What comes to mind when you hear “fall foods”?
What about pumpkin pie, gravy, stews, pot roast, and turkey? They are all on the menu. If you think of fall eating, chances are healthful foods aren’t at the top of your list.
But there’s good news for you! These tasty autumn veggies and fruits are packed with health benefits, so you’ll want to eat them all.
Choosing seasonal options increases the benefits not just to you but also to the environment. According to Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, the Chicago-based author of Total Body Diet for Dummies, “it’s all about distance.” “Fresh-for-the-season produce does not need to be carried from afar to get from farm to table,” Retelny explains.
Depending on where you live, during the autumn, some end-of-summer foods like blueberries and raspberries may have an encore, while others, like parsnips, make their first appearance of the year.
A diet rich in vegetables and fruits, as well as healthy proteins, grains, and legumes, supports a healthy heart, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Furthermore, a study published in the journal Neurology in March 2020 discovered that vegetarians who ate a diet rich in nuts, veggies, and soy had a decreased risk of stroke than nonvegetarians who ate meat.
Finally, findings from a review published in the International Journal of Epidemiology in June 2017 add to the case for vegging out. According to the authors, eating 10 servings of fruits and vegetables each day might save the lives of 7.8 million individuals around the world.
The following are some of the best fall meals to consume right now. They’ll keep you slender while still allowing you to partake in all of the season’s delectable delicacies.
1. Blueberries Carry Disease-Fighting Phytochemicals
Berries may seem like a summer delicacy, but according to Kathy Cooley, a blueberry farmer and president of her local Food and Growers Association, some varieties are still accessible through the fall. In fact, she claims that the fall is when she harvests the most blueberries.
According to the USDA, half a cup has about 1.8 grams (g) of fiber, which is 6% of your daily value (DV). According to the Mayo Clinic, fiber can assist with anything from constipation to maintaining a healthy weight and lowering your risk of contracting some types of cancer.
According to the USDA, a half cup of blueberries contains over 7 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, which is 8 percent of your daily value. Vitamin C helps maintain your immune system, according to Harvard Health Publishing, so that’s a plus.
Blueberries are frequently praised as a healthy meal due to their anthocyanin pigments. These anthocyanins, which are phytochemicals that give berries their blue color, are cited in a review published in March 2020 in Advances in Nutrition as the reason that those who eat them may have a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Leave sunny desserts behind as the weather cools, and utilize berries to provide a unique spin to heartier main courses: Now is the time to stock up on locally grown berries and freeze them so you can enjoy them throughout the winter.
2. Apples’ Flavonoids May Help with Brain Health
Apples are perhaps the most popular fruit throughout the fall season, and with so many vibrant kinds to select from, they’re hard to miss.
Fortunately, you can enjoy this seasonal favorite with the knowledge that it is loaded with health benefits. “Apples, like other fruits, may help with weight loss since they’re high in fiber and low in calories, which means they’ll keep you feeling full for less calories,” Smith adds.
According to the USDA, a medium apple contains almost 4.4 g of fiber, or nearly 16 percent of your daily value in 95 calories. “It’s advisable to leave the skin on since it includes a lot of the fiber and polyphenols present in apples,” adds Al Bochi.
In addition to fiber, eating the skin boosts your vitamin C intake, according to the University of Illinois (per medium apple, you get 8.4 mg, or about 9 percent of the DV).
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, these benefits include a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, as well as healed lung damage from smoking, according to a research published in the European Respiratory Journal in 2017.
Furthermore, according to a study published in August 2020 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the polyphenols known as flavonoids, which are present in apples, berries, and green tea, may help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Pick purchase a different kind each time you go to the supermarket to try various flavors and textures.
Apples are a great snack on their own, but they also work well in a variety of recipes. To begin, Smith suggests that “apples can easily be added to numerous breakfast and snack foods such as oatmeal, yogurt, or cold cereal.”
Take your option when it comes to how to consume them: “On their own, they’re wonderful and crunchy,” Al Bochi explains. “An apple with almond butter on it is excellent.” They can be baked into a crumble or pie, or added to salads or porridge. Apples can also be turned into applesauce or added to muffins for a tasty snack.”
3. Pears Are Good for Your Heart
Pears are another fall fruit classic that are nutritionally similar to apples and are great for slicing into salads or frying. Pears are high in fiber and low in calories, providing a delightfully delicious snack without the added weight.
