Apples—Research in the online medical journal BMJ put the old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” to the test—at least where heart disease and stroke are concerned. Scientists at the University of Oxford, England compared the effects of eating one apple to taking a typical daily dose of statin drugs, which are primarily used to lower cholesterol levels. Then they assessed the mortality rates from heart disease and stroke and found that eating an apple a day had an equivalent reduction in mortality to the statin drugs, without the potential side-effects. What’s more is that apples contain compounds called polyphenols which act as natural sunscreen to shield apples from the sun’s UV-B rays. When we eat apples regularly, these polyphenols appear to help to protect our skin against sun damage.
Dandelion Root—Okay, maybe you didn’t realize that you could dig up this delicious and highly medicinal root any time of the year, but especially in the fall when the nutrients and medicinal compounds are at their height. Dandelion is showing tremendous promise as a potential natural cancer remedy. A study by the University of Windsor, Ontario, Canada and published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that an extract of dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale) showed effectiveness on skin cancer. The researchers found that after 48 hours of exposure to the dandelion extract, melanoma skin cancer cells began to die off. Even cells that were resistant to chemotherapy responded to dandelion root extract. Obviously, more research is necessary but considering how delicious roasted dandelion root tastes you may want to add it to your diet. Due to pesticides and pollutants I don’t recommend picking dandelion root from your lawn unless you live away from traffic and are confident of the land’s organic status.
One of the most delicious ways of enjoying dandelion root is to wash it, chop it coarsely, lay on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for one to two hours depending on whether you want a “light” or “dark” roast (similar to coffee) then allow to cool, grind and add a tablespoon to your smoothies. My favorite dandelion smoothie involves 2 cups almond milk, 2 tablespoons of roasted dandelion root (ground), 1 fresh date (pitted) and ½ cup of raw cashews (unsalted). Blend with some ice. Serve immediately.
Eggplant—Exciting research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that a compound in the skin of eggplant that gives it its beautiful dark purple color, not only acts as a potent antioxidant to protect cells and tissues from damage, it also shows promise in the treatment of cancer. The compound, known as nasunin, appears to block angiogenesis—a process by which cancer cells and tumors divert or create new blood vessels that are used to feed the cancer or cause it to spread. While the research into nasunin’s ability to block angiogenesis is still in its infancy, it is exciting to know that every time we eat a delicious meal made from eggplant, we may be helping to prevent cancer.
Pumpkin—Pumpkin is a nutritional powerhouse. Not only is it high in beta carotene—the nutrient that gives pumpkin its signature orange color, it is also high in fiber. One cup of cooked pumpkin has three grams of fiber, which is beneficial to bowel health. Pumpkin also contains lutein and zeaxanthin—two other types of carotenes that have well-established links to the prevention of prostate cancer.
Pumpkin Seeds—Research in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that pumpkin seed oil helped reduce excessive levels of testosterone in males. Excessively high levels of testosterone are implicated in benign prostatic hyperplasia—a condition of abnormal prostate cell growth that can be a precursor to prostate cancer. Pumpkin seeds are high in Omega 3 fatty acids that not only protect the prostate but are well-established to reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Squash—Like pumpkins, squash is high in beta carotene and other carotenoids. Squashes also contain a compound known as homogalacturonan, which has been found to help regulate insulin and blood sugars, as well as have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, don’t throw out the seeds from squash. Just like pumpkin seeds, squash seeds are highly nutritious and contain Omega 3 fatty acids. Roast the seeds at 170 for about 10-15 minutes until the seeds are just lightly browned. Add a dash of sea salt and enjoy this delicious autumn snack.