The Fall Harvest – Cranberries, Chestnuts and Brussels Sprouts

by Charles Platkin, PhD


Why: It’s not because they’re sweet like other berries. In fact, cranberries are quite tangy and tart, and they need to be cooked or combined with something sweet. But that doesn’t mean they’re not amazing. They’re packed with nutrients.

Health Perks: Fresh cranberries are loaded with antioxidants — in fact, according to scientists at Cornell University as reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, they have more than almost any other fruit. Additionally the researchers found that cranberries are high on bio-availability and have the highest inhibitory effect on certain cancers.

Cranberries are a rich source of phenolic phytochemicals, antioxidants that are said to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by helping to prevent LDL formation, stopping platelets from aggregating, and helping to reduce blood pressure.

Researchers reporting in the Journal of Medicinal Food have also found that chemicals in cranberries called proanthocyanidins (PACs) prevent bacteria (E. coli) from attaching to the cells that line the urinary tract, thus preventing infection. And they may also have “an anti-adhesion effect on certain harmful bacteria” in the mouth and stomach that are the basis for gum disease and stomach ulcers.

Nutrition Stats: (1 cup) 46 calories, 12g carbs, 4.5g fiber, 0.1g fat, 0.4g protein.


Why: The intoxicating smell of roasting chestnuts is symbolic of and the beginning of the holiday season. Chestnuts are sweet and have a texture similar to that of potatoes. They’re one of the few nuts that are low in fat, and compared with other nuts they’re also very low in calories. They’re great in soups, stuffings or simply roasted. They’re a bit difficult to prep, however, because you have to remove both the skin and the shell – and that’s best done when they’re hot – but it’s all worth it.

Health Perks: According to the British Journal of Nutrition, walnuts, pecans and chestnuts have the highest antioxidant content of all tree nuts. Chestnuts are a good source of B vitamins, folate, copper, magnesium and manganese. They’re also a good source of vitamin C; in fact they’re among the few nuts that have any vitamin C at all. Keep in mind that chestnuts have a high water content — more than 50 percent — and need to be refrigerated.

Nutrition Stats: (1 ounce, 3 chestnuts) 60 calories, 12.9g carbs, 2.3g fiber, 0.65g fat, 0.7g protein.

Brussels Sprouts

Why: They’re health powerhouses, and when prepared properly they’re very tasty. Brussels sprouts look like miniature heads of cabbage and taste sort of like broccoli. In addition to eating them on their own, you can add them to soups and stir fries, or grate them into salads. To enhance cooked Brussels sprouts, splash on some lemon juice, sprinkle with nuts or bread crumbs or add some grated Parmesan cheese.

Health Perks: Brussels sprouts are loaded with vitamin C ( for the skin and the immune system) — just ½ cup has 80 percent of the Daily Value. They’re also rich in vitamin K (which aids in blood clotting), potassium (which lowers blood pressure), fiber (which reduces cholesterol), vitamin B6 (which reduces homocysteine levels — high levels are linked to heart disease) and even omega-3 fatty acids (good for heart health).

Brussels sprouts, like their cruciferous cousins (e.g., broccoli, cauliflower), contain glucosinolates, which are said to prevent cancer by helping to get rid of cancer-causing agents before they can damage the cells and also by preventing healthy cells from being altered into unhealthy, cancerous cells. In fact, sulforaphane, a glucosinolate and one of the primary antioxidants in Brussels sprouts, is an amazing detoxifier — it actually cleans the body and removes harmful substances. It is also an antioxidant, which may reduce the risk of cancer. Brussels sprouts are also a good source of folate (important for pregnant women for fetal growth and development), and a source of potassium, vitamin A, fiber and much-needed iron.

Nutrition Stats: (1/2 cup, cooked) 30 calories, 0g fat, 6g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g protein.

Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts Recipe

Healthy recipe:, submitted by Robin Webb

Serves 6

Preparation Time: 20 minutes


  • 3 cups Brussels sprouts
  • 1 cup roasted chestnuts, peeled
  • 1 large orange, peeled and segmented
  • 1/2 cup low-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees C).
  2. Trim each sprout by cutting a little piece off the bottom. With a small paring knife, make an X in the stem end. Repeat with all sprouts and place in steamer over 2 inches of boiling water. Steam the sprouts covered for about 10 minutes or until tender.
  3. Remove sprouts from pot and allow to cool. Cut each sprout in half and place in a casserole dish. Layer the chestnuts on top of the sprouts. (If chestnuts are not already roasted: Mark an X on the rounded side of each chestnut with a paring knife. Place all the chestnuts on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes or until soft. Let cool. Peel, trying to keep the chestnuts as whole as possible.)
  4. Place the orange segments on top of the chestnuts.
  5. Pour the broth over all ingredients. Drizzle with the oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 15 minutes.

Nutritional Information: Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts, (per serving), 102 calories, 2.8g fat, 18.2g carbs, 4.3g fiber, 2.4g protein.

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