It’s autumn – time for cozy sweaters, crunchy, colourful leaves and a cornucopia of fresh, seasonal ingredients.
Pumpkin spice and Halloween candies may be what comes to mind when fall rolls around, but there are lots of options for healthy, fresh fare too.
Now that we’ve ushered in autumn, Global News asked a handful of registered dietitians for their favourite fall fruits and vegetables. We tasked them with picking the most nutritious and delicious options.
Here are their choices:
An obvious choice as fall is officially squash season. A handful of the experts turned to butternut squash, too.
“Squash is an excellent source of immune-boosting antioxidants alpha- and beta-carotene. They also support healthy eyesight and bone health,” according to Christy Brissette, an Ontario-based registered dietitian at 80 Twenty Nutrition.
They’re also incredibly tasty.
“Both kids and adults love butternut squash in comparison to leafy, cruciferous vegetables as butternut squash is sweet, nutty and soft in texture,” according to Jessica Tong, a Calgary, Alta.-based, registered dietitian.
Susan Macfarlane points to cranberries – and not the sweetened, dried variety you make be used to for topping on salads or yogurt. She’s talking about the fresh stuff.
“What most people don’t realize is that dried cranberries contain 18 times more sugar than the equivalent serving of fresh or frozen cranberries,” she told Global News.
Fresh and frozen cranberries also contain a polyphenol known as proanthocyanidins, an antioxidant that plays a role in cell communication.
These tasty gems also help with preventing the growth of bacteria in the urinary tract and digestive system.
Because they’re so tart, you only need a few to go a long way. Macfarlane adds them to smoothies, in baked goods and even in savoury dishes, like baked beans.
Nicole Osinga, a Courtice, Ont.-based registered dietitian, turns to beets each autumn because they’re so versatile.
“My favourite way is roasting them. Beets are beneficial for sports performance as naturally-occurring nitrates in beets can widen blood vessels, reduce the amount of oxygen your muscles need to perform, lower your blood pressure and increase stamina,” she said.
Cabbage is one of the most underrated vegetables, according to Andrea Miller, a Toronto-based registered dietitian.
“Cabbage lasts for ages in the fridge and it is one of the most economical veggies,” she said.
It can be used to make traditional coleslaw, cabbage rolls or sauerkraut. You can also throw them into salads, stir-fry and tacos.
It’s also an excellent source of vitamin C, fibre, potassium and folate.
Andrea D’Ambrosio, a Kitchener-based registered dietitian chose parsnips as her go-to autumn vegetable. They’re a root vegetable similar to carrots except they’re sweeter with a nutty flavour.
“In a one cup serving, there are seven grams of fibre helping to lower cholesterol and feel full for longer. You receive an impressive 35 per cent of your daily vitamin C which reduces the risk of some diseases and fights the signs of aging,” D’Ambrosio said.
She roasts them with olive oil, salt, pepper and rosemary. She even makes parsnip fries or parsnip mash mixed with potatoes.
Pomegranates are in season from October to January. The little seeds, called arils, are a great source of fibre to fill you up and are packed with antixoidants like ellagic acid and punicalagin, Brissette said.
“Ellagic aid may help prevent cancer while punicalagin has shown promise for reducing blood pressure. There is some emerging evidence that these antioxidants could help promote memory and cognition,” Brissette said.
This vegetable comes from the same family as parsley, carrots, dill and coriander. It also comes with a distinct taste similar to licorice or anise.
The entire plant is edible and can be eaten raw or cooked – although the green stringy stalks taste better when cooked.
“Nutritionally, fennel is a great source of carotenoids, lutein, zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, which have a role in maintaining healthy vision. It’s also high in vitamins C and K, and a good source of magnesium, copper and potassium,” Macfarlane said.
With Halloween around the corner, this orange vegetable is also a great autumn selection because they’re packed with beta carotene, fibre and potassium.
“When storing carrots, trim off the green tops – these can be saved and eaten but should be removed for storage as the greens can draw moisture from the carrots, leaving them limp and dry,” Miller warned.
Carrots can be kept in the fridge for up to three months. Try roasting them, glazing them, adding them to soups or salads and even in baking.
Miller is a fan of baby turnips because they’re sweeter in taste and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Turnips are a great source of vitamin C and fibre. They can be roasted alongside your favourite meats, added to soups or stews and paired with carrots, parsnips and beets for a colourful, nutrient-rich side dish.