Store away those flip-flops and bathing suits and grab your boots and blankets, because autumn is here! From the crisp air, to cozy clothes, to haunted hay rides, there is so much to love about this time of year. But the best part about the season is all of the delicious fall produce we can enjoy.
Whether you’re digging into pumpkin-flavored everything or already planning your Thanksgiving feast, there’s no denying that fall is all about the food. To help you pack in the good stuff, we checked in with The Vitamin Shoppe nutritionists Roseanne Schnell, C.D.N. and Rebekah Blakely, R.D.N. for their healthy fall produce recommendations—and how you can make the most of them while they’re in peak season.
Both of our nutritionists ranked greens as their number one pick for healthiest fall produce. Schnell especially loves kale in the cooler months, but leafy greens like spinach, arugula, beet greens, and Swiss chard also make a regular appearance in her fridge.
Boasting high amounts of fiber, vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron, leafy greens are a powerhouse for amping up the nutrition on your plate, she says. The result of these nutrients: support for healthy bones, eyes, and immunity.
Schnell suggests choosing fresh greens with lively leaves, and avoiding those with brown or yellow spots. To prepare them, rinse leaves with cold water, pat dry, and store in a reusable bag.
“Leafy greens are a great way to bulk up a meal and make you feel satiated,” Schnell says. “They are delicious steamed or sautéed, in a comforting bowl of soup, in a smoothie, or raw as a base for fall salads topped with cranberries, apples, and nuts.”
When it comes to powerhouse fall veggies, beets are a two-for-one win. Schnell loves these bright bulbs for their high antioxidant content, fiber, folate, manganese, copper, potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamin C.
Plus, they may boost your athletic game. “Numerous health benefits have also been associated with the consumption of beets, often due to their high nitrate content,” says Blakely. “Nitrates are converted to nitric oxide in the body. And nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels, which can have benefits on circulation, blood pressure, exercise performance, and cognitive function.”
When shopping for beets, Schnell says to look for a small or medium-sized beet that is firm and free of spots or bruises. If you find beets with the greens still attached, simply snip the greens off and store them separately in a tightly-sealed bag in the fridge.
Beets are delicious raw, roasted, or pickled. Schnell loves them as salad toppers. Chop and sauté the greens to add to stir-fries or omelets, or enjoy as a simple side.
3. Cruciferous Veggies
Veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts are well known for their high amounts of fiber and few calories. Plus, these fan favorites are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and B vitamins, Schnell says.
“Broccoli and cauliflower really shine due to their sulfur content,” adds Blakely. “Sulfur is one of the most abundant minerals in the body, and plays a role in reducing oxidative stress and maintaining the integrity of our connective tissues, like joints and skin. Consumption of sulfur-containing foods has been associated with decreased risk of disease.”
Additionally, cauliflower is one of the few good food sources of choline, which is essential for brain and liver health, Blakely adds. Brussels sprouts, meanwhile, are one of the best plant sources of the omega-3 fat ALA, which supports a healthy heart, brain, and inflammation response.
When shopping, be sure the cruciferous veggie’s head (also called the flower) is clean and firm, Schnell advises. At home, stash them all in the fridge.
Schnell loves to swap cauliflower into her favorite carb-heavy dishes, whether in the form of cauliflower rice, mash, or even grain-free pizza crust. Need an idea for a bag of Brussels? They’re delicious roasted and paired with sweet flavors, like cranberries or maple syrup.
4. Winter Squash
You can find way more than just a big ol’ pumpkin in your local market this time of year. Winter squash come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and varieties—and most are rich in fiber, carotenoids, B vitamins, magnesium, and potassium, says Schnell. Some popular varieties include small orange pumpkins, spaghetti squash, acorn squash, and butternut squash.
And don’t let their higher carb counts turn you away from digging in. “Despite being higher in carbs than other non-starchy veggies, it has actually been shown to support healthy sugar metabolism in the body,” says Blakely.
Read More: 5 Reasons To Eat ALL The Squash This Fall
At the market, choose winter squash with thick, undamaged skin. To prepare it, cut the squash open and remove the seeds before cooking. Schnell loves to stuff and roast acorn and butternut squash, swap spaghetti squash into pasta recipes and top it with sauce, and use classic pumpkin in baked goods.
And don’t forget to save your squash seeds! Wash and dry them, then roast ‘em with olive oil and spices at about 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes for a vitamin E-rich, crunchy snack, Schnell says.
5. Sweet Potato
These orange potatoes are rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, manganese, copper, vitamin B6, biotin, and potassium, Schnell says.
“Beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A in the body,” explains Blakely. “Just one cup of baked sweet potato can provide over double the amount of daily vitamin A needed by adults. That same cup also provides four grams of fiber (both soluble and insoluble) to support regular bowel movements and healthy gut bacteria.”
When picking your potatoes, choose small or medium sized tubers for a sweeter flavor.
Schnell loves to enjoy them roasted or in casseroles, stews, and soups. Bonus: If you add a dollop of healthy fat (like coconut oil, olive oil, or grass-fed butter), you’ll increase the uptake of beta-carotene, she says.
You know the old saying—an apple a day keeps the doctor away. So, better head to the apple orchard to stock up on this favorite fall fruit. Apples are rich in soluble fiber and vitamin C, and support heart and digestive health, Schnell says.
“Even though they’re mainly sugar, apples have a low glycemic index number,” Blakely adds. This means they support healthy blood sugar.
When choosing your perfect pick, opt for firm fruits without bruises or soft spots. Wash gently, and store in a cool, dry place, Schnell says.
These grab-and-go snacks are perfect paired with yogurt or peanut butter. Blakely especially loves them sliced up, drizzled with nut or seed butter, and sprinkled with cacao nibs and a dash of cinnamon.
Pro tip: Want in on Schnell’s secret for pre-cutting apples without them turning brown? For fresh cut apples on-the-go, squeeze just a touch of lemon juice over them.
These fall fruits are more than just a sugary sweet jelly dolloped onto your Thanksgiving turkey. Cranberries are packed with antioxidant phytonutrients, and just one cup contains almost five grams of fiber. Additionally, they contain a good dose of quercetin, an antioxidant that may help reduce allergies, blood pressure, and inflammation, Blakely says.
When stocking up, look for bright-to-deep red, firm, and plump berries. Avoid brown spots or shriveled berries. At home, store them in the fridge.
Blakely recommends enjoying sugar-packed cranberry juice and sauce sparingly, and opting for homemade, low-sugar cranberry relish instead. Or, toss your cranberries into smoothies.
Our nutritionists are all about the fiber in these fall fruits. Just one medium pear packs nearly six grams of fiber, plus polyphenol antioxidants, Blakely says. “Just make sure to eat the skin, as a majority of the antioxidants and half the fiber are found there,” she explains.
Buy pears that are firm and blemish-free and store them at room temperature until ripe. You’ll know they’re ripe when there is a little give near the end of the stem. Then, you can store them in the fridge, Blakely says. She loves them mixed into oatmeal with warm fall spices or dipped into peanut butter or Greek yogurt.
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