Fall for 10 healthy autumn edibles

The move from summer to fall can be bittersweet: Clearing out the summer clothes to make way for sweaters, prepping for cold and flu season, and trying to cope with your ragweed allergy. But the seasonal food switch is nothing but sweet - and warm and flavorful and super-nutritious.

Fall for these 10 healthy autumn edibles:

Apples: How you like them apples? There are reasons why apples are the old autumn harvest standby, the magical super-fruit that's supposed to keep the doctor away. At about 80 calories each, apples provide vitamin C and lots of beneficial fibre. Both the soluble and insoluble fibre found in apples help to support healthy digestion and cholesterol levels. Considering the sheer variety of apple types, you could eat an apple a day and never tire of the sometimes tart, sometimes sweet, always good-for-you flavours.

Beets: Beets are versatile, low in calories, naturally sweet, and packed with nutritional B-enefits. Beets are full of folate, a B vitamin crucial to healthy cell growth, especially during pregnancy. Two more B's abundant in beets: betacyanin, a pigment that is a potentially powerful antioxidant, and betaine, a heart-protective nutrient. Beets are also a great source of fibre.

Bell peppers: Get in on the crunch and colour of bell peppers when they're at their best and most abundant, from August through October. Minus the capsaicin that makes other peppers so hot, bell peppers offer a cooler, crisper, sweeter pepper flavour to foods. And just one cup of any colour bell provides nearly 300% of the vitamin C you need in one day! Combine that with over 100% of daily vitamin A, and bell peppers burst with antioxidant power. Munch on sliced raw peppers, sauté with a lean protein like tofu or chicken, stir-fry with other veggies, or dice onto a salad for some crunch.

Brussels sprouts: These little mini-cabbage look-alikes belong to the Brassica family of cruciferous vegetables, along with broccoli, kale, and spinach. Though Brussels sprouts top many a least-favoured veggie list, they are worth a bite. Cut a cup of these pods into quarters and braise them along with your favourite herbs and spices for a delicious dose of vitamins and minerals. That one cup yields a quarter of a day's folate, 15% of the fibre and potassium you'll need, 10% of the iron and omega-3 fatty acids, and a staggering 161% of your daily vitamin C requirements.

Cranberries: Bright red and tart to the tongue, cranberries crop up in the autumn to add to the colourful foliage. Whether plucked off a berry bush or cultivated in shallow, sandy pools, cranberries pack in lots of fibre and vitamin C. Toss a handful of the berries into a mixed fruit salad, add them to a vinaigrette salad dressing, mix into hot oatmeal, or bake into muffins and cookies.

Figs: Figs are small, low-calorie fruits, but they are densely packed with nutritional benefits. Potassium, which is essential for proper heart, kidney, and muscle function, is abundant in figs, as is bone-building calcium. And 8 ounces of fresh figs yields 30% of your daily recommended fibre. As with any fruit, figs are a great source of antioxidant vitamins. Extract of fig leaves has also shown potential to support the health of people with diabetes.

Pears: Though softer, sweeter, and more delicate, pears provide just as much vitamin C and fibre as their apple kin. Add to the pear's profile the benefits of the antioxidant mineral copper and a juicy, buttery texture that makes the fruit a natural poached, sliced onto salads, or chunked into hot cereal.

Pumpkins and other squash: The rich, deep colours of pumpkin and other types of squash give a hint at the plentiful nutrients within. Vitamin A, in the form of beta-carotene, is abundant in these gourds. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant essential to healthy vision, and it may also boost the immune system and protect the body from the kind of free radical damage that may cause heart and blood vessel disorders and cancer. Squash provides plenty of potassium, a mineral that helps to regulate the kidneys and the heart, as well as the muscles and nerves. You'll also find tons of fibre in these fine fruits, which helps to reduce cholesterol, maintain intestinal health, and moderate blood sugar levels.

Parsnips: Parsnips don't land on too many "superfood" top ten lists, but that's only because they tend to be overshadowed by other veggies. They look a bit like pale carrots, but they actually contain much more heart-friendly potassium and folate than carrots. Folate is a B vitamin required for the creation of healthy cells, and having insufficient levels of it has been linked to cancer and birth defects. Parsnips may have only half the protein and vitamin C of potatoes - but they boast more fibre.

Sweet potatoes and yams: Whether you choose the more common sweet potato or the harder-to-find yam, you'll dine on a nutritious, low-calorie vegetable. Of the two, sweet potatoes have more iron and are a better source of antioxidant vitamin A, but yams have more fibre. The two are about equal in heart-helper vitamin B6, but yams pack more of a punch than sweet potatoes for potassium, which is needed for proper heart, kidney, and muscle function.

