Unsurprisingly, pumpkins reign in autumn, but there is a bounty of other produce at their best in these cooler months. Today’s post is all about offering the respect these colorful, delicious, and nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables deserve.
Here are 8 of our favorites:
- Apples eaten with the skin are low-calorie, high-fiber fruits that promote digestive health and satiety (those feelings of fullness after eating), and may help lower cholesterol and risk of type 2 diabetes. The antioxidant flavonoids found in apples have been linked to a reduced risk of some cancers and heart disease. There are approximately 2,500 types in North American alone, and each is worth sampling!
- Beets are root vegetables rich in cancer-fighting, inflammation-lowering compounds called betalains – the pigments responsible for their vibrant hue. Beets are also a good source of fiber, iron, manganese, and antioxidant vitamin C. For the ladies planning for pregnancy or who are expecting, beets contain high amounts of folate, which is important for prevention of birth defects and lower birth weights.
- Brussels sprouts are low-calorie (28 in 1/2 cup cooked), and contain less than 10 grams of carbohydrate per serving, yet deliver roughly 80% of your daily vitamin C plus more than 100% of your vitamin K. Like other cruciferous veg (e.g., cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, dark leafy greens), Brussels sprouts provide a variety of phytochemicals and compounds linked to decreased risk of infection, inflammation, and certain cancers.
- Cranberries are an excellent source of antioxidant vitamin C, and a 1/2-cup serving is only 23 calories but offers nearly 20% of your daily fiber needs. Vitamins E and K, manganese, and potassium are also present, and studies show that compounds called proanthocyanidins, found in rich supply in cranberries, promote dental and urinary tract health, and may lower cholesterol and reduce risk of atherosclerosis – the dangerous buildup of plaque in your arteries that can obstruct blood flow and lead to heart attack or stroke.
- Pears are an excellent source of dietary fiber (keep that skin on!) that promotes decreased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and can help lower cholesterol levels. Another fiber benefit is increased satiety that can aid in weight loss and weight maintenance efforts. Pears also contain carotenoids that benefit your eyes, antioxidant flavonoids, and potentially anti-cancer phytonutrients called cinnamic acids.
- Pomegranates, beautiful, tart jewels of the fruit world, are a good source of vitamins C and K, and may be richer in antioxidants than red wine, green tea, and most other varieties of fruit. Per 1/2-cup serving of pomegranate arils you take in only about 70 calories, a small amount of folate, potassium, and copper, as well as more than 3 grams of fiber. Recent research links small amounts of pomegranate juice to increased production of nitric oxide in the body, which aids in proper circulation, and may speed the growth and recovery time of exercised muscles.
Photo credit: Heather A. Goesch, MPH, RDN, LDN
- Sweet potatoes may just be nature’s best food source of beta-carotene – the red-orange pigment that on its own helps fight free radicals, and then is converted by our bodies into vitamin A that promotes immune and bone health. In addition, one 1/2 cup of cooked sweet potato with the skin on provides roughly 15% of your daily fiber, nearly 30% that of the trace mineral manganese, more than one-third of your vitamin C, and a small amount of several B vitamins.
- Winter squashes, such as butternut, acorn, delicata, spaghetti and, yes, pumpkins, are, like sweet potatoes, rich in beta-carotene and antioxidant vitamin C to promote good vision and healthy skin. Squashes in general are also good sources of fiber and potassium, several of the B vitamins, and magnesium – a trace mineral many Americans do not regularly consume enough of. Stretch your dollar by saving and toasting the nutritious seeds!
Tell us: Which autumn fruits or veg are your favorites? How do you prepare them healthfully?