As summer gives way to fall, I invite you to consider eating some of the superfoods that are at their peak this time of year. Certain fruits and vegetables are more readily available locally during fall, including apples, pumpkins and squash.
When preparing your seasonal menu, be sure to add some of these 12 fall superfoods to your grocery list. To find the freshest seasonal produce, visit your local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), farmers market or food co-op.
12 Superfoods to Try That Are at Their Peak in Fall
Apples – Apples ranked second behind bananas in 2017 as the fruit most frequently eaten by Americans,1 perhaps due to the adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” While you’ll want to keep a close eye on your total daily fructose intake, and most certainly avoid an all-fruit diet, eating whole fruit like apples can be beneficial to your health.
Research suggests apples are a great source of antioxidant and anticancer phytochemicals, most of which reside in the skin.2,3 Apples are also prized for their ability to promote healthy digestion, with one medium apple boasting about 4.4 grams (g) of fiber.
To ensure you receive the best of the flavanoids and polyphenols apples have to offer, you’ll want to eat the whole fruit, including the skin. Because apples are one of the most pesticide-contaminated foods, you’ll want to buy organic. However, the apple peel is far more concentrated than the flesh.
If you live near an organic apple orchard, you may enjoy picking your own. Want a healthy spin on an old favorite way to use apples? Try my “Health-Boosting Apple Crumble Recipe.” Remember, apples contain fructose so eat them in moderation.
Beets and beet greens – Beetroot contains high amounts of fiber and infection-fighting vitamin C, as well as nutrients that help you detoxify, fight inflammation and lower your blood pressure.4 As a source of healthy nitrates, the consumption of beets boosts your nitric oxide levels.
Beetroot may also help combat cancer, particularly cancers of the breast and prostate.5 I include about 1 to 2 ounces of raw beets in my daily smoothie and also take a powdered fermented beetroot supplement. Due to beets’ high sugar content, raw beet juice may not be a healthy choice for you, especially if you have diabetes or are insulin resistant.
If you routinely discard beet greens, you should know they are an excellent source of vitamins A and K, as well as calcium and potassium.6 Beet greens are quite tasty steamed or you can sauté them with a little raw grass fed butter and salt. Check out the video above for six more reasons you should eat beets.
|Brussels sprouts – Brussels sprouts are some of the hardiest members of the cabbage family and a touch of frost brings out their sweetness, making them an ideal fall food. One cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains nearly all of your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for vitamins C and K1.7
They’re also a good source of vitamin B6, choline, fiber, manganese and potassium. A 2009 study published in Food Chemistry highlighted the chemopreventive properties of cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, kale and broccoli.
The study authors noted these vegetables were “found to possess very potent inhibitory activities against all tested [cancer] cell lines. These properties are in agreement with the known anticancer properties of these vegetables observed in both epidemiological and laboratory studies.”8
Cauliflower – Cauliflower contains an impressive array of nutrients, including vitamin B6, fiber, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and potassium. It also is packed with natural antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, kaempferol, quercetin, rutin, vitamin C and others, which defend against free radical damage.
Cauliflower contains the cancer-fighting compounds sulforaphane and isothiocyanates, the former of which has been shown to kill cancer stem cells responsible for its spread.9,10,11 The sulforaphane found in cauliflower may also help improve your blood pressure and kidney function.12 View the video above to discover more of the health benefits associated with cauliflower.
Two ways you can enjoy cauliflower as a comfort food include steaming and mashing it to make “caulitators,” a healthier substitute for traditional mashed potatoes, and using it to create a mouth-watering cauliflower pizza casserole or cauliflower pizza crust.
|Daikon radish – According to The Japan Times,13 daikon radish is considered Japan’s most popular vegetable, with its white roots and green tops eaten year-round in various forms: cooked, dried, pickled, raw and sprouted. Radishes have been part of Japanese cuisine for millennia and 90 percent of daikon radishes are grown and consumed in that country.14
Raw grated daikon (known as daikon oroshi) has a taste less pungent than, but similar to, horseradish. This ubiquitous Japanese condiment is served with many meat and fish dishes, and is also added to sauces for soba noodles and tempura. Particularly during the winter months, dried daikon and pickled daikon are important staples of the Japanese diet.
Some mix daikon oroshi with plain yogurt and honey to make a concoction that is believed to promote regularity. Similar to beets, don’t throw away radish greens; they’re edible. About daikon greens, the University of Illinois Extension said:15
|Kale – Kale is a powerhouse vegetable loaded with antioxidants, calcium, fiber and vitamins A, C and K. The carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin found in kale help protect your eyes against macular degeneration.
A 1-cup serving of this healthy green contains significant amounts of vitamin C and about half as much calcium as a cup of milk.16,17 It also provides plant-based omega-3 fatty acids and 18 amino acids. Kale’s anti-inflammatory properties are said to help prevent arthritis, autoimmune diseases and heart disease.
Studies suggest kale can help reduce your risk of heart disease because it optimizes your cholesterol, including raising your high density lipoprotein (HDL).18 The presence of cancer-fighting sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol are other reasons to eat kale.
If you like variety, you’ll love kale because it is available in curly, dinosaur, Russian and ornamental varieties, each with a slightly different taste and texture. Looking for a new way to prepare kale? Check out my article “9 Healthy Kale Recipes.”
|Kumquats – This tiny yellow-orange fruit, which resembles a small oval orange, boasts a sweet-yet-tangy flavor and a hint of bitterness. What sets kumquats apart from other citrus fruits is the fact its skin and zest are sweet and can be eaten.
