Fall brings shorter days, longer nights, cooler weather, and a new menu of seasonal foods to help keep your body balanced and well. As autumn gets underway, here are tips for transitioning your diet out of summer and into the cooler weather.
Fall in Love with Root Vegetables
Most root vegetables are available all year, but they’re at their peak from fall to spring. Underground gems such as garlic, onions, ginger, turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, and parsnips deliver ample flavor and nutrients during the cooler months. Many root vegetables are loaded with folate, which is key for cell growth and metabolism, and beta-carotene, which aids vision and bone growth.
During fall, a host of allergens can conjure sniffles and sneezes, so it’s important to pack in anti-inflammatory foods. Seasonal foods high in quercetin, like apples and onions, help block the release of histamines, which are the substances responsible for allergic reactions.
Shop Your Farmer’s Market
Learn more about seasonal produce, connect with your food, and boost your health with a visit to your local farmers’ market. The foods available at your local farmers’ markets will depend on what grows in your geographic region. Some foods to look for during the fall are apples, cranberries, figs, grapes, pears, persimmons, pomegranates, mushrooms, pumpkins, Brussels sprouts, and leafy greens such as Swiss chard, romaine, kale, and collards.
Eat More Whole Grains and Seeds
Another optimal food group for fall includes whole, nutritious grains. These foods support good nutrition and health with their high levels of B vitamins, which help improve mood and reduce anxiety, depression, and seasonal affective disorder. Contrary to processed or refined grains, whole, unrefined grains maintain their hunger-reducing fiber and inflammation-fighting vitamin E.
Fall Produce Favorites
Fall produce is full of antioxidants and natural fiber from brussels sprouts and pumpkin to parsnips and persimmons. Incorporate these produce picks into your fall meal plan.
Pumpkin is full of fiber and beta-carotene, which creates a vibrant orange color. Beta-carotene converts into vitamin A in the body, which is great for your skin and eyes. To balance pumpkin’s sweetness, try adding savory herbs, such as sage and curry.
Beets are edible from their leafy greens down to the bulbous root. The leaves are similar to spinach and are delicious sautéed. The grocery store most likely will carry red beets; your local farmers market may have more interesting varieties. The red color in beets is caused by a phytochemical called betanin, making beet juice a natural alternative to red food coloring. Beets are rich in naturally occurring nitrates and may help to support healthy blood pressure.
Sweet potatoes charge ahead of white potatoes in terms of fiber and vitamin A. Sweet potatoes also are an excellent source of potassium and vitamin C. Try them as a breakfast side dish, or serve them at any meal.
Spaghetti squash is a fun, kid-friendly vegetable that is a lower-calorie and gluten-free alternative to grain-based pasta. Scrape a fork into the flesh and spaghetti-like strands appear. A wide variety of vitamins and minerals are contained in spaghetti squash. Most notably, this squash offers plenty of vitamin C, vitamin B6, niacin, potassium, manganese, and even some calcium.
Kale is a nutrient powerhouse. It tastes sweeter after a frost and can survive a snowstorm. One cup of raw kale has only 8 calories and is loaded with vitamins A, C, and K as well as manganese. Kale is great sautéed and cooked in soup, but also is excellent raw in a salad.
Pears are the most delicious in the fall when they’re at their peak. Pears are unique in that they do not ripen on the tree; they will ripen at room temperature after they’re picked. Pears are a mild, sweet fruit with a fibrous center. They are rich in important antioxidants, flavonoids, and dietary fiber and pack all of these nutrients in a fat-free, cholesterol-free, 100-calorie package. Consuming pears may help with weight loss and reduce the risk of developing cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease if eaten as part of an overall healthy diet.
Okra commonly is fried, but also is wonderful in more nutritious dishes. Around the world, chefs cherish the thickening properties of the seed pods in dishes from Louisiana gumbo to Indian curries and other stews. If you wish to minimize the thickening property, try okra briefly stir-fried. The pods are high in vitamins K and C, a good source of fiber and folate and low in calories. At the market, look for pods that are no longer than 4 inches and are bright green in color and firm to the touch.
Parsnips have the same root shape as carrots but with white flesh. They’re typically eaten cooked, but also can be eaten raw. One-half cup of cooked parsnips is full of fiber (3 grams) and contains more than 10 percent of the daily values of vitamin C and folate.
Cranberries may help protect from urinary tract infection. They contain a compound called proanthocyanidin which may prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to your bladder wall. Fresh and dried cranberries pair well with a variety of meats and poultry. Fresh cranberries can be eaten raw but often are cooked. Dried cranberries are delicious in grain and vegetable salads and make a healthy snack on the go.