The weather is crisp, the leaves are turning, fall is in the air. It should also be in your food, in the form of locally-grown, seasonal staples that promote good health. But often we associate fall with the start of the holiday season and a time of unhealthy eating. It doesn’t have to be that way—there are many fall foods that are delicious and healthy. Moreover, if you shop for them at your local farmer’s market, they’ll be locally grown, seasonally appropriate and less expensive. Here are a few of the best things to look for.
Pumpkins. They’re not just for carving! Pumpkins can be used for an incredible array of delicious dishes, ranging from the familiar pumpkin pie to soups, pancakes, ravioli, and even chips. Pumpkins are themselves a low-calorie vegetable and a storehouse of many anti-oxidants such as vitamins A, C and E as well as minerals like copper, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. Most of all, pumpkin is rich in B-carotene, a carotenoid associated with reduced risk of disease, especially certain cancers and eye disease.
Sweet Potatoes. Sweet potatoes are delicious roasted, as the base of a bisque, or made into chips. Like pumpkin, sweet potatoes are a great source of B-carotene and also of Vitamin C, calcium, folate and potassium. In fact, a one-cup serving of sweet potatoes has 65 percent of the minimum daily intake of Vitamin C, which is essential to warding off those fall cold and flu viruses. The pigments that give sweet potatoes their distinctive color include anthocyanin, a strong anti-inflammatory agent.
Acorn Squash. Roast it, make it into chips, turn it into a soup. Acorn squash is rich in folate, which reduces homocysteine, a byproduct of metabolism. Since homocysteine can be harmful to the walls of blood vessels, acorn squash is a heart-healthy food. Moreover, it has colon-protecting properties. Acorn squash is also rich in folic acid and Vitamin B-12, both of which prevent nerve damage and brain shrinkage.
Apples. Eat them in their entirety, or make them into chips, compotes, sauces or, of course, pies. Apples are rich in phytochemicals, natural chemicals found in plants that reduce the risk of chronic disease. In fact, epidemiological studies link eating apples with reduced risk of cancers, cardiovascular disease, asthma and diabetes. Laboratory studies find them to be high in antioxidants, including quercetin, catechin, phloridzin and chlorogenic acid, antioxidants that help hinder the growth of cancer cells, and lower cholesterol.
Kale. Juice it into a smoothie, make it into chips, put it in a salad —however you eat kale, the rich amounts of Vitamin K it contains can help reduce the overall risk of developing cancer, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found. Vitamin K is useful to the body in other ways as well, for basic functions such as blood clotting and bone health. If kale isn’t for you, by the way, parsley, spinach, collard greens and even some animal products, such as cheese, are abundant in Vitamin K.
Between these nutritious, healthy foods, and the extra hour you’ll gain from the time change, you’ll be feeling fresh and restored for fall!
Manuel Villacorta is a registered dietitian in private practice, MV Nutrition, award winning nutrition and weight loss center in San Francisco. He is the founder and creator of Eating Free, an international weight management and wellness program and author of three books, Eating Free: The Carb Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Peruvian Power Foods: 18 Superfoods, 101 Recipes, and Anti-Aging Secrets from the Amazon to the Andes and his newest book, Whole Body Reboot: The Peruvian Superfoods Diet to Detoxify, Energize, and Supercharge Fat Loss.