Orange Foods to Add to Your Plate

Whether it’s winter squash, citrus, or pumpkin, orange produce is super satisfying and delicious. And it’s incredibly good for you. “Orange fruits and vegetables aren’t just about beta-carotene, vitamin A, or vitamin C,” says Maggie Moon, MS, RD, author of The MIND Diet. “From prebiotic fiber to brain-boosting lutein, and many polyphenols in between, orange fruits and vegetables deliver a diverse package of nutrients that interact and work together for cumulative health benefits.”

Try these five standouts on your next grocery run.

Persimmons. Boasting twice the fiber and more antioxidants than an apple, these exotic fruits are a great pick for heart health. Never tried one before? “Whether you prefer the more astringent acorn-shaped Hachiya or the sweeter, round Fuyu, persimmons are a treat,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, author of Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen. “When ripe, they have a real jammy consistency and make a luscious, easy dessert served over a little vanilla yogurt or ice cream.” For the best flavor and texture, store them upside down at room temperature until they’re fully soft and ripe and then refrigerate.

Acorn squash. If better digestion is on your radar think acorn squash. Each cooked cup provides 9 grams of fiber (more than 4 slices of whole-wheat bread!). And, unlike other winter squash, you won’t have to wrestle with it in the kitchen. “The nice thing about acorn squash is that it’s a manageable size that I can easily work with,” says Moon. “The skin isn’t too tough for slicing into rings, or even just cutting in half.” For a super-satisfying meal, stuff roasted halves with warm grain salad or even ground turkey and cranberries.

Oranges. You already know vitamin C-rich oranges are a win for immune health. They may also provide a brain boost thanks to potent antioxidants called flavonoids. In one study, volunteers who downed just 8 ounces of flavonoid-rich orange juice performed better on tests of attention, focus, and reaction time than a placebo group that consumed a drink that looked and tasted like OJ, with equal carbs and calories. “Juicy and refreshing, I keep oranges around from October through early spring,” says Largeman-Roth. “Try tossing orange segments into smoothies and fruit salads, or simply eating them as a snack.” 

Another plus: Oranges stay fresh in the fridge for up to three weeks, meaning fewer trips to the store for fresh fruit, she says.

Carrots. Carrots aren’t just great for your eyes. A growing body of research finds that they may also help protect against cancers of the colon, stomach, lung, breast, and prostate. That’s because carrots are rich in falcarinol and falcarindiol, plant compounds that may slow the rate that cancer cells grow and divide. And you don’t have to eat a whole bunch to benefit. In one recent study, people who ate two to four carrots a week were 17 percent less likely to develop colorectal cancer than those who munched on carrots less often. For a quick fix, buy them pre-shredded to toss into bolognese, chili, salads, pancakes, or cookies.

Orange Beets. These nitrate-filled root veggies are good news for anyone looking to lower blood pressure. How so? “We convert dietary nitrates from beets to nitric oxide, a compound that helps lower blood pressure by improving the flexibility of blood vessels,” says Moon. If the word nitrates sets off alarm bells, know that naturally-occurring plant nitrates aren’t the same as cancer-causing nitrates in processed meat, she says.

And if you normally find the flavor of beets to be overpowering, orange beets are a milder alternative to their red siblings. Try them steamed and thinly sliced with a little goat cheese, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, or grated into salads or latkes.

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