According to the USDA, a medium pear offers 5.5 g of fiber (about 20% of your daily value, making it a good source) and only 101 calories. The fiber in pears certainly had a role, as high-fiber diets are linked to better heart health, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A medium pear also contains about 8 mg of vitamin C (around 9% of your daily value) and 206 mg of potassium (roughly 4% of your daily value).
According to Harvard Health Publishing, potassium is essential for helping your cells perform at their best, as well as regulating the heart and keeping your muscles and nerves in good functioning order.
A small study published in February 2019 in Food & Function found that eating two pears daily improved heart health and other vital health markers in study participants with metabolic syndrome — a group of disorders that includes diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
When shopping for pears, Cooley recommends buying them when they’re still firm because they’ll soften up over the next three days.
Toss pear slices into salads for a touch of sweetness, or use pears in muffin or scone recipes for a hint of fall flavor. “Their juicy nature makes them a terrific complement to salads, cocktails, and sparkling water refreshers when they’re ripe,” Retelny says.
4. Cranberries Have Anthocyanins That Can Help Your Body Fight Oxidative Stress
Cranberries are a healthy option. A half cup of chopped cranberries contains about 2 g of fiber, or about 7% of your daily value, according to the USDA.
You’ll also get some vitamin C, with roughly 7.5 milligrams per half cup, or 8.5 percent of your daily value. According to the American Heart Association, these figures make cranberries a heart-healthy snack that may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
According to the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, the anthocyanins that give these small red fruits their trademark coloration may help prevent oxidative stress.
According to the Mayo Clinic, your body produces free radicals when it is exposed to toxic chemicals (such as tobacco and sunlight), and too many free radicals in your body can induce oxidative stress, which is linked to a number of diseases, including Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
Choose fresh cranberries over dried cranberries if you have the option. According to the USDA, dried cranberries have more calories than raw cranberries, which have 25 calories per half cup opposed to 170 calories per half cup. You also get 0.1 mg less vitamin C in the same portion.
Be thrilled to cook with cranberries because they’re a great way to liven up grain-based dishes like quinoa and brown rice with a fall twist. They’re a great ingredient for amping up desserts, pancakes, and oatmeal — but don’t go overboard with the sugar.
Cranberries are a traditional holiday fruit with an eye-catching red tint that may be used in a number of cuisines. “Aside from Thanksgiving cranberry sauce, there are many ways to use cranberries,” Al Bochi notes.
5. Winter Squash Is High in Vitamin A, Which Is Beneficial to Eye Health
Move over, butternut squash, because there’s a new healthy squash in town.
This seasonal favorite has a lot going for it in terms of nutrition. Butternut, spaghetti, and acorn squashes are high in beta-carotene, vitamin A, magnesium, potassium, and fiber, and are best in the fall, according to Retelny. For a hearty side dish, cut butternut or acorn squash into cubes and roast them.
Spaghetti squash is a dieter’s dream: it has the shape and texture of pasta but only a fraction of the carbs and calories, making it a fantastic way to fulfill pasta cravings while also getting some extra nutrients.
According to the USDA, cooked spaghetti squash provides 10 grams (g) of carbohydrates and just 42 calories per cup. Plus, you’ll get 2 grams of fiber, which is 7% of your daily value (DV), and 180 milligrams (mg) of potassium, which is 4% of your daily value (DV) – not bad!
According to the Mayo Clinic, a fiber-rich diet helps keep your digestive system functioning smoothly, reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some malignancies, and — you got it — contributes to a healthy weight.
Potassium is also an important nutrient: it regulates your heartbeat and ensures that your muscles and nerves operate properly, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
According to Michigan State University, “winter squash” refers to any squash produced in the fall, including spaghetti squash, acorn squash, and butternut squash. So don’t be fooled by the name.
Lastly, according to Cooley, it’s difficult to go wrong when buying any of these varieties because winter squash stores well and has a constant flavor.
6. Pumpkin Is Another Excellent Vitamin A Source
More than just carving and seasonal adornment may be done with this Halloween staple.
According to the USDA, a cup of cubed raw pumpkin contains 3,600 mcg of beta-carotene. You’ll also receive 494 mcg of vitamin A per cup, which is roughly 55% of your daily value, making it another great source.
Pumpkin also has potassium benefits. According to the USDA, 1 cup contains 394 mg, or around 8% of your daily value.
