Now that summer has come and gone, it’s time to enjoy all of the wonderful flavors of fall. The fall harvest that lasts from September to November, brings a variety of healthful and delicious produce, from the more dense vegetables like squash to the more juicy fruits like apples and pears.
Eating with the seasons has it’s benefits, not only nutritionally, but also on your wallet. Produce that has been allowed to grow in its natural environment and fully ripen has the optimal flavor – fresh, fragrant, juicy and colorful. These big, bright fruits and vegetables are loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that can transform our health. You won’t have to spend your entire paycheck either. When there’s an abundance of a product, the prices go down. It’s simple supply and demand. You’ll also be consuming a cleaner product. Produce that is local and in season use a lot less pesticides and chemicals, and if you’re lucky — none at all!
In the spirit of the season, here’s our top 10 favorite autumn produce picks that are incredibly delicious and super healthy! If we missed your favorite, comment below and let us know!
- Apples: This sweet and crunchy fruit is definitely a fall favorite and if you crave variety, there are over 7,500 types! Apples are packed with disease fighting compounds (antioxidants) that prevent oxidative damage to cells. One in particular is quercetin, which helps boost your immune system and fight infection. Apples also contain dietary fiber, which is great for maintaining a healthy GI tract, stabilizing blood sugar, and it may also help to lower cholesterol. Not only are apples incredible raw, they can be added to jams, jellies, and desserts. I guess it’s time to add apple picking to the fall to-do list!
- Cherries: They’re sweet, tart and refreshing. Let’s call them nature’s candy and we should be eating more of them—and here’s why: Cherries are loaded with antioxidants like quercetin and anthocyanin, which help protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease. Research has also shown that cherries help to reduce pain, inflammation, and swelling, making them outstanding for post-workout recovery. A cup of cherries contains as much potassium (~260 mg) as a small banana. Potassium helps maintain blood pressure, hydration, nerve impulses, and pH balance. Cherries also contain melatonin, making them the perfect guilt-free late night snack, which may help you sleep more soundly throughout the night.
- Beets: When we think of beets we think of them as being deep red and purple in color; however, you can also find yellow, white, and multicolored beets as well. You can also eat the entire plant. I like to roast the bulbs and flash boil the bright, crisp greens, and toss them in a little apple cider vinegar. Beets contain the phytonutrient, betaine, a compound that may help prevent heart and liver disease, and also has detoxification properties. Beets are also high in folate, a B-vitamin that we commonly associate with pregnancy for normal fetal development, but it also has other health benefits like brain and nervous system support, and most importantly, it’s role in DNA synthesis and repair.
- Brussel Sprouts and Cabbage: There’s a reason brussel sprouts look like miniature cabbages; in fact, they’re related. They’re both excellent sources of vitamins C (i.e. boosts immunity, heals, etc) and K (i.e. blood clotting, bone health), and also boast high concentrations of cancer-fighting glucosinolates, which is responsible for giving these veggies their pungent flavor.
- Cranberries: You’ll find the best tasting cranberries in October through November. Ninety-five percent of the time cranberries are either dried, canned, or turned into juice. If you get lucky, nab yourself a bag full of the fresh stuff! Usually the first thing that comes to mind is cranberries use in preventing urinary tract infections, but they have other surprising health benefits like preventing oral infections and lowering your risk for cancer.
- Persimmons: More exotic than your typical household fruit, these sweet and pulpy bright orange, leafy-capped fruits contain a ton of fiber, antioxidants, and minerals to give its other cohorts a run for their money. Persimmons contain anti-cancer agents (antioxidants) and betulinic acid, which is known for its anti-retroviral, anti-tumor, and anti-inflammatory properties. A single persimmon also gives you a whopping 80% of your daily requirement of vitamin C, which will help your body fend off infection. They also contain large amounts of potassium, which help to lower blood pressure and increase blood flow (vasodilator). Do make sure you wait until they’re ripe. They should feel soft, not firm. If you think it’s overripe, it’s probably perfect!
- Squash: The first variety that probably came to mind is the popular butternut squash, but have you ever tried buttercup squash? It has a creamy vibrant orange flesh and it’s much sweeter than other winter squash varieties. Squash leads the charge in both alpha- and beta-carotine, which can be converted into retinol to promote healthy vision and the production of collagen in your skin. The starchy carbohydrate also contains pectins that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Also, don’t let the seeds go to waste. They contain linoleic acid and oleic acid, which together have insulin-regulating properties and other metabolic benefits (i.e. fat loss, muscle gain). Roast them just like pumpkin seeds for a convenient on-the-go snack.
- Pumpkin: I know what you’re thinking, “Pumpkin is a squash!” Yes, technically they are; however, since they’re all the rage (Pumpkin Spiced Latte anyone?!), we’ll give them their own place on our list. Pumpkins have long been the gourd of choice for many, whether they are being used for baking a killer pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving or carving out a mean looking Jack O’Lantern for Halloween. They may make a nice decoration on your front porch next to the mum you planted, but they do have tremendous health benefits, too. Orange in color, pumpkins contain beta-carotine, which is not only good for your eyes, but has protective properties against cancer. Pumpkins are also high in dietary fiber so you’ll feel fuller longer and diets containing more fiber lowers your risk of coronary heart disease. It’s seeds are rich in tryptophan, the amino acid responsible for helping the body produce serotonin, the feel-good chemical messenger. Eating the seeds will not only help you relax, they will also work wonders on your mood. The oil found in pumpkin seeds also helps to lower both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
- Sweet Potato: This delicious tuber is a staple in my diet and lucky for me (and you) they’re peak season is fall, which means they’ll taste even more amazing. Like the squash and pumpkin referenced above, sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, which is either converted into Vitamin A (retinol) or is used for its antioxidant power. The other color-related pigments in sweet potato are also valuable for their anti-inflammatory health benefits. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C and the dietary mineral, manganese, which is important for bone production, blood sugar control, and for keeping your skin healthy and radiant. Don’t be afraid to eat the skin either as it’s an excellent source of fiber.
- Mushrooms: Not all mushrooms are created equal, nor do they all have the same healthy benefits. This fall, skip the white button mushrooms, Portobellos and Criminis and cook up something more exotic like Shiitake, Oyster, Enoki, or Maitake mushrooms, which all have anti-cancer, antiviral, and immune-enhancing properties. Mushrooms also contain the antioxidant mineral, selenium, which helps prevent cell damage. They are also a good source of protein, the mineral copper, vitamin B, C, and D, iron, and potassium.
Some other fruits and vegetables to also consider are garlic, pears, turnips, rutabagas, and of course, your leafy greens (i.e. swiss chard, arugula, kohlrabi, kale, etc).
Now it’s time to head to your local farmer’s market or local grocery store and load up on these fall favorites!