Each year I get so excited for autumn. I love to stare at the colorful trees and to feel the cool, crisp air on my skin. I also get excited about the fruits and vegetables that are now in season that I can add into my diet. The bold, earthy flavors add new variety to my meals and provide new ways to add Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene and other vitamins and minerals to my diet. Many of these foods have immune boosting properties that help protect our bodies as illness tends to become more widespread during the winter months.
Here are some of my favorite fall foods and some ideas of ways to incorporate them into your meals.
There are thousands of varieties of apples that vary from soft to crisp and tart to sweet. Apples are a fantastic source of fiber and the skin contains a flavonoid called Quercetin, which supports the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties. Apples also contain pectin, a soluble source of fiber that helps digestive heath as well. There is good reason that we grew up learning that, “An apple a day, keeps the doctor away”.
Apples make a great snack that is easy to transport. I also like to add the tart flavors (Granny Smith or Macintosh) to salads or bake them as a dessert.
Last week I went to Trader Joe’s and couldn’t stop laughing at all of the pumpkin items on the shelves. It seems that in the last ten years, pumpkin has become one of the most popular fall foods and for good reason. Pumpkin is loaded with Vitamin A, Vitamin C and minerals such as copper, magnesium and potassium, which strengthen our immune systems. Additionally, pumpkin contains several anti-oxidants such as alpha-carotene, beta-carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin which help to reduce the risk of chronic disease. Pumpkin also contains nutrients that can help protect our eyesight such as Lutein and Vitamin A. Lastly, all of the nutrients found in pumpkin help promote healthy skin and can even help generate collagen. I’ve noticed that many face creams and masks are now being made with pumpkin.
I like to use organic canned pumpkin with cinnamon and add it to oatmeal, yogurt and cream cheese to give these foods a new fall flavor. Another idea is to make a vegetarian pumpkin and black bean chili.
Some of my favorite varieties of winter squash are butternut squash (also known as pumpkin in Australia), spaghetti squash and acorn squash. These foods have many of the same health benefits as pumpkin as mentioned above.
Spaghetti squash is a great low carbohydrate alternative to pasta. You can also sauté spaghetti squash with garlic, onion, herbs and tomato to make it as a side dish.
Butternut squash soup is a great choice for a cold Fall or Winter evening. You can add different spices to change the flavors such as using coconut milk, with turmeric and curry to give it an Indian flare. Or you could add red curry, lime and cilantro to give it a Thai infused flavor.
Acorn squash also has so many options to change up the standard evening meal. Here are two of my favorite recipes:
The Autumn is the best time of the year to eat pears, as this is when they are sweet and spicy. Pears are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which promotes health in the stomach and digestive tract. Pears are a good source of flavonoid antioxidants which can help fight inflammation and may reduce the risk of disease.
Pears are another fruit that is easy to transport for a quick snack. Try eating a pear with a small handful of nuts for a complete snack. I love to add pears to salads with goat cheese and red onion. You can bake with pears to make muffins or bread. Pears also make great desserts. Consider poached pears or a pear tart.
Figs are a fruit of the ficus tree and have a sweet taste with a soft and chewy texture. Figs come into season in late summer and continue through autumn. Figs are high in fiber and can act as a natural laxative, which keeps our digestive and intestinal tract healthy. They are also high in calcium, magnesium and phosphorus which all help promote healthy and strong bones.
Figs are versatile and can be added to breakfast, such as oatmeal, yogurt or porridge. They can also be added to salads and they pair great with cheese for appetizers. Another way to eat figs is to add them to a pizza with arugula. Here is a recipe to try – https://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/caramelized-onion-fig-goat-cheese-pizza-arugula-video/.
As I look at the health benefits of these foods, it makes me realize how important it is to eat a variety of foods to truly take advantage of the nutrients available to us. These aren’t the only autumn foods that are abundant right now. So, be curious and creative while you explore the foods that make this season one of my absolute favorites.