As the seasons change, you may notice that some summer produce — like tomatoes, which stick around in stores all year — loses much of its flavor. But the sweet and savory flavors of fall favorites are just getting started.
In the fall months, zucchinis and berries begin to disappear from the produce aisle. Luckily, autumn brings with it a multitude of nutritious, seasonal fruits and vegetables that you can incorporate into your diet. On your next trip to the farmer's market or grocery store, look for these healthy items.
Thick-skinned squash like butternut, acorn and delicata tend to pop up in stores with more frequency in October. Unlike summer squashes like zucchini or yellow squash, these squashes have sweet flesh that lends itself well to roasting and puréeing into soups.
Winter squashes are typically dense in vitamin A, which is important for vision health, and vitamin C, which helps keep the immune system strong. For a pasta alternative, try spaghetti squash, which yields thin, noodle-like flesh when baked and scraped with a fork.
Although you can probably find greens like kale, collards and spinach in the grocery store year-round, these nutrient-packed vegetables are particularly plentiful and tasty during the cold weather months.
Greens are low in calories and can be steamed, sautéed or eaten raw. Research has suggested that consuming leafy greens like kale can reduce risk factors for heart disease in people with high cholesterol levels.
Branching Out With Apples
They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and there's no better time to test that theory than autumn. You may notice that your market or grocery store tends to carry more varieties of apples around this time of year. Apples aren't just a crunchy and delicious fruit — research has shown that they can lower cholesterol and improve heart health.
Raw apples make perfect on-the-go snacks, but cooked or dried apples can be delicious, too. For a nutrient-dense fall dish, sauté diced apples with kale or spinach.
Healthier Twists on a Traditional Favorite: Sweet Potatoes
Usually, sweet potatoes appear during holiday gatherings smothered in butter, sugar and marshmallows. However, there are healthier — and just as delicious — ways of serving this nutritious fall staple. Like white potatoes, sweet potatoes can be baked, roasted or mashed.
Sweet potatoes are rich in beta carotene, which may help prevent cancer and treat high blood pressure. When preparing them, scrub the skin thoroughly instead of peeling it off. The skin is rich in fiber, which aids in digestion and promotes colon health.
If you purchase sweet potatoes at a farmer's market, you may also find sweet potato greens, the leaves and stems that grow from the potatoes. These earthy greens can be sautéed or steamed, much like kale or collard greens.
Remember, filling your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables is the best way to get a wide variety of nutrients. As the weather cools down, challenge yourself to try more seasonal, nutritious produce.