The move from summer to fall can be bittersweet: Clearing out the summer clothes to make way for sweaters, and prepping for cold and flu season, and trying to cope with your ragweed allergy. But the seasonal food switch is nothing but sweet - and warm and flavorful and super-nutritious.
Fall for these 10 healthy autumn edibles:
Apples: How you like them apples? There are reasons why apples are the old autumn harvest standby, the magical super-fruit that's supposed to keep the doctor away. At about 80 calories each, apples provide vitamin C and lots of beneficial fibre. Both the soluble and insoluble fibre found in apples help to support healthy digestion and cholesterol levels. Considering the sheer variety of apple types, you could eat an apple a day and never tire of the sometimes tart, sometimes sweet, always good-for-you flavours.
Beets: Beets are versatile, low in calories, naturally sweet, and packed with nutritional B-enefits. Beets are full of folate, a B vitamin crucial to healthy cell growth, especially during pregnancy. Two more B's abundant in beets: betacyanin, a pigment that is a potentially powerful antioxidant, and betaine, a heart-protective nutrient. Beets are also a great source of fibre.
Bell peppers: Get in on the crunch and colour of bell peppers when they're at their best and most abundant, from August through October. Minus the capsaicin that makes other peppers so hot, bell peppers offer a cooler, crisper, sweeter pepper flavour to foods. And just one cup of any colour bell provides nearly 300% of the vitamin C you need in one day! Combine that with over 100% of daily vitamin A, and bell peppers burst with antioxidant power. Munch on sliced raw peppers, sauté with a lean protein like tofu or chicken, stir-fry with other veggies, or dice onto a salad for some crunch.
Brussels sprouts: These little mini-cabbage look-alikes belong to the Brassica family of cruciferous vegetables, along with broccoli, kale, and spinach. Though Brussels sprouts top many a least-favoured veggie list, they are worth a bite. Cut a cup of these pods into quarters and braise them along with your favourite herbs and spices for a delicious dose of vitamins and minerals. That one cup yields a quarter of a day's folate, 15% of the fibre and potassium you'll need, 10% of the iron and omega-3 fatty acids, and a staggering 161% of your daily vitamin C requirements.
Cranberries: Bright red and tart to the tongue, cranberries crop up in the autumn to add to the colourful foliage. Whether plucked off a berry bush or cultivated in shallow, sandy pools, cranberries pack in lots of fibre and vitamin C. Because of their unique nutritional profile, cranberries have earned a reputation as a protective food against the bacteria that often cause urinary tract and bladder infections. Toss a handful of the berries into a mixed fruit salad, add them to a vinaigrette salad dressing, mix into hot oatmeal, or bake into muffins and cookies.
Figs: Figs are small, low-calorie fruits, but they are densely packed with nutritional benefits. Potassium, which is essential for proper heart, kidney, and muscle function, is abundant in figs, as is bone-building calcium. And 8 ounces of fresh figs yields 30% of your daily recommended fibre. As with any fruit, figs are a great source of antioxidant vitamins. Extract of fig leaves has also shown potential to support the health of people with diabetes.
Pears: Though softer, sweeter, and more delicate, pears provide just as much vitamin C and fibre as their apple kin. Add to the pear's profile the benefits of the antioxidant mineral copper and a juicy, buttery texture that makes the fruit a natural poached, sliced onto salads, or chunked into hot cereal.
Pumpkins and other squash: The rich, deep colours of pumpkin and other types of squash give a hint at the plentiful nutrients within. Vitamin A, in the form of beta-carotene, is abundant in these gourds. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant essential to healthy vision, and it may also boost the immune system and protect the body from the kind of free radical damage that may cause heart and blood vessel disorders and cancer. Squash provides plenty of potassium, a mineral that helps to regulate the kidneys and the heart, as well as the muscles and nerves. You'll also find tons of fibre in these fine fruits, which helps to reduce cholesterol, maintain intestinal health, and moderate blood sugar levels.
Parsnips: Parsnips don't land on too many "superfood" top ten lists, but that's only because they tend to be overshadowed by other veggies. They look a bit like pale carrots, but they actually contain much more heart-friendly potassium and folate than carrots. Folate is a B vitamin required for the creation of healthy cells, and having insufficient levels of it has been linked to cancer and birth defects. Parsnips may have only half the protein and vitamin C of potatoes - but they boast more fibre.
Sweet potatoes and yams: Whether you choose the more common sweet potato or the harder-to-find yam, you'll dine on a nutritious, low-calorie vegetable. Of the two, sweet potatoes have more iron and are a better source of antioxidant vitamin A, but yams have more fibre. The two are about equal in heart-helper vitamin B6, but yams pack more of a punch than sweet potatoes for potassium, which is needed for proper heart, kidney, and muscle function.