Fruits and vegetables are always healthy choices, but consuming seasonal produce is best, both in taste and nutrition. Enjoy fresh, flavorful foods this fall by selecting fruits and vegetables that are naturally harvested in autumn. Here are some great tips for incorporating these foods into your diet:

Root Vegetables

Beets, sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions are all in peak season from September through November; some even maintain maximum nutrients into winter as well. Root vegetables are rich in calcium which promotes strong and healthy bone growth. They are also great sources of potassium, and folate which is necessary for making genetic material (DNA), and is especially important for pregnant women.

Pumpkins and Squash

Pumpkins and other types of squash are the most recognizable of autumnal produce, and are ready for harvest September through October. Squash varieties are rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and potassium, as well as vitamin A which supports immune system functioning. As the weather turns colder, incorporate these colorful foods by cooking a batch of butternut squash soup. For a lighter, sweeter option, make a whipped pumpkin fruit dip. Combine pure pumpkin (canned or fresh), coconut cream, pumpkin spice, and maple syrup for a seasonal treat.

Cranberries

The phytonutrients in cranberries offer antioxidants, and act as a natural cleansing agent in the body, boosting kidney and urinary tract health. Vitamin C, vitamin E, and manganese aid the body in bone development, healing of wounds, and nutrient absorption. To maximize cranberries’ nutritional benefits, opt for making fresh cranberry sauce at your next family gathering rather than using the canned variety, which can be laden with sugars. Sneak fresh cranberries into a child’s diet by adding them to a basic muffin batter. Sprinkle some dried, unsweetened cranberries on a salad to give it a pop of color bursting with flavor.

Spinach

Leafy greens are good sources of iron and vitamin C, and spinach is a great option for fall. Spinach is naturally a cold weather crop, so it’s bed consumed in colder months to guarantee maximum vitamins and nutrients. Saute spinach as a side dish to any meal, or add it to a breakfast omelet. Steam spinach for quick, easy cooking, or eat it raw by building a tasty chef salad.

Apples and Pears

These fruits taste best during peak season and are rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber. The apple skin is especially rich in vitamins and minerals so eat the whole fruit for the most benefit. Apples and pears are also good sources of pectin which passes through the digestive systems as soluble fiber. Enjoy crisp apples and pears raw in the fall. If you prefer, serve them with a spoonful of nut butter, or slice and roast them together in the oven and finish with a sprinkle of cinnamon.

For a fun outing with health benefits, shop local farms or markets. Handpick seasonal fruits, and feel good about treating your body well while supporting your community. If you cannot find these fall foods in your produce section, look in the freezer aisle. Foods that have been flash frozen or frozen in peak season maintain the most nutrition after harvest.

Sources:

http://nutritionreviews.oxfordjournals.org/content/62/1/1.abstract

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf073309b

https://snap.nal.usda.gov/nutrition-through-seasons/seasonal-produce

http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/garden/why-your-spinach-isnt-sweet-it-could-be

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000282230000420X

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814697001659