Turkey tips

For many, preparing a Thanksgiving turkey is one of the biggest cooking and food safety challenges of the year. When you're faced with a big, uncooked bird, questions will arise. Let's talk turkey and cook up a few answers.

How should I store it?

If you will be using your turkey within 2 or 3 days, store it in the fridge. Otherwise, keep it in the freezer. Don't leave it to sit at room temperature - this can allow harmful bacteria to grow.

How long will I need to thaw this bird?

Never thaw a frozen turkey on a countertop at room temperature. Instead, choose one of the safer options. You could keep it in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic or placed in a deep pan to hold drippings. Or you could pop it in the microwave, determining thawing time and temperature by either consulting the microwave's manual or following a by-the-kilo recipe. Another thaw alternative is to wrap the turkey in its original airtight wrapping and thaw it in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes so it stays cold enough.

How much time will it take to thoroughly cook it?

Figure for a bit over an hour of cooking time per kilogram of turkey (30 minutes per pound). Set the oven temperature to 165°C (325°F) or higher. If using an oven cooking bag, carefully read the bag's instructions first. Poke a meat thermometer into a thigh or breast to see if the turkey's internal temperature has reached 85°C (185°F). By this temperature, the turkey should be thoroughly cooked. Check that meat is tender and no pink juices remain. Cook stuffing separately and add it once the turkey is fully cooked and ready to serve.

What sort of bacteria are on and in turkey that could possibly make me and my family sick?

Turkey and other poultry can carry bacteria that can cause food poisoning, including salmonella and campylobacter. When cooked properly, most bacteria will be killed off so turkey is safe to eat. Still, it is vital that food handlers follow safety guidelines to prevent cross-contaminating other foods being prepared. Avoid touching turkey juices and drippings. Wash hands thoroughly with soap before and after touching food. Do the same for any plates, utensils, towels, and cutting boards you use before switching them to another use. Plastic cutting boards are easier to sanitize than ones made of wood. If you can, reserve one cutting board for use with meats and poultry and another to use when preparing vegetables or other foods.

How healthy is turkey anyway?

Turkey is a lean, low-calorie source of protein. It also contains tryptophan, an amino acid known for its snooze-inducing powers. However, it's not really the bird that's the culprit of that post-dinner snooze, but usually the heavy carbohydrates in that holiday feast.

Pile leftover turkey onto whole-grain bread for post-Thanksgiving sandwiches or shred the meat to make a base for a turkey soup. But to make sure you make the most of the surplus bounty, refrigerate all leftovers within 2 hours of cooking.

Safety tips for raking leaves

As the calendar turns from September to October, the leaves turn from green to gold, red, brown, orange. The green tree canopy of summer gives way to a rainbow of autumn colours and many of us wistfully watch the leaves fall to the ground. Others of us just think, "Great, now I have to rake the lawn."

If that blanket of dead leaves awaits you, you'll need not only a rake but also a few safe raking reminders:

Wait for the full fall: Before you reach for your rake, wait for the full fall of leaves. Aside from some spot-clearing on pathways, it's better to plan one big rake job. Quick, small clean-ups may tempt you to take safety shortcuts that could spell trouble in the form of slips, falls, and sore muscles.

Choose your tools wisely: The right rake for you may not be the right rake for someone else. Shop around for one that is a comfortable fit for your height. And while it may be tempting to buy a cheaper, lightweight rake made from plastic, be warned that the lighter the rake, the more energy you will need to use to move and scoop up piles of leaves. Opt for a rake that has a handle with gripping material. Ergonomic rakes are also available, specially designed for comfort and ease of use and to prevent injury.

Dress the part: Wear lightweight clothes that keep you warm enough without trapping sweat you may build up. Shoes should be supportive and comfortable, and should have slip-proof soles in case you come across a patch of wet leaves. Slip on a pair of sturdy gloves featuring grip material to help keep your hands around the rake handle. If you're allergic to mould and mildew, consider wearing a mask to cover your nose and mouth.

Do a pre-rake warm-up: It may not seem like a workout, but you can burn nearly 300 calories during an hour of raking! Walk around a bit before you start so your blood gets flowing. Do a couple of stretches to prevent straining the muscles of your shoulders, neck, and back. Side bends and knee-to-chest lifts help open you up and ready you for all of the raking, bending, and lifting you'll do.

Practice proper raking posture: To keep your neck and back happy, stand upright and rake leaves to the side of you, alternating dominant hand now and then. Bend at the knees - not the waist - when picking up piles of gathered leaves. And avoid twisting to toss leaves. Instead, step to the side so your whole body switches position, not just your shoulders and back.

Take rake breaks: The repetitiveness of raking can become painful after a while. Take a rest every 10 to 15 minutes. Sip on water to stay hydrated and stretch to release tension you may have built up.