Maximizing Nutrition with Fall Foods
The fall season brings cooler temperatures, family traditions, and—best of all—tasty and nutritious food! The produce available during this time of year is bursting with color, flavor, and essential vitamins and minerals.
To learn more about the specific nutrition benefits of fall foods as well as preparation ideas, read on below:
Pumpkins are undoubtedly the most well-known member of the gourd family but there exist a multitude of other winter squash such as acorn, butternut, spaghetti, and delicata. These thick-skinned beauties are high in beta-carotene, lutein, vitamin B6, fiber, magnesium, and potassium. Squash has a low glycemic index due to its fiber content making it a great option for fueling the body while controlling blood sugar. Squash can be easily cooked in both a crockpot and instant pot and then incorporated into casseroles, pasta, and rice dishes, or simply enjoyed alone. Check out this cheesy spaghetti squash recipe.
Sweet Potatoes and Yams
What’s the difference between these two orange-colored cousins? Sweet potatoes are less starchy, contain more moisture, and are sweeter than yams. Nutritionally speaking, both are a good source of fiber and sweet potatoes have much more beta-carotene. Eventually getting converted into vitamin A, beta-carotene is important for eyesight, the immune system, and the circulatory system. Because they are a good source of potassium, sweet potatoes and yams help promote healthy blood pressure levels. Try cubing and steaming these to enjoy as a side dish, mix in with salads, or experiment with this chili recipe.
Brussels sprouts are a type of cruciferous vegetable that resemble mini cabbages. High in a sulfur-containing compound, they protect cells from damage and may reduce the risk of developing cancer. Additionally, brussels sprouts are high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K, folate, and fiber. Low in calories and dense with nutrition, brussels sprouts are considered to be a nutrient dense food. These little powerhouses are best pan-roasted in a skillet or when incorporated into fall salads with dried fruit and nuts. This balsamic brussels sprouts recipe uses an air fryer.
These bright red berries are notably rich in Vitamin C and certain antioxidants. Vitamin C helps to maintain healthy skin, muscle, and bone. Research on the antioxidants found in cranberries suggests that they may be beneficial for improving blood pressure, controlling blood glucose levels, reducing risk of heart disease, and decreasing inflammation. Cranberries are naturally low in calories, but this quality is significantly altered when they are dried and sweetened. Look for fresh, frozen, or reduced-sugar dried cranberries in order to get the most out of the health benefits they offer. Unsweetened cranberry juice can be purchased and mixed with sparkling water to create a refreshing, festive beverage. For an even brighter start the morning, try this easy cranberry smoothie.
Last but surely not least, the nut of the group! The American Heart Association has deemed pecans a heart-healthy food. Thankfully, they are also delicious and can be enjoyed in a variety of ways this season. Pecans provide a good source of copper, manganese, thiamin, zinc, and are packed with fiber when compared to other nuts. To meet the established goal of 1 ounce of nuts per day, add them to salads, chop and sprinkle over cereal, or mix into yogurt. This sweet and salty pecan trail mix is perfect for snacking on-the-go.
With so many options, deciding what to try can be overwhelming. A good place to start is by choosing one or two of the foods mentioned above. Work them into one of your current favorite meals or try a new recipe. Happy fall cooking!
Lydia, Missouri State University Dietetic Intern
Information from: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, American Heart Association, and FruitsandVeggies.org