Many of our most colorful foods are also the most nutritious the pigments represented in many of our fruits and veggies are antioxidants and other phytonutrients essential to our health. But it can seem challenging to do as the seasons change to ensure we have flavorful and colorful nutrition at our fingertips, on our plates, and in our mouths.
Here are 11 fabulous and unforgettable fall foods for 2016, a full rainbow of colors that can keep you healthy and happy all season long:
- Apples. Apple season! What can be tastier? And the apples’ perfect little package provides fiber and nutrients from the skin to the center. Apples contain quercetin an antioxidant that is anti-inflammatory and helps protect our heart. Eating apples regularly can reduce asthma risk, as well. One study showed a 32% lower risk of asthma from eating 2 apples daily. Enjoy simply fresh as a snack to chopped and added to oatmeal (baked with spices) or into a pie, apples are easy, fresh and taste their very best right now.
- Red cranberries and dried cherries packed with vitamins A and C. Cranberries ring true with fall being typically found fresh for only a few months late October until the New Year. High in antioxidants, cranberries’ power to help prevent urinary tract infections is well researched and they are super low in calories with less than 30 calories per half cup. And long after the summer season of fresh bing cherries, tart cherries which are available year round dried, frozen and as juice offer the fun and flavor of cherries along with a growing body of research supporting their cholesterol reducing abilities and ability to decrease muscle and joint pain due to special antioxidants that also give them their dazzling red hue.
- Pumpkin. The season’s darlin’ pumpkin gains our attention around the holidays, but it should be a pantry staple all year round! It’s a good time to stock up on canned pumpkin, too in BPA-free cans. Off the charts in beta-carotene, a carotenoid that can help protect our immune system, skin health and even the ‘brightness’ of our skin, and one of the highest in fiber for fewest calories around. Plus it’s so fun and easy to use. From smoothies (yes smoothies! here’s a Pumpkin Julius Smoothie recipe from The SuperFoodsRx Diet), to soups, muffins, and pancake batter, it’s more versatile than you might think. You can use canned pumpkin as a partial replacement for fat and to keep moisture in recipes, too: by substituting only half of the butter with an equal amount of canned pumpkin in brownies, you can save 60 grams of fat and 500 calories in a recipe! Or try stirring pumpkin into yogurt or into soups to thicken it and of course, there’s a fall holiday favorite pumpkin pie. (And don’t forget to enjoy pumpkin’s other squash pals this season: from acorn to butternut and beyond!)
- Sweet potatoes. Naturally sweet, high in beta-carotene, a precursor to Vitamin A in the body and important for healthy eyes and skin, sweet potatoes also help keep our immune system at its best. Vitamin A helps maintain and repair skin tissue. It may also help decrease premature wrinkling! If you are lacking vitamin A, your skin may appear dry, flaky and lackluster, so this, sweetie, is important for the fall season as the air chills and dries. Sweet potatoes’ nutrient powerhouse helps keep the immune system strong and research has shown that it can help elevate your virus-fighting T-cells higher in the blood when consumed frequently.
- Walnuts. These superstars are harvested each October and easy to incorporate throughout the holiday season and all year long. Walnuts are rich in healthy plant-based omega-3 fats and are also one of the few researched sources of melatonin to help balance healthy sleep cycles. Linked to heart health, lower diabetes risk, better weight management and even anti-cancer properties, one recent study (and others before) demonstrated cognitive benefits from consuming walnuts. Try this Walnut, Carrot Pate!
- Turkey. This food that gets most of its attention from November through the New Year can be a year-round superfood. Featured in fall starting with Thanksgiving, turkey provides a lean protein source that contains all the essential amino acids important for a healthy metabolism and to keep the immune system peppy as cold-season approaches. A source of tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin consuming turkey may help provide a boost in our mood to keep us feeling even-keeled during the stressful holiday season.
- Mushrooms. Important sources of betaglucans, a special type of antioxidant phytonutrient, mushrooms are powerful immune system and health boosters. Research has shown mushrooms may help ward off flu by boosting the body’s natural defenses. And certain varieties when exposed to UV light (like sunlight) produce vitamin D at high levels an important nutrient we tend to get less of during those winter months that helps us with our healthy bones and to beat the winter blues.
- Thyme and Cinnamon. Unlike basil that is more fragile and thrives in the summer season, thyme is heartier and can grow fresh well into the fall. Thyme (fresh or dry) has been shown to have high levels of antioxidants, as well as vitamin K and iron, and research has shown thyme can help with vascular health and may help with coughs and respiratory conditions. Cinnamon is a year-round favorite, but it ramps up in the holiday. Consumers purchase more than 16 million ounces of cinnamon during the months of November and December, enough to make a whopping 682 million cups of flavored sweet potatoes! Cinnamon has insulin-like actions that can help regulate blood sugar and some research is looking at its potential to help with weight management. 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon has as much antioxidants as a 1/2 cup of pomegranate juice. Sprinkle away!
- Kale. There’s a reason I call kale the queen of greens. This green is so awesome in its strength that it grows in the fall and winter with relative ease, making use of the frost to actually enhance itself. And it’s a hearty cousin to spinach, chard and mustard greens. Rich in vitamin K for strong bones and healthy blood clotting to helping wounds heal, kale’s nutrients also help with our eye health due to the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin that give it the green hue as well as its vitamin A. Kale along with its other dark green siblings also help protect a healthy heart: one serving or more a day can slash heart disease risk almost in half according to one large-scale study. It also contains vitamin C, calcium, iron and manganese making it a seasonal immune booster. No longer a lowly peasant food or salad bar garnish, this green is a rock-star.
- Black quinoa and black rice. What do blueberries, blackberries, and eggplant have in common with black quinoa and black rice? Anthocyanins, the same powerful antioxidant that gives it the dark and intense color and health-promoting powers. And rich in whole grain nutrients fiber, minerals, and even plant protein this is one hearty, healthy grain. Serve as an alternative to pasta, potato or other rice varieties.
- Grapes. Grapes contain powerful antioxidants including resveratrol and polyphenols (yes, I know you’re thinking about red wine, too) that helps counter the aging process and grapes have show to play a role in reducing cholesterol. With a natural sweetness, red and purple grapes give us the opportunity to extend the fresh, bright flavor of our summer fruit into the fall and winter months. A great snack, sure but they are also highly versatile and can be added to a saut© of chicken or turkey, sliced and stirred into a rice dish or stuffing, mixed with apples and walnuts and many others. Concord grapes in particular the dark purple varieties are found fresh only in the autumn when they are harvested. Native to the northeast because they have the ability to adapt to and survive in harsh climates, Concord grapes are still mostly grown in New York and the northeast today.