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5 Favorite Health Foods for Fall

November 05, 2021 7 min read

 

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!


Why eat seasonally?


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:  


  • Better taste. Your food will taste better when you are using fresh ingredients to cook with, especially ones that are grown locally and come straight from the farm to your plate.
  • More nutrition. Foods also happen to be more nutritionally dense when they are grown and consumed in the appropriate harvest season. For example, one study found that broccoli contained almost twice as much vitamin C when grown in fall (it’s peak season), compared to broccoli grown in spring.[1]
  • Giving your body what it needs most. Some proponents of seasonal eating believe that our bodies naturally gravitate towards seasonal foods. In the winter, our bodies crave warming foods like soups, whole grains, and root vegetables. In the summer when the weather is hot, we need refreshing, hydrating fresh foods like berries and cucumbers. 
  • Lower cost. Foods are often cheaper when they are purchased during their peak harvest season because they are more abundant and easier to come by.
  • Better for the environment. Foods don’t have to be transported as far when you consume those foods that are seasonally appropriate in your area, which has positive effects for the health of your environment.

5 healthy fall foods to add to your diet this year


1. Pumpkin


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]

 

How to make the most of this fall food:

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. 


2. Beets


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.[4]


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.[4]


How to make the most of this fall food:

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. 


3. Brussels sprouts


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.[6]


How to make the most of this fall food:

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. 


4. Pomegranate


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.[7]


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]


How to make the most of this fall food:

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).


5. Pecans


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.[9]

 

In addition, pecans are rich in polyphenols like flavonoids, phytosterols, and proanthocyanidins that all have powerful health benefits.[10] When the USDA ranked foods based on their antioxidant capacity, pecans ended up in the top 20 foods – higher than any other nut.[11]


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.[12] Another found that people who consumed nuts regularly had a lower risk of mortality from all causes.[13]


How to make the most of this fall food:

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.


Tips for taking advantage of what nature has to offer this fall


The 5 foods listed above are just a few of the naturally healthy foods that are harvested in autumn. Other healthy fall options include:



  • Ginger
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Parsnips
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Cranberries
  • Squash
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Radishes
  • Swiss chard
  • Spinach
  • Mushrooms

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:

    • Go to the local farmer’s market to see what is in season near you. Talk to the farmers to learn about fruits or veggies you don’t recognize and to get an idea of how to best prepare them.
    • Try signing up for a CSA box, where you can receive a weekly box of fresh produce from a small local farm. This will help you get more acquainted with some of the healthy foods that nature has to offer all year long. 
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. It can be daunting to bring unusual and new foods into your kitchen, but try to have fun with it. Challenge yourself to pick out a food you’ve never had before and look up a new recipe for how to use it. Get creative and enjoy the process. Who knows, you might end up with a few new favorite foods or family recipes!



  • References


    1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17852499/
    2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21110905/
    3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6819838/
    4. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-health-benefits-of-beets/
    5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6947971/
    6. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/brussels-sprouts/
    7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7074153/
    8. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924224421003885
    9. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-pecans#1
    10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26148924/
    11. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jf049696w
    12. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/10/3/339
    13. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1307352


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