With fall in full bloom and the tress blaze with color, excitement abounds because of all the unique and nutritious fruits and vegetables that signify the season. The autumn harvest, known for its deep yellow, orange and red colored fruits and vegetables, provides a rich source of carotenes, which recent scientific evidence shows may reduce risk factors for heart disease and decrease inflammatory markers, too.
Learning about what fruits and vegetables are in season will help you enjoy the best that fall has to offer. Also, don't be hesitant to try something new! If the preparation seems daunting, try roasting with a few of your favorite herbs and spices. It's quick, easy, and you don't need a recipe. Check out our picks for some of fall's best fare!
Beets: Despite their availability year-round, beets are at their best in the fall. Besides the familiar reddish-purple color, you may also find golden, white, and even multicolored beets. When shopping, look for firm, smooth bulbs and if attached bright, crisp greens. Add the greens to salads and roast the beets for their betaine -- a compound that may help prevent heart disease -- and nitrate -- which has been shown to improve vascular function and promote healthy blood flow.
Pumpkin: Though technically a member of the squash family, pumpkin's excellent health benefits and essential role in fall festivities place it among the top of our list. The pumpkin can be turned into a puree, which provides an abundance of beta carotene, while the pumpkin seeds are a good source of alpha-linolenic acid, an Omega 3 fatty acid that may benefit the major heart disease risk factors, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Use the puree to add a new twist to traditional chili and toast the seeds with cinnamon and nutmeg or other herbs and spices for a delicious treat, either sweet or savory!
Rutabagas and turnips: These root veggies may look unappealing with their bulbous shape and occasionally hair-like roots, but what they lack in appearance they make up for in nutrition. Fresh turnips area one of the popular root vegetables notably rich in vitamin C. The tuber and its top greens are a good source of minerals like manganese, calcium and vitamins such as folates and pyridoxine. The high antioxidant content helps the body scavenge harmful free radicals, decrease risk of certain cancers, reduce inflammation, and boost immunity.
Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables ripen at the end of the summer and also get a little sweeter as the weather gets cooler. Packed with vitamins A and C, cabbage and Brussels sprout boast a high concentration of antioxidants, which also lend these veggies their distinct flavor. With just a handful of ingredients and just 20 minutes tops, you can season your sprouts for a personalized side dish. Cabbage can be shredded to make big slaws that last well in the fridge so you can eat it all week. You can also roast cabbage for a warm slaw with hazelnuts. Amd don't forget about pickling it! You can do this at home without salt.
Squash: Butternut squash is so creamy and rich inside that it can replace cheese or cream once it's roasted. You can roast or steam it and eat it plain; or you can pan-fry it with pasta and sage. It's also wonderful in grain salads and curries. Acorn squash is similar but in a single serving size! For a complete dinner, cut the top off the squash and stuff it with other vegetables or lean meat (poultry or small amounts of fresh lean beef or pork) and bake for about an hour.
Sweet potatoes: Although they are available all year, they have the best flavor during fall, their peak season. Like squash, sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, and are also a good source of vitamin C. When baked in their skin, they can pack nearly 5 grams of fiber. After baking, you can eat them plain anytime, or with yogurt for breakfast -- this is a great way to eat a vegetable for breakfast!
Pomegranates: Held sacred by many ancient religions, pomegranates have health benefits that have only been recognized more recently. While much of the research has been inconclusive, some studies suggest that the fruit's antioxidants may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Pears: These sweet fruits fall in two major categories: European and Asian. In the U.S. the European varieties, Bosc and Bartlett, are most common, and are harvested on the West Coast during fall. Pears are high in soluble fiber, which helps lower LDL or "bad" cholesterol. They may be eaten plain, roasted, or tossed in a salad. Poached pears are a delightful end-of-meal heart-healthy treat!
Enjoy the autumn harvest by including these recipes as part of your nest meal or Thanksgiving feast!
Roasted Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Pilaf
Pear, Beat and Carrot Salad