In addition, pumpkin is high in vitamin C, delivering 10.4 milligrams per cup, or nearly 12 percent of your daily value, making it a good source. Plus, according to the USDA, 1 cup of canned, pureed variety contains 7.1 g of fiber, which is 26 percent of your daily value, making it a good source.
When shopping for pumpkins, keep in mind that larger ones are stringy and have less flavor, so go for tiny ones for cooking, according to Cooley.
Just be cautious of packaged pumpkin delights and goodies that claim to be pumpkin-flavored – they could be pastries with pumpkin flavoring (rather than full, nutritious pumpkin), according to Baylor University.
7. Leeks Are Anti-Inflammatory Foods That Can Aid In Disease Prevention
Leeks are a tasty but milder onion substitute that can be used in everything from breakfast casseroles to lasagna.
“Leeks have a light onion flavor and can be sautéed and used to stir-fries, soups, or stuffing,” explains Al Bochi. Each bite has a lot of nutrients, just like onions. “Leeks are a nutrient-dense, healthful fall vegetable. They’re high in flavonoids, particularly kaempferol, which protects against heart disease, according to Al Bochi, and research backs him up.
According to a review published in Experimental and Therapeutic Medicine in August 2019, kaempferol’s anti-inflammatory qualities may help it prevent certain diseases.
The health benefits of leeks don’t stop there.
According to the USDA, one cup of leeks has about 1.6 grams of fiber (about 6% of your daily value) and only 54 calories. Also, according to the American Optometric Association, leeks contain roughly 1,690 mcg of lutein and zeaxanthin, making them a strong source of these antioxidants, which may help prevent eye disorders such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Another encouraging study on leeks published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology in October 2019, researchers discovered that consuming allium vegetables, such as leeks and onions, may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer in both men and women.
During the fall, you’ll find stacks of them at your local grocery store and farmers market. Look for crisp leeks and make sure to thoroughly clean them before cooking, as they’re often nasty on the inside, according to Cooley.
8. Brussels Sprouts Are High in Fiber and Antioxidants
Brussels sprouts, which are best soon after the first frost, are one of the season’s most underappreciated treats. However, how you prepare them is crucial.
“I used to think Brussels sprouts were terrible,” says Anne Mauney, MPH, RD, a blogger at FannetasticFood.com in Alexandria, Virginia, who recommends her Honey Miso Roasted Brussels Sprouts dish.
“You’ve probably only tasted Brussels sprouts boiled or steamed if you think they’re boring and mushy,” says Mauney. “To make Brussels sprouts as wonderful as possible, roast them — they’ll come out crisp and caramelized, but they’ll still be a healthy vegetable side full of fiber and antioxidants.”
According to the USDA, 1 cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains 4 g of fiber, which is 14 percent of your DV, making it a good source. Sprouts are your new best buddy if you want to minimize calories without sacrificing flavor.
“Vegetables like Brussels sprouts have few calories but are high in fiber, which helps you feel full for longer,” Smith explains. This makes them a terrific go-to side dish in your weight loss diet plan, much like other veggies.
The health benefits don’t end there!
“Brussels sprouts are high in vitamin K and vitamin C, which help with blood coagulation, immunological health, and bodily tissue growth and repair,” Smith explains.
Vitamin K is important to blood clotting and bone tissue repair, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Vitamin C is also important for your body’s healing process, according to the Mayo Clinic.
9. Sweet Potatoes Are High in Vitamins A and C for Immune Support
“Sweet potatoes are a nutritious and delicious choice any time of year,” says Mauney, “but they are especially excellent in the fall when they are in season.”
This starchy vegetable is sweet and bright, and it’s a great substitute for traditional Idaho potatoes. It is slightly lower in carbohydrates and, as a bonus, greater in key vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A.
According to the USDA, 100 g of sweet potatoes (slightly larger than a small sweet potato) has 17 g carbs and 764 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin A — nearly 85 percent of your daily value.
What’s the latest on vitamin A?
It can assist with anything from vision to immunity, according to the Mayo Clinic.
According to the USDA, the same amount of white potatoes has roughly 20.5 carbs and only 18 mcg of vitamin A. “Sweet potatoes include both easy-to-digest carbs for fueling a workout and enough fiber to keep you satisfied,” Stefanski explains.
Sweet potatoes can also be eaten for breakfast. “I like to microwave a sweet potato before going for a morning run,” Stefanski explains. “Make the breakfast as big as you want it to be by adding Greek yogurt, granola, or even an overripe banana,” she advises.
