14 Fall Superfoods You’re Still Not Eating
Adding these autumnal delights to your plate will net you the nutrients you need to power through the season.
Flavors of fall
Summer is gone, and with it, all those antioxidant-rich berries, hydrating melons, and farmer's market-fresh greens. But don't despair—fall isn't just pumpkin-spiced lattes and Halloween candy. Harvest season has an abundance of superfoods you've probably overlooked. And as the days get shorter, darker, and colder, it's more important than ever to load up on foods full of nutrients that can help boost your immune system, energy, and more. We tapped top nutrition experts for their favorite fall foods with benefits.
It's easy to overlook this fall staple—it's a superfood in plain sight. Apples are a great source of fiber as well as antioxidants. A substance in apples called quercetin may play a role in memory and learning and help ward off dementia and other age-related illnesses, says Kaley Todd, RD, a nutritionist with the meal delivery plan Sun Basket. And a diet that includes apples may help reduce the risk of heart disease as well as various cancers. Don't just save them for snacks. Stir some chopped apples into oatmeal, puree them to sweeten smoothies and soups, or use them to replace some of the oil in baked goods. Find out the healthiest fruits for your body.
The buzz on these root veggies is that their high levels of nitrates may help improve blood flow and get more oxygen to muscles, which could help boost athletic performance. A study in the Journal of Human Hypertension found improvements in blood pressure and inflammation when individuals with hypertension ate either nine ounces of cooked beets or approximately one cup of raw beet juice for two weeks. And even their leaves are edible, says Todd. You can throw shredded raw beets into salads or slaws if you don't have time to roast or steam them first. Another favorite serving suggestion: Slice them thinly and bake for a healthy potato chip alternative. Or you could serve beets with sautéed beet leaves.
Most cruciferous veggies—think broccoli, kale, cauliflower—are considered superfoods; Brussels sprouts are in the same family. Like their cousins, they contain sulforaphane, a compound that has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. They're also high in fiber; plus, a one-cup serving has more than 100 percent of the vitamin C you need in a day, points out Jessica Crandall, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and founder of vitalrd.com. Crandall enjoys them roasted and topped with a little Parmesan cheese or balsamic vinegar.
Like other orange-skinned produce, this gourd is a top source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant pro-vitamin your body uses to make vitamin A. It's also got B vitamins, which help with energy production; to round out the nutrient alphabet, butternut squash also delivers immunity-boosting vitamin C, which you'll want plenty of as cold and flu season gears up, says Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, owner of BZ Nutrition in New York City. Cube butternut squash and roast it with a little olive oil or maple syrup; Zeitlin likes to spiralize the squash into noodles for use as a pasta substitute. These are the other foods that taste better in the fall.
If your only association with figs is "Newton," you're missing out. Loaded with potassium, calcium, and iron, they're also high in fiber, says Todd, which makes them good at keeping you regular. Their natural sweetness and jammy texture make them a key ingredient in many healthier bars and baked goods, but chopped fresh figs are a delicious addition to salad or bruschetta. For a quick appetizer, says Todd, top half a fig with a dab of goat cheese, some chopped walnuts, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
These small orange citrus bombs are readily identified by their size, edible skin, and sour flesh. Like oranges, they're rich in fiber and vitamin C. Fiber can help with weight control and cholesterol management, says Zeitlin, and it may lower your risk for developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Kumquats make a great snack since you can eat them whole without peeling. Zeitlin also likes them mixed with Greek yogurt and nuts.
"The fall is prime mushroom season, especially wild mushrooms like maitake (also known as hen of the woods)," says Todd. Wild mushrooms boast more of certain vitamins and minerals than conventional mushrooms, including calcium, iron, and zinc. Maitakes taste delicious grilled, mixed in sauces, on pizzas, or on their own, sautéed in olive oil or butter. Don't miss these other healthy vegetables you should start liking.
Their high fiber content—6 grams, on average—helps gut health, says Todd. Pears also contain plenty of vitamin C, which is concentrated in the skin, so don't peel them! The potassium in pears helps with nerve and muscle function. You can eat pears the same way you'd enjoy an apple: Add a few slices to your oatmeal, salad, or grilled cheese. You can also poach them for a healthy dessert.
Though not as common in the United States, persimmons are Japan's national fruit. They're technically a berry but look more like orange tomatoes. They're loaded with vitamin A, delivering more than half of your daily recommended intake, says Zeitlin. "They are also a great source of folate for women looking to get pregnant, and high in magnesium, which helps combat stress and anxiety." While Zeitlin enjoys them in salad or oatmeal, she says they also hold up really well to being baked or broiled and served as a dessert.
These ruby red gems are another great source of potassium (8 ounces of the juice has more potassium than a banana). Plus, they contain antioxidants that may help muscle recovery after strength training. One UCLA study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that pomegranate juice has, on average, more antioxidant capacity than acai juice, grape juice, or green tea, says Elizabeth Shaw, RD, who launched the food blog Shaw Simple Swaps. You can sprinkle the jewel-like red seeds (called arils) on yogurt, mix with grains or oatmeal, toss onto salads, or use the juice in smoothies. Check out this guide to what's in season when.
Though mostly associated with Halloween, pies, and sugary coffee drinks, this fall squash is actually quite wholesome and nutrient-dense. "They've got fiber, potassium, and a wealth of antioxidants including vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene," says Todd. "Consuming foods rich in beta-carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer, offer protection against asthma and heart disease, and delay aging and body degeneration." You can puree pumpkin flesh into sauces or soups, or use it as a replacement for butter or oil in baking recipes. And pumpkin seeds are a good source of magnesium and zinc. Toast them in the oven and sprinkle on whatever strikes your fancy—salt, pepper, garlic powder, cayenne, cinnamon, etc.
This red-hued lettuce is actually a member of the sunflower family, and it has a slightly bitter and spicy flavor, similar to other winter greens. In addition to vitamin C, radicchio provides folate, copper, and vitamin K, which helps with bone health, says Amy Gorin, RD, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area. Cooking the leaves can help mellow the flavor—try radicchio roasted or grilled—and slightly charred.
A healthier alternative to white potatoes, these orange spuds are a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene. You can prep them any way you can other potatoes; just note that boiling them preserves more of the beta-carotene and makes it easier for your body to absorb the nutrients, advises Todd. Cubed and roasted, they make a great vegetarian taco served with black beans in a soft tortilla. Check out these other fall superfoods you should add to your diet.
People tend to forget about salad when the temperatures drop, but there are still plenty of hearty winter greens to toss—and chard is a prime example. "One cup of cooked Swiss chard contains only 20 calories but more than 3 grams of protein and almost 4 grams of fiber," says Gorin. Plus, you'll also get a good dose of blood pressure-taming potassium. It's tougher than summer lettuces, more like kale in texture, so it stands up to cooking—try tossing some in pasta dishes. Next, find out the 50 ways to have a healthier fall.
- Kaley Todd, RD, a nutritionist with the meal delivery plan Sun Basket
- Journal of Human Hypertension: "Improvement of hypertension, endothelial function and systemic inflammation following short-term supplementation with red beet (Beta vulgaris L.) juice: a randomized crossover pilot study"
- Elizabeth Shaw, RD, who launched the food blog Shaw Simple Swaps
- Amy Gorin, RD, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in the New York City area
- Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, owner of BZ Nutrition in New York City