This lively color always warmly invites us into fall. Our days are brightened as the leaves change their color to this vibrant hue. Farmers markets are filled with different shades of orange found in the fall harvest. The creamy orange flesh of buttercup squash to pumpkins and sweet potatoes sneak their way into our meals not only because of their stunning color and appeal. They also add texture, a variety of tastes, and tons of nutrients.

The Citrus Family

Although we love our typical orange fruit, the orange itself, for its juiciness, strong taste, and generous vitamin C content (1 cup has about 100 mg of vitamin C), take a moment to notice some other nutritious members of the orange family.

Though the tart flesh of a kumquat resembles an orange on the inside, the sweet skin of this citrus fruit is often eaten, too. One serving gives you 36% of your daily value for fiber. It is also an excellent source of vitamin C. This diverse vitamin helps strengthen your immune system, prevent wrinkling skin, protect eye health, and even prevent cardiovascular disease. Our bodies are subjected to stress from every direction on a daily basis and, unfortunately, this is one of the first vitamins to be depleted when our body is under such pressure. Make sure to have an adequate source of vitamin C in your daily diet.

There is a wide variety of orange citrus fruits that are worth including in your diet as soon as possible. Citrus fruits have bioflavanoids, or substances that work like antioxidants to improve health, such as hesperidin, tangeretin, and quercitin which are used to treat diseases of blood vessels, such as hemorrhoids and easy bruising, and of the heart. More research is being conducted on their beneficial effect on inflammation and hypertension. The zest of citrus fruits like Seville, navel, or blood oranges, clementines, and tangerines are a great source of limonene, a phytochemical (or “plant” chemical) that fights to keep lungs healthy and cancer-free.

Orange – The Hue of Fall

The Squash Family

Winter squashes, such as acorn, butternut, or buttercup squash are easy to find this time of year in most markets. One that is firm and heavy for its size should be selected for its peak nutrient content. Help your body feel energized and function at its best with the natural antioxidants found in these squash varieties. A close relative of the squash family, the pumpkin, is packed with fiber and beta-carotene, a type of antioxidant that helps prevent cancer and heart disease. Pumpkins are well-known for helping kidney function and relieving bladder pressure and urinary tract disorders.

A Sweet (but healthy) Treat

Keep your desserts healthy with one serving of the Sharon fruit, a seedless fruit of the persimmons family. This exotic fruit is packed with vitmain A and C and is a good source of copper and manganese. This nutrients in this fruit are protective against the hardening of arteries which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. It also helps improve the metabolism of fat. Thankfully, it has recently become widely available even in the United States. Enjoy it in a salad, a smoothie, or with your yogurt.

Orange vegetables like carrots and orange bell peppers can add a touch of sweet to your savory dishes. They are an excellent source of beta-carotene, a type of antioxidant in the carotenoid family that can form vitamin A in the body. This antioxidant is needed for proper vision, especially in dim lighting. To fully benefit from the beta-carotene content of orange vegetables, eat them with a healthy source of fat to absorb the nutrients well. For example, throw the carrots and orange bell peppers into some olive oil in a stir-fry or eat the carrots with some healthy unsaturated fats in a bean dip or hummus. Briefly cooking the carrots will help release more carotenoids so that you better absorb them. Use them in a warm carrot butternut squash soup.

Remember to be selective of what produce you fill your shopping cart with. The deeper the orange, the higher the carotenoid content. Also, fill your snacks and meals with other beatiful hues of orange found in fruits and vegetables such as apricots, cantaloupe, and grapefruit or passion fruit. Other orange fruits include mangoes, papaya, nectarines, and peaches, which all contain the antioxidant beta-cryptoxanthin. This type of carotenoid protects your respiratory system, especially against cancer of the lungs.

Keep your heart healthy and protect yourself from cancers with natural disease-fighting antioxidants found in sweet potatoes, squash, and pumpkin flesh. You’ll even look healthy from the outside as these nutrients help nourish your skin and improve your vision. Fruits and vegetables are convenient and naturally low in calories. Combine orange ones with other colors in your plate to ensure you get a variety of nutrients. Research studies have shown that a meal that combines carotenoids with other types of antioxidants significantly improves their overall antioxidant activity against free radicals as they work together.