What is it about fall that captures our hearts? Is it the welcome relief that cool air brings after a long and scorching summer? Or perhaps this collective seasonal obsession is more closely related to our memories of back to school shopping and diving head first into piles of red and orange leaves.
Whatever it is, there’s certainly more to the season than just pumpkin spice and cozy sweaters (although I love those two things to pieces), and one of my favorite things to do in autumn is wander the weekend farmer’s markets and harvest festivals. After a summer spent whipping up easy salads and other meals that don’t require the use of a stove, incorporating seasonal fall foods into my cooking is something I always look forward to. This is a time to warm yourself from the inside out, but these bright and bold fruits and vegetables aren’t just delicious, they’re packed with incredible nutrients to keep you healthy throughout the colder months.
Today I’m sharing my top five ingredients for fall and their benefits. Pick some up at your local market and try incorporating them into your menu this week. I think you’ll find they’re a welcome addition to your table:
Pumpkin: It seems only natural to start this list with the most autumnal of them all, doesn’t it? Pumpkin is ubiquitous for fall and on top of being flavorful, this squash is also jam packed with good-for-you vitamins and minerals. Pumpkin is incredibly rich in fiber, which helps to keep you feeling full longer and keeps your digestive tract healthy. Pumpkin is also rich in folate, which aids in cell renewal, and is an amazing source of vitamin A, which helps keep your vision sharp. Just 1 cup of pumpkin contains over 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of vitamin A!
While it’s great mixed into baked goods and smoothies, pumpkin is even better when it’s incorporated into savory dishes like soups and stews. You can even roast it and mix it into pasta and rice dishes for an easy meal. And don’t toss the seeds! Pumpkin seeds are rich in phytosterols, plant-based chemicals that have been shown to lower cholesterol, and they also contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can help boost your mood.
Pomegranate: The pomegranate has been heralded for centuries, and in fact, it’s one of the oldest known fruits in existence. Lucky for us, this gorgeous fruit is still plentiful and we’re able to enjoy the benefits of its jewel-like seeds and juice, which is brimming with free-radical zapping antioxidants. These antioxidants have been shown to lower cholesterol, improve heart health, and possibly inhibit the growth of cancerous cells. On top of this, pomegranates are a great source of iron and vitamin C, and vitamin B-6 which helps keep your body functioning as it should.
Pomegranate seeds are delicious as they are, but they’re also incredible tossed into salads, soups, and smoothies. The next time you break out your juicer, try adding in a few pomegranate seeds to reap their rewards.
Beets: People seem to either love or hate beets, and I fall into the former category. In my opinion, beets are pretty awesome. These jewel-tone root vegetables were originally harvested for their greens only, but over time people caught on to how delicious the roots were as well, and good thing, because these earthy vegetables are also nutritional powerhouses. Along with vitamin C, folate, and manganese, beets are also a unique source of betaine. Never heard of betaine? You’re not alone, but this elusive nutrient aides in reducing inflammation and has been shown to protect cells from environmental stresses and about a million other things. Beets are also an incredible detoxifyer and help to purify your blood and your liver. And don’t throw out those greens! Buying a bunch of whole beets is a nutritional two-for-one: the greens themselves contain even more iron than spinach.
Beets and beet greens are super simple to prepare. The root can be roasted, juiced, shaved onto salads, and thrown into almost anything. The greens can be steamed, sauteed, or mixed into soups and salads; whichever way you make them, they’re sure to be delicious.
Try this amazing Beet-Feta Dip!
Pears: I’ll admit to not being that much of a fan of pears, but after researching their nutritional benefits, I’m willing to change my stance on this autumnal fruit. Just the skin of pears contains over half of the entire fruit’s dietary fiber and three to four times as many antioxidants. Pretty incredible, right? Pears are also a great source of fiber and can help aide in lowering oxidative stress on our cells.
Pears are great raw, but my favorite way to eat them is roasted or baked as a dessert. They’re also an amazing addition to salads and can even be tossed on the grill and served as a sweet accompaniment to a savory dish.
Squash: Besides pumpkin, there are countless numbers of other squash available this season, and you should definitely pick some up. Depending on which type you choose, squash is generally an amazing source of fiber and vitamin C, and also contains high percentages of potassium, which can help muscle performance and vitamin A, which helps development.
If you’re new to the wide world of squashes, I think the two friendliest are acorn and butternut. Try trimming and roasting a butternut squash, or making it into butternut squash soup, or try making a stuffed acorn squash. Once you get the hang of it, explore the countless other varieties out there, each one with their own amazing benefits.
What are your ingredients for an amazing fall? Be sure to share!
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