There’s no denying it - pumpkin season is back! These days you can find pumpkin in everything from ice cream to alfredo sauce. But do these pumpkin options offer any benefit to our health?
Pumpkin, a type of winter squash, has an impressive nutrient profile, with benefits ranging from skin and eye health to immune support and heart benefits.
A 1-cup serving of pumpkin contributes several key nutrients:
When evaluating festive fall foods, look for pumpkin as one of the first few ingredients listed on a food label. (Sadly, pumpkin ice cream usually has more cream and sugar than pumpkin.)
Or try this creamy pasta fettuccini as a comforting way to celebrate the health benefits of pumpkin.
Pumpkin, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. Cronometer. 2021.
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By Deanna Nappi, MS, MGH Dietetic Intern
Nuts are a fantastic source of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. There’s a variety out there and each type offers slightly different nutrients, so aim to eat an assortment.
A little goes a long way: 1 ounce (roughly one handful) of …
FoodData Central. USDA: Agricultural Research Service. Accessed January 2021.
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By Rebecca Joy Thompson, MGH Dietetic Intern
Fruit is full of vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy fiber. There is concern that frozen fruit is of lower quality and not as nutritious as fresh. Worry not: studies have found frozen fruit can actually have more vitamins, like immune-supportive vitamin C.
When fruit is frozen soon after it's picked, it helps preserve nutrients. More benefits: frozen fruit can be cheaper and more convenient. It comes pre-washed, prepped, and can stay in your freezer for months.
Only about 10% of American adults eat the recommended 11/2 to 2 cups of fruit a day, so grab an extra bag of fruit next time you're in the frozen food aisle.
Start enjoying more frozen fruit by:
Boeing H, et al. Critical review: vegetables and fruit in the prevention of chronic diseases. European Journal of Nutrition. 2012; 51(6): 637-663.
Bouzari A, Holstege D, Barrett DM. Vitamin retention in eight fruits and vegetables: a comparison of refrigerated and frozen storage. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2015; 63(3): 957-962.
Dahl WJ, Stewart ML. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: health implications of dietary fiber. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2015; 115(11): 1861-1870.
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By Katherine Mitchell, MGH Dietetic Intern
Research shows plant-based diets containing vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, soy, and beans are beneficial for your heart and weight. But you don’t need to go vegan to reap the rewards. The key: eating plants most of the time, over time.
Making the switch to a plant-powered diet is a lifestyle. Start on a festive note with these comfort food swaps:
Creamy, slightly sweet, and a source of protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fats, soy milk makes an excellent dairy alternative. Instead of leaning on heavy cream in rich drinks, like eggnog, try swapping in soy milk. Use this recipe for inspiration or look for soynog at the grocery store.
You can find pre-baked tofu in most grocery stores to reduce prep time. Add baked tofu to these protein-packed, portion-controlled pot pies.
Say what? A fiber-containing fruit with a neutral flavor and meaty texture that shreds like pulled meat? Yup. With the right amount of moisture and seasoning, jackfruit can make for an excellent plant-based swap for shredded beef, pork, or chicken. Rinse, drain, shred and season one 20-ounce can for your next taco night or check out this recipe.
Medawar E, Huhn S, Villringer A, Veronica Witte A. The effects of plant-based diets on the body and the brain: a systematic review. Translational Psychiatry. 2019; 12;9(1): 226.
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By Ayten Salahi, MS, MGH Dietetic Intern
With several new meat alternatives coming to market in recent years, tofu has taken a backseat. However, tofu remains a good source of protein and, unlike more processed meatless products, it typically contains few additives and is low in sodium.
Tofu also contains more isoflavones, plant compounds with potentially protective properties. Research shows eating tofu may lower the risk of heart disease and could help protect against breast cancer.
The amount shown to be beneficial ranges from eating it at least once a week to consuming a serving (1/5 of a block of tofu) at least 3 to 4 times per week.
Not sure how to incorporate tofu into your diet?
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By Meredith Berman, MGH Dietetic Intern
Commonly used herbs, like sage, rosemary, and thyme, contain protective plant chemicals that may help fight chronic diseases, like heart disease and cancer. These compounds have been shown to attack inflammation and may inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
Aim to optimize the potential benefits of herbs by eating them regularly. One way to do this is to grow them at home.
Tips for starting an indoor garden:
Looking for starter plants? Check out your local home improvement or garden store online.
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By Kristin Otto, Dietetic Intern
Getting enough vitamin A, C, and E is important for maintaining a healthy immune system. Most of us don't need supplements to do this. In fact, you can support your immune system even while minimizing grocery store trips.
Here's how to stock your kitchen with healthy foods that have low perishability:
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By Kristine Miklos, MS, RD, LDN
Approximately one-third of the world’s food supply is lost or wasted every year. Fruits and vegetables have the highest waste of any food, so we’ve gathered a few tips to help pack produce onto your plate and divert it from the dumpster.
Root Vegetables: Get Soup Savvy
Blending root vegetables is a quick, easy way to savor the flavors of the season. (They are easily frozen this way too.)
Leafy Greens: Wilted? That Works!
Sauteing leafy greens is a useful cooking strategy when their crispness begins to decline.
Cauliflower: Go Halfsies with Grains
Cauliflower’s chameleon-like flavor makes it one of the most versatile vegetables out there.
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Ever wonder why certain fruits and vegetables are so vibrant? The red to blue-violet hues come from protective plant compounds called anthocyanins.
Along with providing color, anthocyanins may help protect your heart.
They are found in:
Anthocyanins may decrease blood pressure and increase flexibility of artery walls. They have also been associated with reducing inflammation in the body, which may decrease risk of chronic diseases like heart disease. Anthocyanin-rich foods might also defend against heart attacks by protecting the lining of heart and blood vessels.
But having strawberries solely on Valentine’s Day isn’t going to cut it.
Research suggests consuming at least ½ cup of anthocyanin-containing foods daily may have benefits. As for those berries? They may be particularly good for your heart – eating them more than 3 times per week may reduce risk of a heart attack.
Need inspiration? Try this quinoa breakfast bowl with strawberries.
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By Alyssa Tisdale, MGH Dietetic Intern
Regularly eating cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, may be associated with a lower risk of cancer. Studies also show that consuming cruciferous vegetables may help improve cancer survival and reduce risk of early death from chronic diseases, like heart disease.
Other cruciferous vegetables include:
Cruciferous vegetables contain sulfur compounds that promote detoxification pathways in the liver and help eliminate toxins and waste. Research has shown these compounds may help attack cancer cells and could protect the heart by reducing inflammation.
Cruciferous vegetables, like most fruits and vegetables, are also rich disease-fighting plant compounds like antioxidants. Eat cruciferous vegetables often. Some research correlates consuming about 4 to 6 ounces per day with benefits. (This would be the equivalent of eating at least a cup daily.)
Try these ideas to increase your cruciferous vegetable intake:
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