Along with colder temperatures, shorter days, and leaves changing color, fall brings with it a whole new set of fresh foods that are in season. Long-known as the harvest season, fall is a great time to get in sync with the seasons and fill your diet with flavorful and healthy seasonal produce.
So, let’s take a look at some popular fall favorites – and how these foods can support your health!
Aside from the fun of getting in a festive spirit, aligning your diet with seasonal foods actually has some real benefits. Here are some of the top benefits you can get out of seasonal eating:
Pumpkins are one of the most common symbols of the season, used for both decoration and for flavoring popular fall foods. From lattes to soups, from pies to purees, pumpkin shows up just about everywhere in fall cooking. But what does it have going for it when it comes to health?
Pumpkin offers much more than just color and flavor to the season. It is also a great source of healthy nutrients like beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, and other vitamins and minerals. Additionally, pumpkin is a healthy source of fiber.[2,3]
Research suggests that pumpkin has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory qualities and may help support conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney stones, and more.[2,3]
Pumpkin seeds are also high in nutrients such as protein, healthy fats, and minerals like potassium, phosphorous, and magnesium.[2,3]
Although pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread aren’t healthy choices because they contain a lot of sugar and refined carbs, there are many ways to prepare pumpkin that are quite good for your body.
If you buy a whole pumpkin, be sure to enjoy both the orange flesh and the seeds that can be scooped out from inside. After peeling off the skin, the bright orange flesh can be roasted for a tasty side dish or cooked and then pureed to be used in dishes like soups and curries. The seeds can be roasted in the oven with olive oil and your favorite seasonings for a perfect fall snack.
Root vegetables like beets are a great choice this time of year. Beets are one of the few vegetables that have a deep red-purple coloring, which comes from a particular type of antioxidant called betalains. This plant pigment helps protects your cells from damage and can also fight against inflammation.
In addition to their antioxidant content, beet roots are also high in fiber and vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, and folate. Beets are well-known for their protective role in heart disease, where they can help to keep blood pressure low. Beets may also play a positive role in conditions like diabetes, insulin resistance, and kidney dysfunction.[4,5]
In addition to the root part of the plant, beets also can be used for their greens. Beet greens are a healthy type of leafy green that’s packed with B vitamins and other health-promoting nutrients.
Beets have an earthy, sweet flavor and vibrant color that can add a little interest to your cooking. Beet roots are delicious roasted, but they can also be boiled or steamed. Alternatively, you can enjoy beets raw; try them julienned or grated and added to salads for a sweet crunch. And don’t forget to save the tops, as beet greens can be steamed or sauteed for a healthy veggie side dish to add to your meal.
Brussels sprouts are related to cabbage, kale, and broccoli and belong to the cruciferous family of vegetables. They look like mini cabbages, but Brussels sprouts pack a lot of punch into a small package when it comes to both flavor and nutrition.
Brussels sprouts are rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, beta-carotene, and fiber. As one of the cruciferous vegetables, they also contain an important phytochemical called glucosinolate. This nutrient gives Brussels sprouts their distinct sulfur-like flavor and smell, but it also provides a lot of health benefits like helping to protect the body from disease.
Although many people give Brussels sprouts a bad rap, when cooked properly they can be incredibly delicious. One of the best ways to prepare Brussels sprouts is by roasting them. Toss them with olive oil, salt, and any of your favorite spices and let them get fully browned in a hot oven. They can also be steamed, sautéed, or incorporated into salads or side dishes. Brussels sprouts pair well with balsamic vinegar, herbs, lemon juice, or grated parmesan.
Pomegranates are another vibrantly colored fall food that taste delicious and support good health at the same time.
Pomegranate seeds are nutrient-rich and antioxidant-packed powerhouses. They contain a particularly potent kind of antioxidant called anthocyanins, which give foods like berries and pomegranates their deep red or purple coloring. Pomegranates are also full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and the oils of the seeds even contain healthy fatty acids.
Pomegranates have been well-studied for their benefits to human health. They have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties and are thought to have protective effects against a variety of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and neurodegenerative disorders.[7,8]
To enjoy a pomegranate, you’ll first have to open it up and remove the seeds. Pomegranate seeds on their own can be an incredible snack, so don’t be afraid to fill up a bowl and dig right in. Pomegranate seeds also make a bright, colorful, and crunchy addition to things like salads, oatmeal, and yogurt. The juice can be enjoyed in smoothies, in sauces, or as a refreshing beverage (just be sure to look for unsweetened products without added sugar).
Pecans are delicious and healthy nuts that are harvested in the fall. They are a good source of protein, healthy monounsaturated fats, and vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, folate, riboflavin, iron, and magnesium.
In addition, pecans are rich in polyphenols like flavonoids, phytosterols, and proanthocyanidins that all have powerful health benefits. When the USDA ranked foods based on their antioxidant capacity, pecans ended up in the top 20 foods – higher than any other nut.
Ultimately, adding pecans to your diet can do great favors for your health. One study found that when people ate pecans daily, their risk for heart disease went down. Another found that people who consumed nuts regularly had a lower risk of mortality from all causes.
Rich, buttery, and sweet in flavor, pecans can be eaten either raw or cooked. They make for a handy, nutritious snack on their own, but they also incorporate well into a variety of dishes for meals from breakfast to dinner. Try them chopped into oats or yogurt for a hearty breakfast, roasted and used in place of croutons on salad, or mixed into whole grain dishes like quinoa. You can even try getting extra creative and experimenting with recipes for things like pecan-crusted salmon or pecan pesto.
The 5 foods listed above are just a few of the naturally healthy foods that are harvested in autumn. Other healthy fall options include:
The greater the variety of fresh, wholesome foods you can include in your diet, the better. Our bodies thrive when they are fed with the foods that nature intended.
So, if you need help adding more produce that’s in season to your regular meal rotation, then try out these tips: