The sun is setting earlier and the nights are getting cooler. This is the perfect time to start adding delicious autumn flavors to your plate. Head to your favorite market and fill your basket with these fall produce picks.
Pumpkin is full of fiber and beta-carotene. Fiber helps prevent or relieve constipation and also helps maintain healthy weight. Beta-carotene converts into vitamin A in the body, which is great for your skin and eyes. You could try adding savory herbs to your pumpkin, such as sage and curry in order to balance the natural sweetness of it.
Beets are edible from their leafy greens down to the bulbous root. The leaves are similar to spinach and are delicious sautéed. The grocery store most likely will carry red beets, however your local farmers market may have more interesting varieties, such as golden or bull’s blood, which has a bullseye pattern of rings. The red color in beets is caused by a phytochemical called betanin, making beet juice a natural alternative to red food coloring. Beets are a source of naturally occurring nitrates and may help to support healthy blood pressure. Roasting or steaming beets whole takes the hassle out of peeling them since the skin will slide off easily after cooking. They also are delicious raw, shredded and tossed in salads or thinly sliced and baked into chips
Sweet potatoes are full of fiber and vitamin A. They’re an excellent source of potassium and vitamin C as well. They can be served at any meal. Have you ever tried roasted sweet potato as a breakfast side dish?
Spaghetti squash is a fun, kid-friendly vegetable that is a lower-calorie and gluten-free alternative to grain-based pasta. Cut it in half to reveal a pocket of seeds; scoop those out and pop the two halves into the microwave or oven and cook until tender. Scrape a fork into the flesh and spaghetti-like strands appear! Voilà! Toss with pesto or marinara sauce for a quick veggie side dish.
Kale is a nutrient powerhouse. One cup of raw kale has only 8 calories and is loaded with vitamins A, C and K as well as manganese. Kale is great sautéed and cooked in soup, but also is excellent raw in salad; remove the tough stems, slice into thin slivers and serve it with something a bit sweet such as carrots or apples. One advantage of using kale for your leafy greens is that you can add your dressing ahead of time since the kale does not become wilted, but becomes more tender and delicious instead..
Pears are the most delicious in the fall when they’re at their peak. They are unique in that they will ripen at room temperature after they’re picked rather than ripening on the tree. You can tell when pears are ready to eat by checking the neck. If the fruit near the stem gives to a little pressure, it is ripe. There are a wide variety of pear flavors and textures, and just like apples, some are delicious eaten fresh while others are best cooked or canned. Try pears on the grill or pureed into soup or a smoothie. If you eat the peel too, one medium pear has 6 grams of fiber.
Okra is commonly fried, but can be great in other forms as well. The thickening properties of the seed pods add a delicious element in dishes like Louisiana gumbo, Indian curries and other stews. If you’d like to minimize the thickening property, try okra briefly stir-fried. The pods are high in vitamins K and C, a good source of fiber and folate, and low in calories. At the market, look for pods that are no longer than 4 inches and are bright green in color and firm to the touch.
Parsnips are cousins to carrots — they have the same root shape but with white flesh. They’re typically eaten cooked, but can also be eaten raw. One-half cup of cooked parsnips has 3 grams of fiber and contains more than 10 percent of the daily values of vitamin C and folate. Try them roasted, pureed into soup or mashed. Next time you make shepherd’s pie, try topping it with mashed parsnips instead of the traditional mashed potatoes!
Fall is the time to dive into these tart berries and enjoy their nutritional benefits. Cranberries contain a compound called proanthocyanidin which helps prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to your bladder wall. Thus, they can help protect from urinary tract infections. Fresh cranberries can be eaten raw but are often cooked. Dried cranberries are delicious in grain and vegetable salads and make a healthy, on the go snack. Fresh and dried cranberries taste delicious with a variety of meats and poultry, making them a great addition to your Thanksgiving menu.
Adapted from eatright.org
Photo from mn.org