As winter starts to set in, in your gardens and in the markets, you can will find a variety of root vegetables and crisp fruits perfect for creating comfort meals that are healthy and delicious. Seasonal produce is often at peak freshness and nutritional value. Here are some of fall’s best fruits and vegetables and how you can enjoy them to reap their health benefits!
No fruit is more popular during the fall season than apples, and they are hard to miss with so many colourful varieties to choose from. You can enjoy this seasonal favourite knowing that it comes with oodles of health benefits.
A medium apple has almost 4.4 g of fiber which gives you nearly 16% of your DV in 95 calories. It’s recommended to leave the skin on, as it contains a lot of the fiber found in apples as well as polyphenols. In addition to fiber, eating the skin increases the vitamin C you are getting (per medium apple, you get 8.4 mg, or about 9% of the DV). Apple skin contains polyphenols which are beneficial compounds found in plant-based foods. Among those benefits are a lower risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes along with repaired lung damage from smoking. It might potentially also lower the odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Apples are tasty on their own and crunchy. They can be added to salads or oatmeal, or baked into a crumble or pie.
Great for slicing into salads or for cooking, pears are another fall fruit staple similar to apples in nutrition. A medium pear has an impressive 5.5 g of fiber which is about 20% of your DV, and it’s just 101 calories. You’ll also score almost 8 mg of vitamin C which is about 9% percent of your DV and 206 mg of potassium which is about 4% of your DV in a medium pear. Potassium is crucial for helping your cells function at their best and regulates the heart and keeps your muscles and nerves working as they should.
A study in 2019 showed that when study participants with metabolic syndrome – a cluster of conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity – ate two pears daily, it improved their heart health and other important health markers. When you’re out shopping for pears, you can buy them when they’re pretty hard because they’ll soften up over the following few days. When ripe, their juicy nature makes them a great addition to salads, cocktails, and sparkling water refreshers.
Nutritionally speaking, this seasonal staple has a lot going for it. They are loaded with beta-carotene, vitamin A, magnesium, potassium, and fiber.
Squash is downright packed with beta-carotene: There are 5,920 micrograms (mcg) of beta-carotene in a cup of butternut squash. This plant pigment which gives squash its orange hue is converted by the body into vitamin A which is beneficial for immunity and eye health, and even helps maintain the heart, lungs, and kidneys. With a cup of butternut squash, you get 745 mcg which is almost 83% of your DV, making it an excellent source.
A cup of cubed butternut squash also has 2.8 g of fiber which is 10% of your DV and you’ll score 48 mg of magnesium, which is 11% of your DV, and 493 mg of potassium which is 10% of your DV. Magnesium is a key nutrient that helps your muscles and nerves function, plus helps regulate your blood sugar and blood pressure.
Pumpkin contains beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A and in which form it provides your body with lots of health perks. A cup of cubed raw pumpkin gives you 3,600 mcg of beta-carotene. You’ll also get 494 mcg of vitamin A in total per cup which is about 55% of your DV.
You get potassium perks with pumpkin, too: a cup serves up 394 mg which is about 8% of your DV. Plus, pumpkin delivers on vitamin C providing 10.4 mg per cup which is almost 12% of your DV.
When shopping for pumpkin, know that the bigger ones are stringy and have less flavor, so choose small pumpkins for cooking.
Leeks are a flavourful but milder alternative to onions. It can be sautéed and added to stir-fries, soups, or stuffing, and they have a mild onion flavour. Like with onions, you get plenty of nutrients in each bite. Leeks are a nutritious, healthy fall food. They are high in flavonoids, specifically kaempferol, which offers a protective effect against heart disease. A cup of leeks gives you about 1.6 g of fiber which is about 6% of your DV and only 54 calories. You’ll also get about 1,690 mcg of lutein and zeaxanthin making leeks a good source of these antioxidants which may help prevent eye disease, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
A promising research on leeks found that eating allium vegetables which include leeks and onions may lower the odds of developing colorectal cancer in men and women.
This starchy comfort food comes with many health perks. Sweet potatoes contain a lot of nutrients — fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C just to name a few. In fact, a medium sweet potato packs 3.6 g of fiber, so 13% of your DV. The same portion has 1,150 mcg of vitamin A which is over 100 percent of your DVand 18.2 mg of vitamin C which is 20% of your DV.
Broccoli, along with cauliflower, is abundantly found in this season. A cup of chopped broccoli gives you 2.3 g of fiber for 8% of your DV, 78.5 mg of vitamin C and a whopping 87% of your DV besides 89.4 mcg of vitamin K for about 75% of your DV. Additionally, it contains a cancer-fighting compound called sulforaphane and studies confirm that this nutrient found in broccoli may help protect you against certain cancers.