17 Best Superfoods From Your Autumn Harvest

Adding these autumnal delights to your plate will net you the nutrients you need to power through the season.

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Best Superfoods for Fall: Pumpkin

There are hundreds of substances in foods that help protect you from heart disease, cancer and premature aging. Many of them cause the bright colours in autumn fruits and vegetables, especially plentiful and delicious at this time of year. Pumpkins, for example, are rich in beta carotene, which may reduce the risk of developing certain cancers and heart disease. They may also deter some aspects of aging. Pumpkins are low in calories, fat and sodium, and high in fibre. The seeds are high in protein and are loaded with magnesium and iron, too!

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Butternut squash
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Best Superfoods for Fall: Butternut Squash

Butternut squash is one of healthiest foods around and a perennial favourite from the fall harvest. Here’s another nutrition tip: like other winter squash, butternut squash is high in vitamin C and beta carotene.

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Best Superfoods for Fall: Pomegranates

This fruit is especially high in antioxidants like ellagic acid that reduce inflammationa factor in both heart disease and many types of cancer. There’s even more good news: a new study found that pomegranate juice reduced the growth rate of prostate cancer. The juice improves blood flow to your heart and may promote blood flow to sexual organs, potentially improving sexual potency. Maybe that’s why Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, was credited with planting the first pomegranate tree on Cyprus!

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Red tomatoes
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Best Superfoods for Fall: Tomatoes

Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease, breast, lung and prostate cancer. Cooking helps activate lycopene, so tomato paste and sauce may be especially beneficial. Tomatoes also have vitamins A, C, E and potassium.

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Yellow, green and red bell peppers
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Best Superfoods for Fall: Bell Peppers

The red ones, especially, may help boost your immune system. They are excellent sources of vitamin C (three times as much as oranges) and beta carotene.

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Whole ginger, ginger slices and ginger tea
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Best Superfoods for Fall: Ginger

This spice contains a compound called gingerol that may lower blood pressure and increase circulation. It may also help relieve migraines and arthritis pain by blocking inflammation-causing prostaglandins.

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Swiss chard
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Best Superfoods for Fall: Kale or Swiss Chard

These and other dark green leafy vegetables contain lutein, which helps protect your vision against macular degeneration and cataracts. Kale is rich in beta carotene, vitamins C, E and folate, as well as calcium and magnesium, important for strong bones. And one cup of cooked Swiss chard has about a third of your RDA of magnesium, which helps keep nerve and muscle cells healthy.

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Red apples in a crate
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Best Superfoods for Fall: Apples

It’s easy to overlook this fall staple—it’s a superfood in plain sight. Apples are a great source of fibre 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. 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.

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Best Superfoods for Fall: Beets

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 favourite serving suggestion: Slice them thinly and bake for a healthy potato chip alternative. Or you could serve beets with sautéed beet leaves.

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Roasted brussels sprouts with ham and onions
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Best Superfoods for Fall: Brussels sprouts

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 fibre; plus, a one-cup serving has more than 100 per cent 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.

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Best Superfoods for Fall: Figs

If your only association with figs is “Newton,” you’re missing out. Loaded with potassium, calcium, and iron, they’re also high-fibre, 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.

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Best Superfoods for Fall: Kumquats

These small orange citrus bombs are readily identified by their size, edible skin, and sour flesh. Like oranges, they’re rich in fibre and vitamin C. Fibre 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.

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Maitake mushrooms
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Best Superfoods for Fall: Maitake mushrooms

“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.

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Best Superfoods for Fall: Pears

Their high fibre content—six 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.

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Best Superfoods for Fall: Persimmons

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.

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Best Superfoods for Fall: Radicchio

This red-hued lettuce is actually a member of the sunflower family, and it has a slightly bitter and spicy flavour, 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 flavour—try radicchio roasted or grilled—and slightly charred.

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Sweet potatoes
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Best Superfoods for Fall: Sweet potatoes

A healthier alternative to white potatoes, these orange spuds are a good source of fibre, 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.

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

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