While summer produce might get all the love, true nutrition nuts know winter is really where it's at when it comes to the best superfoods. From leafy greens to plump pumpkins, a variety of fruits and vegetables are in season during fall and winter, and they deserve a place on your menu. By bumping up your consumption of fresh produce, you'll be in tip-top nutritional shape when cold and flu season comes around. Read on to discover which superfoods are best during the chillier months.
These beautiful orange fruits are both flavorful and nutritious. Persimmons are in season between October and early January and they are rich in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A, and a variety of minerals. Japanese Fuyu and Hachiya persimmons are most common, but you may find native varieties as well. At 118 calories for a large fruit, persimmons are diet-friendly as well as tasty. Choose persimmons with bright, glossy skin for optimal taste. At their ripest state, these fruits develop cinnamon and sweet notes. Enjoy them with a cup of green tea for a relaxing fall treat, or keep them in bowls around the kitchen for snacking -- and admiring.
A staple in salads and side dishes during the holiday season, this tart fall fruit might make your mouth pucker, but it has some unique anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits. Nutritionist Betty Murray says cranberry juice has long been used as a natural remedy for urinary tract infections due to its phytonutrient levels. A 2009 review of recent research published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition notes that cranberries may fight cellular inflammation, which is implicated in cardiovascular disease and cancer. Use fresh cranberries to give a bittersweet kick to dishes, or make homemade cranberry sauce for a healthier classic holiday dish.
These aromatic and mildly sweet fruits are nutritious and great to cook with. They are high in vitamin C. If you've never tried them, they taste something like a cross between a pear and an apple. Quinces are inedible raw, but they are delectable when cooked. Enjoy quince fruits between October and December. You'll find them at farmers markets, organic grocers and specialty stores. They're a natural choice for jams and jellies because they're rich in pectin, a natural gelling agent. Pectin gives structure to fruit fillings and spreads, and it contributes to their rich, sumptuous flavor.
4. Sweet Potatoes
A seasonal favorite, sweet potatoes and recipes are found on holiday dinner tables around the U.S.. Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist Mindy Black points out that sweet potatoes contain large amounts of vitamin A. One serving of sweet potatoes packs in more than seven times your daily vitamin A needs. Starchy and sweet, this versatile veggie can kick-start a multitude of dishes. Try combining roasted sweet potatoes with peppers as a topping for arugula or spinach salads. Add goat cheese and chicken to turn this side dish into a filling entree. Cooked sweet potatoes are also delicious lightly buttered or absolutely plain.
Broccoli can be a healthy addition to your fall menu planning. This plant from the cabbage family is high in vitamin C, fiber, beta-carotene, folate and potassium. At only 15 to 25 calories per serving, it's also kind to the waistline. Served steamed, this cool-season crop makes a simple and nutritious side dish. It's also a great addition to creamy winter soups and casseroles. Add this classic vegetable to salads or chop it up for dunking in a variety of tangy dips. Top sautéed broccoli with toasted nuts, orange slices and olives for a savory, sweet twist.
6. Pumpkin Seeds
Dietitian and exercise physiologist Mindy Black says that one serving of pumpkin seeds contains 14% of your zinc needs for the day. Try them toasted with a dash of sea salt and olive oil, and sprinkle the toasted seeds over salads. Pumpkin seeds make a tasty, crunchy topping as a lower-calorie substitute for croutons.
Pomegranates are powerful fruits in both nutrition and flavor. Certified Nutritionist and Holistic Health Counselor Betty Murray praises pomegranates for their high levels of flavonoids and polyphenols. This tart fruit is a popular addition to cocktails, juices, smoothies and salads. The tough, red outer layer opens to reveal edible seeds enclosed in juice-filled sacs. Murray notes that a serving of pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than red wine, green tea or blueberries. Snack on the seeds solo, or sprinkle over salads to add a little tart sweetness. Pomegranates are a welcome addition to tangy marinades and a perfect topping for yogurt and cereal.
Kale, the more trendy member of the cabbage family, comes plain or curly and packs a punch of health benefits. Betty Murray, a certified nutritionist and founder of Living Well Dallas says kale comes packed with beta-carotene, folate and vitamin C and is high in fiber. Murray says kale is one of the richest vegetable sources of calcium, magnesium and potassium. One cup of chopped kale contains 10% of your daily value of calcium, 24% of your daily value of folate, 134% of your vitamin A and vitamin C, and a whopping +500% of vitamin K. Try it solo and sautéed or add it to soups and salads.
According to Dallas-based nutritionist Betty Murray, beets are hard to beat when it comes to superfoods. These root vegetables are highly nutritious, as they contain vitamin B-6 and minerals like iron and magnesium. Mix beets and goat cheese into an arugula salad for a healthy and tangy side dish. Grill or boil them and serve with other vegetables. Beets are also popular pickled and eaten cold.
Bowls of pears are another fall and winter favorite appearing on kitchen tables in decorative bowls throughout the season. This popular holiday fruit basket gift is also also packed with vitamin C and fiber according to Florida-based dietitian Mindy Black. Pears also contain 5 grams of fiber per serving. Black recommends slicing 6 pears and mixing them with cinnamon. Add to a slow cooker with pork loin and cook on low for 6 hours for a healthy and flavorful meal.
11. Brussels Sprouts
Mom knew her stuff when she nagged you to eat your Brussels sprouts. In addition to vitamins C and A and the mineral manganese, nutritionist Betty Murray says Brussels sprouts are also high in flavonoids. One cup of Brussels sprouts contains 4 grams of dietary fiber, which aids digestion, prevents constipation and helps prevent spikes in blood sugar. Steam, roast or boil Brussels sprouts and combine with cooked, chopped apples for a seasonal and healthy side dish.
Fall-harvested varieties of squash — such as butternut, delicata and spaghetti squash — deliver plenty of dietary fiber, making them exceptionally heart-and digestion-friendly choices, according to Dallas nutritionist Betty Murray. Significant amounts of potassium, vitamin B-6 and folate round-out winter squash's superfood status. In a 1-cup serving of squash, you get nearly half the recommended daily dose of vitamin C. Fall squash is abundant in antioxidants such as beta-carotene, and its high antioxidant content protects you from pollutants and chemicals and may have anti-inflammatory properties.
What Do YOU Think?
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- Cornell Cooperative Extension: Broccoli and Cauliflower - Fall's Super Vegetables
- Cooking Light: Persimmons in Perspective
- Natural Food Benefits: Quince
- Cooking Light: In Season: Quince
- USDA Nutritional Database: Sweet Potato
- USDA Nutritional Database: Pumpkin and Squash Seeds
- Nutrition and You: Pumpkin Seeds Nutrition Facts
- National Institutes of Health: Vitamin A
- NCBI: Antioxidant Activity of Pomegranate Juice and its Relationship with Phenolic Composition and Processing
- USDA Nutritional Database: Raw Kale
- The New York Times: Beets: The New Spinach
- USDA Nutritional Database: Beets
- USDA National Database: Raw Pears
- USDA National Database: Brussels Sprouts
- California Kiwifruit: Health and Nutrition
- USDA National Database: Butternut Squash
- USDA National Database: Spaghetti Squash