12 Fall Foods Packed with Antioxidants

fall foods

By Alyssa Kessel, RDN, LD, Expert Dietitian

I don’t know about you, but fall is my favorite season of the year. It brings back crisp air, colorful leaves, cozy sweaters, and a new menu full of seasonal fall foods. 

The fall harvest is packed with antioxidant and fiber-rich foods for the best nutrition and flavor of the season. Let’s check out some tips and recipes to boost your health during the autumn months. 

Take a trip to your local Farmer’s Markets

Fall is a great time to visit your local farmer’s market to learn more about seasonal produce, connect with your food, and boost your health. Local, seasonal food is fresh, tastier, more nutritious, and can help support your community. 

Eating seasonally means that foods are grown and harvested around the same time you are eating them. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are fresher, as they do not require long distance for transport. Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables contain more nutrients when allowed to ripen naturally and are also better tasting and full of flavor. In-season produce also generally costs less due to decreased transportation and preservation cost.

Purchasing locally-grown food helps support local farms and economy. Local growers can tell you exactly how the food was grown. Many of your local farmers grow the most nutritious produce possible through sustainable techniques. 

I challenge you this fall to check out your farmer’s market! Go grab some of the fall foods below as a start. To find some of your local farmer’s markets, visit: https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets

Fill your basket with these fall vegetables and fruits 

Fall foods bring their own color wheel of seasonal fruits and vegetables. Deep colors like oranges, reds, and purples are especially prominent in the cooler months. We are often intimidated by seasonal produce because we aren’t as familiar with ways to prepare them. Check out my list of some of the best produce this fall and some tips on ways to “Fall in love” with these Fall foods.

Pumpkin

Between Halloween jack-o-lanterns and Thanksgiving pies, this squash has become the most iconic fall vegetable. Pumpkin is full of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids and beta-carotene, which boost the immune system and aids in eye and skin health. Don’t forget about the tasty seeds, called pepitas, which are rich in phytosterols and may help lower cholesterol. 

Fall in love- There is more that you can do with your pumpkins than just carving them! If you want something that’s light and simple, try this pumpkin soup recipe. It is that time of the year for warm chilis, so check out this fall pumpkin chili recipe

Brussel Sprouts

This vegetable has seen a recent rise in popularity. Brussels sprouts are exceptionally rich in protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They offer protection from vitamin A deficiency, bone loss and iron-deficiency anemia. They are also believed to help protect against cardiovascular disease as well as colon and prostate cancer. 

Fall in love- Though this earthy vegetable may have a bad reputation among picky eaters for its bitter taste, when prepared right it can win over even the most hesitant eaters. Brussels sprouts are best when dressed with olive oil and salt and then roasted in the oven to caramelized perfection. 

Cauliflower

This cruciferous veggie is packed with fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin K, and is an excellent source of vitamin C. A flower head contains several anticancer phytochemicals and has a proven antioxidant that helps fight against free radicals while boosting immunity and preventing infections. 

Fall in love- Cauliflower might be one of the most versatile vegetables. You can roast it, steam it, grill it, purée it like mashed potatoes, grate it, and eat it like rice or use for a pizza crust. To keep it simple, try roasting your cauliflower in the oven with some olive oil, garlic, and fresh herbs. 

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are as nutritious as they are delicious. These naturally sweet spuds provide generous helpings of vitamins B6, vitamin C, fiber, magnesium, iron, potassium, and beta-carotene (a vitamin A precursor). In fact, a single potato can supply nearly three to five times of your daily needs of vitamin A, which is essential to healthy eyes, skin, and bones. 

Fall in love- This is a vegetable that is easy to keep it basic and just bake in the oven topped with some cinnamon and brown sugar. If you are looking to explore more with sweet potatoes, try this turkey and sweet potato chili recipe!

Apples

These sweet, crunchy fall favorites have many health benefits such as reducing cholesterol, improving bowel function, and lowering the risk of type-2 diabetes. A single apple packs about 20% of your daily recommendation of fiber. That’s not all; they are rich in vitamins A and C, and minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, and calcium which all have positive effects on health. 

