce are the ones handing samples of it to you on a toothpick (the farmers' market equivalent of a silver platter)—they want you to try it because they know it's fresh, juicy, and the best it can be. And because they grew it, they can answer any questions you might have, and help you pick out the best of the bunch. Plus, it's not uncommon to find educated, passionate farmers willing to give you great advice on storage and shelf life, preparation or cooking tips, and the nutritional content of their produce. You can learn a lot about these amazing fresh fruit and vegetables just by pointing at something and asking, "What's this?" Want to know if that peach is certified organic? Were there any pesticides used on the kale? Just when were those zucchini picked? Believe me, they'll talk.

My conversion to farmers' market fan happened pretty quickly. Sure, it takes more time to navigate an entire farmers' market than it does to go to the supermarket, but in many cases, it can actually cost less, and as I mentioned, the quality of the produce is incredible. Everything was hand-washed and hand-trimmed, bundled generously and free of both wax and those irritating stickers the supermarket slaps on everything. The few items that were more expensive were things like special hybrid strawberries or heirloom tomatoes from a very small harvest—basically, specialty produce that was so in demand, it was generally the first thing to sell out that day at each stall that sold it. However, with their more traditional offerings, the farmers know that the customer has a choice, especially when it comes to saving money, so they offer high-quality produce at the best possible price, both to get you to choose them, and to keep you returning in weeks to come.

Farmers' Market Fruit SelectionSo although I'll head to the supermarket anytime I need to pick up something I need quickly, for my regular produce shopping, I've decided to make my local farmers' market my first choice. It's definitely worth any extra time and effort it may require, hands down. So if you've never done it before, head on down to your local farmers' market. My bet is that you'll be pleasantly surprised. Plus you can make the trip there part of your fitness plan! Park a few blocks away, which is often necessary anyway, and get in a nice walk, both getting there and strolling through the stalls—just don't forget to bring a backpack or small wheeled cart to lug your bounty back to the car.

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Denis Faye, Beachbody Fitness Advisor, in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, October 3rd, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in The Beachbody Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive The Beachbody Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe.

And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve Edwards' views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

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Recipe: Sweet and Tangy Strawberry Salad

Sweet and Tangy Strawberry Salad

It's really all right there in the name: Sweet. Tangy. Delicious. Vegan, even! (OK, so I gave you a few extra adjectives.) Summer may be on its way out, but this delightful salad will help you hang on to it for a little while longer. Plus this recipe makes enough of the tart 'n' tasty dressing to enjoy on a few more salads this week.

    Salad Ingredients:
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 3/4 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 tsp. minced sweet onion
  • 1 tsp. minced green onion

  • Dressing Ingredients (makes 1/2 cup; use extra within 1 week for other salads):
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. dry mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
  • 1/2 green onion, minced

Put all dressing ingredients in blender and blend until creamy. Place all salad ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Add 2 Tbsp. dressing to salad and toss until thoroughly mixed. Makes 1 serving.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving)
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
186 3 grams 5 grams 46 grams 14 grams 2 grams

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Total number of Reviews: 1
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"This salad is fabulous! It is great anytime of the year because you can find strawberries year round now. I also recommend mandarin oranges or pears instead of strawberries. We also have it during Christmas, the coloration is perfect and the salad is a healthy choice!"

– Sharyn, Myrtle Beach, SC

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