As fall approaches, many people start to think about comfort foods–and often, those foods aren’t the healthiest options for your waistline and health. Still, it’s cold outside and you want something warm and hearty to fill your belly with. But don’t despair! There are plenty of healthy options for this time of year.
Fall is full of delicious fruits and vegetables that pack a nutritious punch without weighing you down as so many carb-heavy dishes do. Here are some healthy foods to enjoy this fall (and beyond).
Apples are a nutritional powerhouse. They have the usual vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, and are also rich in other antioxidants. Plus, apples are one of the best sources of pectin, a type of soluble fiber known to lower cholesterol levels by binding bile acids in the intestines–and quercetin (a plant pigment), which research shows may improve eye health by strengthening capillary walls in the retina.
Additionally, apple peels contain phytonutrients called flavonoids with anti-inflammatory benefits. Therefore, eat the skin too, but wash it first and buy organic apples. You know the saying: An apple a day keeps the doctor away. And there’s truth to that.
Who doesn’t love versatility? Apples are one of the most versatile fruits. You can eat them raw, baked, roasted, sautéed, grilled, or stewed. You can also enjoy them on their own or as a snack. Get creative and use chopped apples as a topping for yogurt or a bowl of steel-cut oats.
One of the tastiest and most filling after-workout snacks is a half apple with almond butter spread on its interior. You get lots of anti-inflammatory compounds to ease overworked muscles, natural sugar to replenish glycogen stores, and protein, from the almond butter, to help your muscles repair. The high water content of apples also helps with hydration.
Unlike their white cousins, sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene, a precursor to vitamin A. Beta-carotene and other carotenoids may lower the risk of macular degeneration by protecting the retina in the back of your eyes from damage created by free radicals. You’re constantly exposed to free radicals from air pollution and just from being alive and they contribute to aging.
Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of potassium for heart and blood vessel health. Potassium helps balance the effects of too much sodium in the American diet. As Harvard Health points out, potassium is vital for healthy functioning of all cells and for a healthy blood pressure and heart function.
Unfortunately, the average American diet contains double the quantity of sodium as potassium and that creates an unhealthy balance. Eating delicious fall vegetables, like sweet potatoes, will help you restore a healthier balance.
Looking for a delicious way to enjoy sweet potatoes? Bake them in the oven with olive oil, salt, and pepper until they’re soft. Top them with nut butter and dried cranberries for a scrumptious treat! They’re also tasty roasted to bring out their natural sweetness.
Brussel sprouts are not everyone’s favorite vegetable, but they’re loaded with vitamins and minerals including vitamin B6, potassium (reduces blood pressure), and iron (for healthy red blood cells). Plus, Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable, providing similar anti-cancer benefits to broccoli.
The simplest way to enjoy Brussels sprouts is roasted in the oven, with a little olive oil and salt. They’re also delicious roasted on a grill. Toss them into casseroles along with other veggies like cauliflower and carrots and into soups and stews. The more veggies on your plate (and in your bowls, the better!
Like sweet potatoes, carrots contain beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A. This helps maintain good vision as well as healthy skin and mucous membranes. The antioxidants in carrots also support immunity by helping fight the free radicals that cause oxidative stress.
Along with their many health benefits, carrots make a nutritious, anytime snack. Their sweet taste makes them an excellent choice for those with a sweet tooth or looking for something healthy to eat on the go. You can also dip them into hummus or spread almond butter on a carrot for more protein, fiber, and nutrients.
To bring out the full flavor spectrum of flavors in carrots, roast them! Roasted carrots are delicious because they’re sweet and savory. The sweetness comes from the natural sugars in carrots that roasting enhances. The savory part comes from the olive oil, salt, and pepper that you add when you roast them. Plus, the healthy fats in olive oil help you better absorb the beta-carotene in carrots.
Like carrots, pumpkin is packed with beta-carotene for eye health. Plus, it’s a good source of minerals like iron, which transports oxygen on red blood cells; potassium, which regulates heart rate; magnesium, which promotes muscle relaxation; and vitamin C for immune health and healthy collagen.
How to enjoy the health benefits of pumpkin? Make soup by boiling chunks of pumpkin in water, along with carrots or potatoes, until they’re soft enough to blend into a creamy soup base. You can also make pumpkin butter by cooking chopped pieces of raw pumpkin down over low heat until they soft enough to mash into spreads for sandwiches or toast. If you use fresh pumpkin, save the seeds, and roast them for a delicious and nutritious snack You can even add spices when you roast pumpkin seeds for more flavor and antioxidants.
Fall is a beautiful time of year, with all the leaves changing colors, but it’s also the perfect time for healthy eating. If you’re looking for a way to enjoy the season of fall, try adding some of these healthy foods into your diet. For the freshest and most nutrient-rich produce, visit your local farmer’s market and support your local community.
- “SELF Nutrition Data | Food Facts, Information & Calorie Calculator.” nutritiondata.self.com/.
- “Data & Statistics | Nutrition | CDC.” 31 Aug. 2022, cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/index.html.
- “Nutritional Values For Common Foods And Products.” nutritionvalue.org/.
- “The importance of potassium – Harvard Health.” 18 Jul. 2019, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-potassium.