Autumn is officially here! With crisp air, golden-brown leaves and cooler temperatures, the harvest season also brings a plethora of fresh produce like root vegetables, juicy apples, pumpkin and winter squash.
Incorporating seasonal foods in your daily diet is a great way to make your meals more flavorful as well as nutritious—without breaking the bank.
So, take your healthy eating game a notch higher this season by loading up on these seasonal superfoods that are recommended by nutritionists:
Apple: Apples are full of vital nutrients including Vitamin K, potassium and immune-boosting Vitamin C. “You also get plenty of dietary fiber (pectin) from both its skin and its flesh,” says Lauren O’Connor, LA-based registered dietitian, nutritionist and founder of Nutri Savvy Health. This form of soluble fiber helps improve blood sugar control, aids digestion and helps with cholesterol management, tells the nutrition expert. “Because its peak season is fall, apple has an optimal taste and texture during autumn months,” adds O’Connor. Besides eating them as is, you can eat them with nut butter, add them to your salads, enjoy them baked with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top or blend them into your pancake batter, suggests O’Connor.
Eggplant: Eggplant is a great low-calorie vegetable to cook with. “One key health benefit of eating eggplant is that it’s a good source of fiber,” says Mia Syn, a Charleston-based registered dietitian and founder of the popular food blog, Nutrition By Mia. “It’s is also full of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, especially potassium and vitamin B6,” she adds. You can grill or roast the versatile vegetable, turn it into a dip, stuff it with a healthy filling or toss it in your salads and wraps—the options are endless!
Pumpkin: “Canned pumpkin contains beta-carotene, a form of Vitamin A, which is great for your eyesight,” tells O’Connor. Additionally, pumpkin is a good source of potassium. “Whether you choose to make a savory pumpkin soup, include it in your muffins for an extra Vitamin C and potassium punch or whip up a creamy pumpkin spiced smoothie, you’ll be able to reap its nourishing benefits,” says the dietitian. Here are some of the healthiest ways to enjoy this fall-favorite fruit.
Butternut Squash: Butternut squash is loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals–of which are beneficial to your health. “The primary vitamins and minerals in butternut squash include beta carotene antioxidants, vitamin C and manganese,” says Syn. “Beta carotene is the precursor to Vitamin A which is important for your eye health,” she explains. Here are a few easy ways to eat more butternut squash this season.
Leeks: Nutrient-dense and low in calories, leeks bring a mild-onion flavor to your hearty fall soups and cruciferous packed salads. “They are rich in antioxidants and sulfur compounds, including kaempferol and allicin, which offer protection against heart disease and certain types of cancers,” says O’Connor. Apart from soups and salads, you can add them to your favorite pasta and stew recipes, mash them into a sauce or eat them roasted.
Pecans: Pecans add a crunch and texture to your favorite fall eats. “These nuts are a source of Vitamin E (which is both immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory), heart-protective B-vitamins and magnesium–which can improve your mood and lower your stress levels and your blood pressure,” says O’Connor. They are also an excellent source of fiber. “Just one ounce of pecans provides 10% of your daily fiber needs,” notes the nutritionist. You can throw them in your favorite oatmeal and trail mix recipes, sprinkle them over salads or add them to your breakfast parfait for an added crunch.
Brussel Sprouts: “These cruciferous veggies pack in potassium, iron, and heart-protective B vitamins—including B6 and thiamin,” tells O’Connor. Similar to kohlrabi, Brussel sprouts contain prebiotics which probiotics feed off. “Combining prebiotics with probiotics boosts their gut-healthy benefits,” adds the nutrition expert. Brussels sprouts can be used in a number of ways. You can enjoy them sautéed with a bit of olive oil and sea salt, toss them in a casserole or add them to a salad, stir-fry or pasta recipe.
Parsnip: Parsnips contain essential nutrients such as Vitamin C, potassium and magnesium. “They are also a great source of fiber–with 7 grams in one cup,” tells Syn. The versatile root veggie can be added to soups, stews or made into fries, suggests the dietitian. For more culinary inspo, check out these recipes that will help you enjoy parsnips from breakfast to dinner.
Beets: “Both golden and red beets include fiber, iron, potassium and folic acids, says O’Connor. If you’re tired of eating roasted beets, you can try vegan steaks made with beets, blend them to make a dip, turn them into baked chips or sneak them in your desserts.
Swiss Chard: This leafy green is an excellent source of Vitamins A and K and dietary fiber. “It is a perfect ingredient to add to your green smoothies. Also, it tastes great in a light sauté and serves up well in soups,” says O’Connor.
Cranberries: These bright red berries not only spruce up your salads and festive fall dishes but also serve to benefit your overall gut health and immunity, says O’Connor. “The low-calorie superfood is high in vitamins, fiber, minerals and antioxidants,” tells Syn. Here are a few healthy recipe ideas that will help up your cranberries intake this season.
Pomegranate: These sweet and tart gems add antioxidants and a unique burst of flavor to your favorite autumn drinks and dishes. “While antioxidants can be found in many fruits and vegetables, an in vitro study at UCLA found that pomegranate juice has, on average, more antioxidant capacity than red wine, grape juice, or green tea,” notes Syn. Here are more than 20 different ways to enjoy this fall fruit.
Other nutrient-dense whole foods that you should eat more often this season include celery, pears, red grapes, sweet potato and cauliflower.
Just remember, the more color you add to your plate each day the better!