Slice a variety of potatoes into cubes (we enjoy a mix of red, white, and sweet potatoes), drizzle them with olive oil and garlic, and roast them in the oven for a colorful side dish.
Alternatively, be a little more inventive. A basket full of homemade sweet potato biscuits is a delightful and soothing addition to any fall meal. Guests will be wowed by the addition of this smart makeover than basic home fries.
10. Parsnips Can Keep Your Bones Healthy
This root vegetable, which has a texture similar to carrots, becomes sweeter as it gets colder, so fall is a fantastic time to try it in the kitchen.
According to the USDA, 1 cup of sliced parsnips has 6.5 g of fiber, or 24 percent of your daily value; 30 mcg of vitamin K, or 25 percent of your daily value; and 22.6 mg of vitamin C, or 25 percent of your daily value – making parsnips a good source of all of these nutrients.
According to the USDA, parsnips provide 89 mcg of folate per cup, which is around 22% of your daily value –a good source of B vitamin. Folate is required for cell division and DNA production, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Raw parsnips offer a sweet bite to salads while cooked parsnips are delicious in soups, stews, and stir-fries, or simply roasted with olive oil. Alternatively, for a unique twist on french fries, substitute parsnips for potatoes.
11. Broccoli Contains Sulforaphane, a Compound that May Help Prevent Cancer
Broccoli is plentiful in the fall, and it’s great steamed, roasted, or stir-fried.
Broccoli as a soup base is a terrific option to spice up the usual side of vegetables, especially if certain family members aren’t fans of the vegetable’s texture.
According to the USDA, a cup of chopped broccoli has 2.3 g of fiber (or 8% of your daily value), 78.5 mg of vitamin C (or 87 percent of your daily value, making it an outstanding source), and 89.4 mcg of vitamin K (or around 75 percent of your daily value, making it another great source). “Plus, they contain sulforaphane, a cancer-fighting chemical,” says Retelny.
According to MD Anderson Cancer Center, this mineral present in broccoli may help protect you from some malignancies. Also, in a study published in Nature in December 2014, researchers are investigating whether sulforaphane could be utilized as a cancer therapeutic.
What’s the greatest way to bring out the flavor of broccoli?
“I like to steam or roast broccoli and cauliflower because it brings out the nutritional value, and they’re delicious drizzled with olive oil, a pinch of salt and pepper, and a sprinkling of garlic or curry powder,” Retelny says.
12. Cauliflower Is a Low-Carb, Nutrient-Rich Veggie Option
Cauliflower is a go-to fall meal when it comes to our health because it’s low in calories and high in vitamins and other nutrients.
According to the USDA, a cup of cauliflower includes roughly 27 calories and 5 grams of carbs.
The cruciferous veggie is getting a lot of attention these days since it can be used as a substitute for mashed potatoes because the flavor is great and similar to potatoes, but with fewer calories and carbs.
Simply combine cooked cauliflower, sea salt, low-fat sour cream, and olive oil in a blender, and you’ve got yourself a delicious mash remix!
The advantages of cauliflower don’t end there.
“Cauliflower is high in phytochemicals, which aid in the support of healthy cells and the prevention of cancer,” explains Stefanski. According to the National Cancer Institute, cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower contain glucosinolates (sulfur-containing compounds that give the vegetable its pungent flavor), which may help reduce the risk of some cancers.
Furthermore, cooking with cauliflower does not have to be monotonous. “If you’ve never liked cauliflower, try roasting it with a little olive oil and salt and pepper, then topping it with Parmesan cheese or everything bagel seasoning – it has a gentler flavor than boiling it,” says Stefanski.
Cauliflower can also be used to produce a version of macaroni and cheese or hash browns.
The Bottom Line
As the weather cools, we’re drawn to comfortable, warming dishes with recognizable, seasonal flavors. At the same time, we’re starting to think about staying well during the cold and flu season, probably more than ever this year.
The good news is that many of the foods we associate with autumn have significant health benefits!
Farmers markets are a fantastic place to start, and they’re usually open until the fall. According to the National Agricultural Library of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), you can join a CSA (community supported agriculture) and buy a share of food from a local farm. If none of these stores are open, your local supermarket will have a large supply of these seasonal vegetable options – and they might even be cheaper this time of year!
Cranberries and apples, as well as pumpkin and winter squash, are seasonal favorites that provide a slew of health advantages. Autumn’s produce is no exception to the rule that the correct foods can help you lose weight.