PUMPKIN, PUMPKIN, pumpkin. This time of year, it can feel like pumpkin’s the only thing on the menu. But fortunately, whether you aren’t a fan of pumpkin at all or are just straight-up gourd-ed out, pumpkin is far from the only piece of produce that deserves a spot on your plate this fall.
Here are 10 healthy fall foods that will freshen up even your oldest recipes – and help you hit your health goals:
Seriously, what can’t apples do? In addition to supplying generous helpings of immune-boosting vitamin C, a single apple packs about 20 percent of your recommended daily allowance of fiber, which can promote gut health, reduce blood pressure and may even help reduce the risk of gastrointestinal disease and cancer, says registered dietitian Jessica Crandall, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and general manager at Denver Wellness and Nutrition Center-Sodexo. And get this: A 2016 study published in the Journal of Food Science shows that compounds in raw apples actually combat garlic breath. Go figure!
Fall in love: Take advantage of all of the varieties that are in season this time of year, and try something new. “I’m crushing hard on new varieties like Envy, SweeTango and Jazz,” says Abby Langer, a registered dietitian and nutrition counselor based in Canada. “Chop them up and cook them in slow cooker with oatmeal, cinnamon and walnuts.”
If you’re used to buying artichokes in a can, you might not think to switch to fresh artichokes in the fall, when they’re in season. But if you do, you’ll soon see that they’re brimming with both flavor and disease-fighting antioxidants this time of year. Gram per gram, they actually contain more antioxidants than any other vegetable (apart from African baobab tree leaves, that is), per research published in the Nutrition Journal.
Fall in love: To get the most flavor and nutrients out of your artichokes, try them roasted, Crandall says. (When you boil them, their nutrients can leach into the water.) First, trim the stem and snip the pointed ends off of the leaves. From here, open the leaves some to insert your flavorings of choice – say, butter, garlic and lemon. Wrap it in aluminum foil and bake at 425 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.
This fall, keep your vitamin C levels up – and colds at bay – with persimmons. Never heard of them? Fruits that grow on trees, persimmons look a bit like small, orange tomatoes and pack a sweet, honey-like flavor. “They’re full vitamins and antioxidants, and are even higher in fiber than apples,” Langer says.
Fall in love: Hachiya persimmons aren’t ripe until they are pretty mushy. Fuyu persimmons, however, are delicious even when hard to the touch. So make sure you know what type to buy. Add them to parfaits and salads – or simply grab a spoon and eat them straight from the skins. They’re that good.
A must for heavy exercisers and people with heart disease alike, beets are rich in inorganic nitrate, a compound that the body converts to nitric oxide. In turn, nitric oxide expands blood vessels, increases blood flow and improves cardiovascular function. One 2015 study found that beetroot juice reduces how hard your heart has to work during exercise, which means you can work out longer before tiring out. Langer also notes that beets contain beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A that promotes post-workout recovery.
Fall in love: Skip the mess of cooking and cutting beets yourself, and keep the nutritional benefits by buying vacuum-packed pre-chopped and cooked beets. Preservatives and extra sodium not included.
“Their arils – that’s what the seeds are called – are packed with antioxidants and nutrients, some of which may even help with blood pressure and muscle recovery after exercise,” Langer says. In fact, pomegranate juice can contain more disease- and cancer-fighting antioxidants than red wine and green tea, according to findings published in the journal Advanced Biomedical Research.
Fall in love: You can find pre-packaged pomegranate seeds and juice at the supermarket – buying them is a great way to keep your kitchen clean, but they tend to be pricey. So if you want to get the seeds out of a whole pomegranate at home, Crandall recommends cutting the fruit in half and then hitting it with a spoon (over a bowl) to dislodge the seeds. Think of it as a good way to get out any pent-up aggression. Sprinkle the seeds on salads, quinoa and desserts.
6. Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts are “like little cabbages, and are believed to prevent cancer due to their sulforaphane, a powerful phytochemical,” Langer says. But, unlike cabbages and many other cruciferous veggies, Brussels sprouts are also a good source of filling, muscle-building protein. A single cup contains 3 grams.
Fall in love: Buy them pre-shredded or throw them into the food processor to add crunch to any salad. For a chicken salad you’ll crave all season long, Crandall recommends combining shredded Brussels sprouts, diced or shredded chicken, Greek yogurt, cranberries and your nut of choice.
Speaking of cranberries, these brightly colored gems have been shown to lessen cardiovascular risk factors, such as hypertension, arterial stiffness and inflammation, according to a review out of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. After all, the same compounds that give cranberries their color give them antioxidant properties, Crandall says.
Fall in love: Skip processed, juiced and dried cranberries and pick whole ones whenever possible. It’ll help you cut down on additives while getting more nutrients and fewer chemicals per calorie and gram of sugar. While most people find them too tart to eat raw, try adding them to the slow cooker with oatmeal, roasting them in the oven with pork or chopping them finely before adding them to a salad.
The perfect cold weather nut, chestnuts are actually more nutritionally similar to whole grains than to other nuts such as almonds and walnuts. They are rich in cold-fighting vitamin C and whole carbs, low in fat and they contain fewer calories per ounce compared to other nuts, Crandall says.
Fall in love: Eat them raw, boiled or roasted. Just steer clear of candied (aka sugar-laced) varieties.
These naturally sweet spuds provide generous helpings of vitamins B6, C, fiber, magnesium, potassium and beta-carotene (a vitamin A precursor). In fact, a single potato can supply anywhere from three to five times of your daily needs of vitamin A, which is essential to healthy eyes, skin and bones. It’s incredible that all of those nutrients can fit into roughly 110 calories.
Fall in love: Skip the butter and brown sugar. “My favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is actually with peanut butter and cinnamon,” says Crandall, noting that the combo provides a healthy dose of whole carbs, unsaturated fat and plant protein. Make sure to eat the skin to get your fiber!
Don’t knock white veggies. One serving of this cruciferous veggie packs roughly half your RDA of both fiber and potassium, two blood-pressure-lowering nutrients of which most Americans get shockingly little, Crandall says. Add that to the fact that it also contains roughly five times your daily needs of vitamin C, which stimulates collagen production to help smooth wrinkles.
Fall in love: Buy cauliflower rice or make your own at home by tossing the florets into the food processor, Crandall says. It makes a perfect base for veggie-rich stir-fries.