By Jennifer Fleming, MS, RD, LDN and Penny Kris Etherton, PhD, RD
Dr. Penny Kris Etherton Research Group at Pennsylvania State University
As the availability of scrumptious summer vegetables fades away, we can now look forward with excitement to all of the interesting and nutritious vegetables that signify fall. Have you considered enjoying your pumpkin now that Halloween is over? Also, have you thought about preparing cabbage with other seasonal fruits and vegetables for an even more delicious dish on a chilly fall evening? It is convenient that many fall vegetables like squash and cabbage are available in the supermarket pre-cut and ready to use.
Fall vegetables are a rich source of carotenes and recent scientific evidence shows heart health benefits of carotenes for decreasing all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease and cancer. A study conducted in Finland showed that individuals who had low serum levels of carotene concentrations (a marker of intake) were at increased risk of sudden cardiac death. Other recent studies have shown that carotenes decrease inflammatory markers, which have been shown to promote heart disease.
To get the best of what fall has to offer, learn about what’s in season. Also, don’t be afraid to try something new. Check out our picks for some of fall’s best fare. If the preparation seems daunting, try roasting with a medley of herbs and spices; it is quick, and you don’t need a recipe. Roasting adds a nice toasty flavor.
Pumpkin: Though technically a member of the squash family, the pumpkin’s excellent health benefits and essential role in fall festivities place them among the top on our list. The pumpkin can be turned into a puree, which provides an abundant amount of beta-carotene, while the pumpkin seeds are a good source of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that may help those with heart disease, high blood pressure, or 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!
Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables ripen at the end of the summer and also get a little sweeter as the weather gets colder. Packed with vitamins A and C, cabbage and brussel sprouts, they boast a high concentration of antioxidants (which also lend these veggies their distinct flavor). With just a handful of ingredients and 20 minutes tops, you can season your sprouts for a personalized side dish (see recipe below). Cabbage can be shredded to make big slaws that last well in the fridge so you can eat it all week (See Apple Cabbage Salad with Brown Sugar Cider Vinaigrette recipe below). You can also roast cabbage for a warm slaw with hazelnuts. And don't forget about pickling it! You can do this at home without salt.
Squash: Butternut squash is so creamy and rich inside; it can replace cheese or cream once it's roasted. You can roast or steam it and eat plain, or pan-fry with pasta and sage. It's also wonderful in grain salads and in 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 1 hour.
Sweet Potatoes: Although they are available all year, these have the best flavor during fall, their peak season. Like squash, sweet potatoes are rich in and
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.
Read these great fall vegetable recipes:
Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Choose-Your-Own Seasoning
Apple Cabbage Salad with Brown Sugar Vinaigrette