Kumquats are a low-calorie fruit, with 100 g of fresh kumquats containing just 71 calories.19 This fruit is rich in antioxidant vitamins A, C and E and contains flavonoid antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin. While kumquats are delicious when eaten whole, they do contain fructose so I suggest you eat them only occasionally.
Kumquats can also be incorporated into fruit salads or used as a glaze for duck and other fatty meats. They are a fine addition to poultry stuffing and can also be used as a dessert topping.
Pomegranates – While popularized in the U.S. in juice form, I recommend you consume pomegranates as a whole fruit. Even though it takes concentrated effort to extract the 600 or so juice-filled seed sacs (called arils) found in the average pomegranate, you’ll be rewarded with not only a wonderful tart flavor, but also a number of health benefits.
But, just like apples, the bulk of the polyphenols and phtyochemical benefits are stacked away in the peel that is relatively bitter. But it can be dried and powdered and put into capsules and taken as a supplement.
Research has shown eating pomegranates may protect you against Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers, increase blood flow to your heart, soothe inflammation associated with osteoarthritis and help maintain your blood pressure and cholesterol balance.20 If you toss a half cup of pomegranate seeds into a salad, you’ll receive a slew of antioxidants and 4 g of fiber, as well as a decent amount of calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C.21
A 100 g serving (about one-half cup) of pomegranates contains roughly 7 g of fructose.22 When adding pomegranates to your diet, keep in mind that I recommend limiting your daily fructose intake to 25 milligrams (mg) or less if you are healthy and less than 15 mg if you are dealing with a chronic illness.
Pumpkins – Pumpkins are among the most quintessential fall produce. While they are artfully carved in celebration of Halloween, pumpkins also feature prominently on Thanksgiving tables as decorations and, of course, in the form of pumpkin pie. View the video above for a summary of the health benefits associated with pumpkins.
Beyond decorations and pie, pumpkin is useful for its seeds. Pumpkin seeds are a convenient source of magnesium, plant-based omega-3 fats and zinc. To obtain the healthy omega-3 fats, you must eat pumpkin seeds raw.
If you prefer to eat the seeds roasted, do so yourself as a means of controlling the roasting temperature and time. For best results, sprinkle raw pumpkin seeds with pink Himalayan salt and roast them at no more than 170 degrees F (75 degrees Celsius) for 15 to 20 minutes. Store roasted pumpkin seeds in an airtight container.
|Squash – With names like acorn, banana, butternut, delicata, kabocha and spaghetti, along with various crook-necked varieties, squash abounds in fall. The creamy, luscious texture of butternut squash, for example, along with its distinctive aroma and flavor provide just a hint of sweetness that enlivens fall soups and stews.
A popular way to prepare butternut squash, which is high in vitamins A and C, as well as folate and potassium,23 is to simply bake or steam it in chunks or halves. Although it needs no enhancement, you may enjoy squash with a pat of grass fed butter and a dash of salt. Alternately, to accent its natural sweetness, you can top it with honey and cinnamon to give it a dessert-like presentation.
Given the starchy nature of most squash varieties, you’ll want to eat this fall crop in moderation, however. If you eat the skin, which is nutrient rich, you should opt for organic varieties. Squash stores well and some varieties will last for several months when maintained in a cool, dark place.
|Swiss chard – While not as popular as kale, Swiss chard packs many of the same nutritional benefits, such as high amounts of vitamins A (as beta-carotene), C and K.24 The vibrant array of colors associated with Swiss chard signal the presence of phytonutrients that are prized for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Among them is kaempferol, the flavonoid regarded for its cardioprotective properties, and syringic acid, which is known to help regulate your blood sugar. Similar to beets, Swiss chard provides betalain pigments,25 which have been shown to support your body’s Phase 2 detoxification process involving glutathione,26 the “master antioxidant.”
One cup of cooked Swiss chard provides healthy amounts of calcium and potassium, as well as well as 3.7 g of digestion-boosting fiber.27 If you are prone to kidney stones, keep in mind Swiss chard is high in oxalates, which are naturally-occurring substances that can become problematic if they overaccumulate inside your body, namely in your kidneys.28
Enjoy Swiss chard in salads, smoothies or vegetable juice, or lightly steamed or sautéed as you would other leafy greens like spinach. Like all vegetables, it’s healthier when eaten organically.
Turnips and turnip greens – Turnip taproots and their greens, which are somewhat bitter, are both edible and nutritious. Turnip taproots are a hearty addition to soups and stews, have a mild flavor and bring forth a potato-like texture when cooked.
You can steam turnip greens to reduce their bitterness or toss them with a citrus vinaigrette dressing to balance out the sharp taste. Cook turnips in a manner that allows them to retain some of their characteristic crunch.
As noted in the video above, turnips are rich in antioxidants and beneficial nutrients such as vitamins A (in the form of beta-carotene), C, E and K – found in the leafy green tops – as well as calcium, copper, iron, manganese and potassium. If you’d like to combine turnips with a healthy fat, you might enjoy my “Savory Roasted Turnip with Coconut Oil Recipe.”
When eaten raw or prepared in healthy ways, these fall superfoods enable you to receive beneficial nutrients while still enjoying some of the season’s traditional comfort foods. Bon appetite!