Although you might see pumpkin-flavored everything released in stores this time of year—pumpkins are just one of the dozens of seasonal produce options available in New England during the fall. Massachusetts General Hospital Registered Dietitian, Alison Graziano, RDN, LDN, provides her favorite fall produce picks and their nutrition benefits for you to try this season.
Brussel sprouts provide a good amount of vitamin K, vitamin C, and folate. They’re considered cruciferous vegetables, in the same family as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale. These cruciferous vegetables have a sulfur-containing phytonutrient called glucosinaolate. Glucosinolate is not only responsible for brussels sprouts' bitter taste and smell but it’s also an antioxidant. Cooking and digesting brussels sprouts breaks down the glucosinolate into isothiocyanates which have been researched for their anti-cancer effects. Brussels sprouts may seem intimidating to cook with at first, especially if you buy them still on the stalk, but simply cutting them in half, tossing with olive oil and roasting them cut-side-down on a parchment-lined baking sheet at 400 degrees F for 18-25 minutes will do the trick.
Apples provide an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C, and a variety of beneficial phytonutrients. One of those phytonutrients is quercetin, a flavonoid type of antioxidant known for its anti-inflammatory properties. The whole apple contains the most nutrients. Removing the skin removes much of the beneficial fiber and antioxidants. The fiber found in apples is called pectin, which is fermented by beneficial bacteria in the colon, producing short chain fatty acids, which can help prevent chronic diseases. Apple juice has been filtered to remove solids, removing much of the fiber, and often pasteurized, destroying most of the flavonoids. However, apple cider is made from pressed raw apples, is not filtered and if purchased unpasteurized contains more flavonoids than apple juice. However, additional sugar is often added to both forms so it’s best to eat the whole fruit to maximize the health benefits. Cut up an apple into slices and spread with nut or seed butter for a balanced snack.
“Winter” squashes are unique for their irregular shapes, bumpy skin, and vibrant colorful patterns compared to their summertime counterparts. Varieties of winter squashes include butternut, delicata, spaghetti, kabocha, acorn, and sugar pumpkins. These squashes provide a variety of nutrients including carotenoids (beta carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin), fiber, magnesium, and potassium. There is a lack of studies looking specifically at the health benefits of winter squash, but the nutrients they contain have been researched individually for their role in the prevention of chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and high cholesterol. If you are new to preparing winter squash, you may feel intimidated by its thick flesh. Forget peeling, you can cut the cleaned squash in half to form “bowls,” into slices, or cubes, removing the seeds before roasting at 400 degrees F for 25-45 minutes depending on the size. The flesh should be tender once cooked.
Surprise! Sweet potatoes are neither related to regular potatoes nor yams. Chances are “yams” found in your local supermarket are actually a variety of sweet potatoes. Regardless, sweet potatoes are a source of vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber. Their orange flesh is richest in an antioxidant known as beta-carotene, while sweet potatoes with purple flesh are richer in anthocyanins, another form of antioxidant. Although sweet potatoes have a different micronutrient profile than regular white potatoes, their glycemic index and glycemic load are not much different from regular white potatoes, so you’ll still want to be mindful of portion sizes. Before cooking, scrub the skins but don’t peel them, as this is where a lot of the nutrients are found. For roasted sweet potato wedges, cut into wedges, coat with olive oil, sprinkle with dried herbs or spices if desired, and roast in an even single layer on a baking sheet at 375 degrees F for 25-35 minutes.