By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
Here in the northeast, the official beginning of autumn starts tomorrow. With this new season comes beautiful crisp mornings, colorful leaves, warm and delicious seasonal drinks and most importantly a host of wonderful in-season fruits and vegetables you can have fun with in your kitchen.
We often think of spring and summer as the season that produces the most (and tastiest) produce, but with our list of favorite must-haves for this season I challenge you to look at fall (primarily September, October and November) as a wonderfully delicious season for fresh, healthy produce.
Our Top 10 In-Season Fall Fruits and Vegetables to Eat Now:
1. Brussels Sprouts
Loaded with vitamins A, B and C and an antioxidant compound called glucosinolates which may help to promote a process called apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells and may also act as an antioxidant to help the body’s cells to repair naturally-occurring damage.
How to use brussels: Try them roasted or pan seared/sautéed. They’re delicious simply with olive oil, salt and pepper or as part of a more elaborate dish like this Pear Brussels Sprouts dish.
Pears are a high source of fiber, B vitamins, and folate and minerals like boron that may help the body retain calcium. Pears contain an antioxidant called quercitin, found mostly in the skin of the pear, which is part of the larger family of nutrients called flavonoids that may play a role in cancer prevention and promoting blood vessel health.
How to use pears: Pears are a delicious addition to juices, and can also be baked for a delicious, healthy desert.
Fall’s seasonal squash includes butternut and acorn squash. Acorn squash contains a source of fiber, beta carotene and vitamins A and C; whereas butternut squash contains the same nutrients as acorn, but also contains electrolytes magnesium and potassium that also help to promote heart and muscle health.
How to use: Both butternut and acorn squash can be used in soups, stews, on salads and in main entrees like this Spinach & Cranberry Stuffed Acorn Squash.
Broccoli is an absolute favorite of mine – it’s loaded with fiber, vitamin c, folate and some bone-strengthening calcium; and potent phytonutrients including one called sulforaphane that may help the body rid itself of damaging pollutants.
How to use: Broccoli is versatile and can be made in a variety of ways including sautéed, raw, baked, as soup, and even in juices (yes, in juices!). Try it in one of Reboot’s new favorite recipes, a Broccoli Cilantro Pesto Salad, and if you’re brave enough to try it in a juice enjoy this Oh Sweet Broccoli Juice.
Even though it’s cloves are fairly small they’re packed with anti-cancer compounds including allicin that contains potent antioxidants, immune-boosting properties that may help to fight the common cold, and anti-inflammatory properties thanks to the sulfur-containing compounds. Garlic contains anti-microbial properties that may help to fight and prevent food borne illness.
How to use: Garlic is extremely easy to use and os beneficial to cook with it by adding it to sautés, stews, sauces and by baking or roasting.
Ginger is loaded with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that are particularly helpful in joint pain. Ginger is also known to have digestive, anti-nausea and immune-boosting properties. A powerful compound called gingerol contributes to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power.
How to use: Use in juices, with hot water as a tea, in smoothies, or in cooking stir fry’s or sautéed vegetables. If you have joint pain, enjoy it in this super anti-inflammatory juice.
Apples contain soluble fiber that may help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries, contain vitamin C that can help boost immunity, promote wound healing, and are a source of the quercitin that helps to combat inflammation and possibly prevent tumor growth. Apples are part of the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen Plus” so seek out locally grown or organic apples that are less likely to have as many pesticides.
How to use: Apples can be used raw on salads, in juices and smoothies and can even be baked for a healthy dessert.
8. Jalapeno Peppers
Talk about adding a little heat to a brisk day! The heat in jalapeno peppers is provided by the nutrient capsacin, a nutrient that may help to increase body temperature and thereby may help to rev metabolism and quell appetite. Hot peppers are frequently sprayed with pesticides and are part of the EWG’s “Dirty Dozen Plus” so go for local or organic jalapeno peppers when possible.
How to use: Be careful! Use small amounts because they can be very hot, but are great added to cooked stir fry’s, sautéed vegetables and even soups.
Pomegranates contain a mineral, manganese that plays a part in the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase that helps fight free radicals in the body along with other anti-cancer antioxidants, in addition to a compound called punicalagin that may benefit heart and blood vessels. They’re a good source of vitamins C, K and some B vitamins and electrolytes calcium and potassium.
How to use: Pomegranate seeds are delicious as part of this fall-flavored salad or in a stir fry for some extra crunch.
10. Sweet potatoes
Last, but certainly not least are these classic fall favorites. Sweet potatoes are a good source of beta-carotene and manganese that both contain antioxidant properties, helping the body repair naturally-occurring damage. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamins A and C and fiber.
How to use: Sweet potatoes are a great addition to any meal whether that’s on a salad, in a juice, in a soup, in a stir fry or even baked on their own like in this Sweet Potato Garlic Mash.
What’s your favorite fall fruit or vegetable?