While pumpkin is fabulous, many in-season foods are often overlooked. So if you're wanting a little variety, these eight foods are totally what you need!rn
Just in case you haven’t heard, it’s pumpkin season. Don’t get me wrong, I do love all things pumpkin, but what about all the other nutritious in-season produce whose thunder has been stolen and lost in the pumpkin craze this fall? Here is a list of eight wonderfully nutritious foods who deserve a little attention.
Great from their roots all the way to their leaves! Beets and beet greens are loaded with numerous vitamins and minerals including potassium, magnesium, fiber, phosphorus, iron, vitamins A, B & C, beta-carotene, beta-cyanine, as well as folate. A great thing about beets is that they have been shown to improve running performance. A research study, by Saint Louis University, shows that after consuming beets, the runners went an average of 3% faster and took an average of 41 seconds off their times. The key is the naturally occurring nitrates contained in beets. Beet roots are a great, versatile food. They can be boiled, made into a soup (borscht), prepared with onions and vinegar as a side salad, roasted with olive oil and topped with feta, juiced, or even pickled as a great addition to salads! Beet greens can be prepared very similarly to spinach: they can be sautéed, eaten raw, or juiced.
There are many other ways to enjoy these berries this fall besides in a gelatinous sauce on Thanksgiving. Fresh cranberries can be eaten raw, added to oatmeal, juiced, or made into a tart relish; and dried berries are great for salads, baked goods, or grain mixes. The best part about cranberries is they are loaded with health benefits like decreasing urinary tract infections (thanks to their proanthocyanidins), improving immune function (due to their anti-inflammatory properties of anthocyanins), and providing the body with plenty of antioxidants!
Kale is one of the top superfoods. Kale’s high fiber, potassium, vitamin C and B6 content, contribute to increasing heart health; its high vitamin K content aids in calcium absorption and improving bone health; and consuming kale can also maintain healthy skin and nails and aid in digestion. You can enjoy kale raw in your salads or sandwiches, sautéed with garlic and olive oil, or as a crunchy chip by tossing in olive oil, sprinkling with your spice of choice and baking for 20 minutes at 275⁰F.
Otherwise known as “gumbo”, okra pods are rich in dietary fiber, minerals, folate, and vitamins A, C and K and are a very low-calorie vegetable. In order to get the most out of all okra’s health benefits, it is best to be eaten fresh. You must be sure to wash these pods thoroughly to remove dirt, soil, and any residual pesticides. Okra can also be enjoyed stewed, in soups, pickled, boiled, or dried for later use.
As cousins to the carrot family, parsnips are a sweet root, loaded in fiber, phytonutrients, and vitamins B, K, and E. Parsnips contain poly-acetylene anti-oxidants which help combat free radicals that can lead to cancers and disease. In preparation, parsnips should be washed and scrubbed, or you can also peel the skin. They can be eaten raw or cooked the same way as carrots: baked, broiled, roasted, mashed, or even pureed into a soup. One thing to keep in mind when cooking parsnips is they contain more sugar than starch, so can easily be overcooked.
In case you aren’t a big apple fan, pears are another tasty fall fruit you can enjoy! Fresh pears contain plenty of fiber, phytonutrients, and are one of the best sources of flavanols, along with apples. While pears are wonderful on their own, you can also chop them and add a sweet touch to all varieties of salads; mix into smoothies; or bake them into a pie. And don’t forget to eat the skin; this is where many antioxidants are found!
Such a wonderful, versatile vegetable, sweet potatoes can be used in all kinds of dishes: sweet or savory. Not only does one sweet potato provide 300% of your recommended vitamin A intake, but they are also a great source of vitamin C and fiber, and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients. The number of ways to prepare sweet potatoes are limitless; they can be baked, boiled, mashed, steamed, sautéed, fried, grilled, or made into my favorite: sweet potato pie.
Spaghetti Squash is also known as winter squash or spaghetti vegetable, spaghetti squash is much more than just fall table décor. This squash is a good source of vitamins A and C, potassium, and it even contains omega-3 fatty acids. What’s great about spaghetti squash is you can use it as a healthy alternative to pasta without losing the flavor of your favorite dishes. Spaghetti squashes can be baked or roasted. Roasting your squash before using it in a dish, makes it easier to handle as they can be difficult to cut through before cooking.
So, if you are over the pumpkin obsession and want to enjoy some in-season foods that are both delicious and nutritious, why not give one (or all) of these a try?