Move over, pumpkin pie and apple crisps. Though we’re in the heart of fall, and tree leaves are turning red and bugs are returning back to where they belong (which is outside my home, thank you very much), certain produce items are just starting to peak. Since they are at their most ripe in the fall, these foods both taste the best and contain the most nutrients during this brisk season.
Don’t let the fact that mushrooms are fungi scare you. Mushrooms contain helpful B vitamins that your body uses to convert food into energy. Riboflavin (AKA Vitamin B2) contains antioxidants that fight damaging free radicals, which contribute to the aging process and potentially heart disease and cancer. Niacin (AKA Vitamin B3) increases “good” HDL cholesterol levels, as well as helps your nervous system, digestive system, skin, hair, and eye functions.
If these benefits aren’t enough to convince you, the fungi taste pretty great, too. Mushrooms have a distinct umami taste, often described as being meaty, earthy, and buttery. Use them in your salads, stir-fry, or eggs in the morning. Or if you feel like cooking something a little more fancy, try out this recipe from Feed Me Phoebe for a healthy mushroom risotto!
Grapes, or as I like to call them, pre-wine, have polyphenols that are proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and lower blood pressure. In addition, grapes are a great source of manganese, which benefits bone structure and metabolism. Grapes also store a great supply of vitamin B6 and thiamin (Vitamin B1), which both play an important role in converting food to energy and boosting your cardiovascular health. Grapes also contain some potassium and Vitamin C.
Grapes can be eaten directly from the stem after a quick wash, or frozen as a healthy substitute for candy. Believe it or not, frozen grapes are super sweet! They can also be used to liven up salads, thrown into savory dishes to add sweetness, or placed on a cheese platter to bring out distinct tones of the cheese being consumed. Who doesn’t love cheese, am I right?
Being the Elsa of cruciferous vegetables, cauliflower is often underappreciated because media tells viewers not to consume white foods (such as white bread, white potatoes, or white sugar). However, regardless of its color, cauliflower is packed with nutrients. For example, it has glucosinolates, which may decrease the risk of certain cancers. Cauliflower is also an excellent source of potassium. While a medium banana has 422 mg/105 calories, one cup of cauliflower has 320/27 calories. So with one serving size of cauliflower, you will get only slightly less potassium with a much lower caloric intake in comparison to a banana, one of the most well-known source of potassium. Cauliflower also contains 52 mg of Vitamin C, while an orange has 64 mg. So instead of chugging acidic orange juice when you catch a cold, try consuming a little more cauliflower to boost your immune system.
A big recent health trend is the substitution of carbohydrates for vegetables. Cauliflower is a great staple for this. For example, chopping cauliflower in a food processor and using this as a basis for pizza crusts, rice, or even mashed potatoes is increasing amongst recipes and food blogs. I would try this recipe from The Nutritious Kitchen for a healthy cauliflower gratin—perfect comfort food for the cold weather to come.
With this all said, it can’t hurt to try these non-traditional, in-season autumn foods. Maybe one day, we will see these as trending fall produce items. You can start by using them in your cooking. Try making a cauliflower mashed potato dish for Thanksgiving this year, and impress your family and guests with your creative and healthy, yet flavorful options!