Fall is in full swing, and I couldn’t be happier because it’s my favorite season. There are many reasons why I love fall, but I especially enjoy it because it’s the season of super nutritious fruits and veggies. After a long and hot summer of sunny days on the beach, enjoying long nights out and consuming more ice cream and cold beers than I should have, I’m so ready to get active in the kitchen again. It’s time for some delicious fall soups, stews, and baked veggies!
Last week we went to a veggie farm that’s just 10 minutes away from us and picked up a box of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis, and a couple of pumpkins. I try to stick to seasonal produce as much as I can because it’s the freshest and most flavorful when picked ripe. It’s also better for the environment as the produce doesn’t have to travel around the globe to reach my plate.
To get the most out of what fall has to offer, check out my list of best autumn produce. All things on this list are delicious, healthy and versatile for making colorful and tasty dishes.
Pumpkins are probably the most famous fall veggie, and they aren’t just for Halloween. The plants typically mature and produce the best pumpkins around October and November. They are perfect for everything from soups and stews to pies.
Health Benefits of Pumpkins
Pumpkins are low in calories but rich in fiber and water, which can help you manage or avoid constipation. They are also high in alpha- and beta-carotene, phytonutrients that can help promote healthy vision (1).
Pumpkin seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties (2). The seeds are also high in zinc, a mineral that’s essential for normal prostate function (3). On top of all of that, pumpkin seeds are known to be used for treating intestinal parasites (4).
Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, and Brussel sprouts are my big favorites, especially because of their distinctive taste. Cabbage is perfect for coleslaw and other cabbage-based raw salads, but it’s also excellent in stews, like ühepajatoit (hotchpotch), Max’s favorite Estonian meal. Brussel sprouts and broccoli are super tasty in soups and stews.
Health Benefits of Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous veggies are packed with vitamins C and A and they contain high amounts of glucosinolates, which have cancer-fighting properties (5). Cabbages and other similar veggies are also high in sulfur, a mineral that is involved in hundreds of physiological processes. One of its most important roles is in the synthesis of glutathione, a super powerful antioxidant made by our bodies (6).
Apples are one of the most popular fall fruits although they are more or less available throughout the year. Fall apples are usually the tastiest, though. Varieties commonly associated with fall include Gala and Granny Smith apples.
They are perfect for eating raw as well as for baking apple pies. But be careful when cooking with apples; many of the healthy nutrients are only found in apple peel, so don’t throw it out. Instead, soak the apples in a water-baking soda mix for 12 minutes to clean them properly (7).
Health Benefits of Apples
Apples are low in calories, yet high in fiber and water, making them very filling and a great food for supporting weight-loss (8). They are also known to lower the risk of diabetes (9) and help fight asthma (10). Apples also contain lots of nutrients necessary for healthy skin, including vitamin C, which helps to build collagen and copper that encourages the production of melanin, which, in turn, helps protect your skin against UV rays.
Cauliflower is the freshest and most nutritious in the fall, and it’s one of the easiest vegetables to include in your diet. Add it in soups, grill it, grate into rice or couscous, or use it to make a healthy pizza base. My favorite cauliflower dishes are this cauliflower mushroom risotto, and this cauliflower crusted grilled cheese sandwich.
Health Benefits of Cauliflower
Cauliflower is highly nutritious with lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. It’s best known for its content of sulforaphane, an antioxidant, which is known to protect against colon and prostate cancer (11).
Romaine lettuce is easily available during late summer and early fall months and is rich in flavor and nutrients. Iceberg lettuce, on the other hand, is available throughout most of the fall and has higher water content. Both are great for salads and healthy sandwiches which are trademark meals for weight loss.
Health Benefits of Lettuces
Lettuces are low in calories and high in water, which makes them the perfect food for those watching their weight. They are also high in essential vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients such as beta-carotene.
Potatoes get a bad rep for being a starchy veggie, but they are great for fall meals. There are countless ways to use them: bake them in the oven, stuff them with spinach and feta, boil into a puree, or use in salads. Whichever way you decide to consume them, you’re in for a delicious and highly filling treat!
Potatoes (and all veggies) lose their mineral content when boiled, so to get the maximum nutrients potatoes contain, steam or cook them in the oven. You can also try to find ways to use the boiling water in other dishes, such as sauces.
Health Benefits of Potatoes
Potatoes are a good source of nutrients, such as vitamins C and B6, potassium, and manganese. They also contain resistant starch, which is known to reduce insulin resistance and thus improve blood sugar control (12).
Like apples, pears are very popular autumn fruits as they are in season throughout most of the fall. Their subtle sweetness and mild crunch make them a pantry-must-have for the occasional healthy snack. Pears are also great for using in salads, desserts, and cakes.
Health Benefits of Pears
The high water and fiber content make them another great food for weight loss. Not only that, but pears can also help improve digestion (13) and the different phenolic compounds found in pears (14) may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (15).
Mushrooms are not actually vegetables (they’re fungi) but they are often grouped in the veggie category for cooking purposes. I am a big fan of mushrooms as they have a great texture, mild flavor, and have versatile uses in the kitchen. Mushrooms are also super healthy: they’re a low-calorie food that’s fat- and cholesterol-free, they’re low on sodium, and packed with fiber and lots of important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
Health benefits of Mushrooms
Mushrooms are high in selenium (16), an essential mineral that acts as an antioxidant and protects our body from oxidative stress (17). Mushrooms also contain lots of vitamins (18), including different B vitamins such as B6 which is important for heart health (19) and B12 as well as folic acid that protect our nervous system (20).
Like mushrooms, the chestnut is not actually a vegetable – it is considered a nut AND a fruit at the same time. I’ve included chestnuts in this list as they are a very nutrient-dense food that is loaded with health benefits. For those who don’t know, chestnuts have been an important food source in many cultures such as the Mediterranean, China, Japan, and Korea for thousands of years. They’re crunchy, slightly sweet, very versatile to use in the kitchen, and the best part – you can pick them yourself!
Health benefits of Chestnuts
Chestnuts are high in fiber, which can help improve digestion. They contain a lot of potassium, a mineral that’s responsible for a healthy cardiovascular system and controlling blood pressure (21). Chestnuts also provide a decent amount of vitamin C (22) and antioxidants (23) that are necessary for our overall health.
There you have it – my must-have fall vegetable and fruit list. Not only are all of them very tasty and versatile, but they also contain lots of essential nutrients that are important for our wellbeing.
So now it’s time to cook! Enjoy the fresh taste these fruits and veggies offer and let me know in the comments section what your favorite recipes are this fall.