Fall in love- Your apples can be great as a topping on your salads or for a healthy snack between meals! Check out this recipe for baked apples topped with oats, cinnamon, and a touch of brown sugar. This is an easy way to make great use of your apples this fall.

Pears

Fall is the best time of the year to get your fix of many kinds of this luscious fiber-filled fruit.  Pears are one of the highest fiber filled fruits, offering about six grams of soluble fiber, which helps lower “bad” LDL cholesterol. Pears also contain vitamins C,K,B2,B3 and B6 in addition to calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. 

Fall in love- Pears can be great for a simple snack, topping on your salads or in comforting desserts. They also make a fantastic mildly sweet addition to savory dishes. Try this sweet dessert recipe for a warm fall treat.  

Pomegranate

The seeds of pomegranates are called “arils” and are packed full of nutrients. This slightly sour fruit has gotten a lot of press as a “superfood” powerhouse. The nutrient benefit of pomegranates comes from powerful antioxidants called punicalagins and punicic acid. These antioxidants are highly anti-inflammatory and may help prevent a variety of diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s. 

Fall in love- To get the seeds out of a whole pomegranate at home, cut the fruit in half and use a spoon to dislodge the seeds. You can also buy the seeds pre-packaged at your grocery store. Try adding the seeds to a fall kale salad or mix in with your oatmeal, quinoa, or favorite dessert.

Cranberries

Fall is the perfect time to get to know these tart berries and their wealth of nutritional benefits. These brightly colored gems are loaded with vitamin C and other antioxidants linked to reducing risk of chronic disease and improving circulation. They can also help protect from urinary tract infections.

Fall in love- Many people find them too tart to eat raw, try adding them to the slow cooker with oatmeal, roasting them in the oven with pork, or chopping them finely before adding them to a salad. 

Beets

These rich, vibrant vegetables hit their prime in the fall when they’ve had plenty of time to develop complex, earthy flavors. Betalain, the compound found in beets, is linked to a wealth of health-promoting benefits- including reduced risk of cognitive decline, improved immunity, and protection from cellular damage that can lead to chronic disease. Beets are rich in naturally occurring nitrates and may help support healthy blood pressure. 

Fall in love. This versatile root vegetable is great for a warm fall-inspired salad or heart soups or to just simply roast in the oven with olive oil. Kick up your beet game a notch with some of these recipes: Beet Greens with Oregano Feta or a Beet Salad with Arugula Balsamic Vinaigrette

Mushrooms

This vegetable is available year-round, but is at its peak in the fall. Mushrooms are high in vitamin D, folate, and antioxidants. Mushrooms contain selenium which is a mineral that plays a role in liver enzyme function and helps detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body. Selenium also prevents inflammation. 

Fall in love. This vegetable is a great when you sauté or roast it with some fresh herbs and spices. Try this garlic mushroom quinoa recipe this fall to incorporate more mushrooms into your routine.

Artichokes

If you’re not used to buying this vegetable, give it a try this fall when they are in season. Packed with prebiotic fiber, artichokes can help promote the health and growth of your body’s probiotics. This vegetable contains disease-fighting antioxidants and actually contain more antioxidants than any other vegetable when compared gram-per-gram. 

Fall in love. For the best flavor and most nutrients, try roasting them. First, trim the stem and snip the pointed ends off the leaves. Next, slightly open the leaves to insert flavorings of choice – try butter, garlic, and lemon. Wrap in foil and bake at 425 for 35 to 45 minutes. 

Winter Squash

Acorn squash, spaghetti squash and butternut squash all fall into this category. Unlike summer squash, winter squash has a slightly sweet flavor. These vegetables are high in vitamins A and C. 

Fall in love. Each squash has it own unique taste and use; butternut makes delicious soups, while roasting spaghetti squash is a great way to replace carbs in classic noodle dishes. Try acorn or butternut squash roasted in the oven for a hearty side dish. 

Think of the new season as a fresh start to healthy habits. Enjoy the seasonal produce that makes this season so tasty. Fall foods are packed with the nutrients and antioxidants our body wants, so what better time to start than now?

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