As seasons change, so do the fruits and vegetables that are at their peak, or “in season.”
The signs of fall include delicious, robust flavors. Staples such as fresh apples and pears offer essential vitamins and antioxidants; however, other foods peak this time of year, including Brussels sprouts, seasonal squash, and beets. Don’t be afraid to add a new fruit or vegetable to your shopping cart next time you’re at the store!
- Apples: We are all aware of the “apple a day” adage. These sweet fall favorites are loaded with antioxidants which fight off free radicals. Some varieties, like Fuji, are highest in phenolic compounds and flavonoids. Apples are also packed with vitamin C and pectin, a type of soluble fiber that helps with digestion. Some apples are better for cooking, while others can be enjoyed raw, so pick the right apple for your needs. Make sure you enjoy the peel, as the skin contains up to six times the antioxidant content as the flesh.
- Beets: These are a wonderful source of vitamins A and C. They are also high in fiber and essential minerals like potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function) and manganese (good for your bones, liver, kidneys, and pancreas).
- Brussels Sprouts and Cabbage: Cruciferous vegetables are packed with phytonutrients, which may help protect the body against health concerns. They are also a good source of Vitamins A and C, potassium, folate, iron and fiber. Cruciferous vegetables are unique in that they are rich in glucosinolates, a sulfur-containing compound that imparts a bitter flavor and offers health benefits.
- Pears: Pears are higher in pectin than apples. Pectin is a soluble fiber that helps lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol and helps promote regularity and fullness. Pears are also a good source of vitamin C, copper and potassium. Pears are mild and sweet, and full of antioxidant phytonutrients like quercetin, so enjoy these fat-free, cholesterol-free, 100-calorie fall gift.
- Squash: Squash is another versatile and delicious vegetable that often takes center stage on tables during the fall months. But did you know that squash is actually a broad term used to describe various vegetables such as pumpkins and zucchinis? Summer squash is available through October when winter squash crops into season. This gourd comes in many varieties, including acorn squash, butternut squash, delicta squash and spaghetti squash. Each variety packs a nutritious punch with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Be sure to try all kinds!
- Sweet Potatoes: Sweet potatoes peak during the fall. They pack a nutritional punch and are often a popular side dish on Thanksgiving tables. Similar to squash, sweet potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, giving it (and other orange fruit and vegetables) their vibrant color. Beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A and promotes healthy eyesight. Squash and sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, fiber, potassium and quercetin when eaten with the skin on. Don’t ruin these nutritional powerhouses with marshmallows or syrups. Instead, add spices, such as cinnamon, to give them unique flavors.
Stock up now on the season’s best
Don’t forget about pomegranates, rutabagas, cauliflower and a host of other seasonal produce. If your local grocery store doesn’t have the particular fruits and vegetables you are looking for, then check out your local farmer’s market or CSA (http://www.localharvest.org/), or visit a pick-your-own farm near you (www.pickyourown.org).