Every child learns — at about the same age when they start tracing their handprint onto construction paper to make a turkey decoration — that the first Thanksgiving feast was to celebrate a successful harvest. All it takes nowadays to experience the season’s bounty is to visit a farmer’s market, farm stand, or even the local supermarket, where you’ll find a huge array of winter and summer squashes, cruciferous veggies, and fall fruit.
Even better? These are the very foods you need to help keep you healthy as we go into cold and flu season! While it’s important to practice good hygiene, exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep, nutrition is one of the easiest ways to boost your immune system. Read on for some of the best autumnal sources of antioxidants, straight from the field!
If carving a pumpkin or two in the days running up to Halloween is the closest you get to winter squash, it’s time to familiarize yourself with these gorgeous and good-for-you gourds.
The most popular, and probably easiest to find, winter squash varieties are butternut, acorn, delicata, spaghetti, and hubbard. While they aren’t completely interchangeable in terms of either cooking or nutrition, they definitely share some characteristics. Winter squashes are high in vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, and carotenoids.
Squash is also rich in polysaccharides, a type of dietary fiber that helps keep blood sugar from spiking. They are complex carbohydrates and low on the glycemic index.
Although winter squashes can be peeled and diced for use in recipes, their thick, tough outer skin and bumpy, ridged and irregular shapes can make this a tricky proposition. It’s much easier to roast them. Simply halve using a large cleaver (watch your fingers!), then place cut-side down on a baking sheet that has been lightly brushed with oil. Bake at 400 F for 25-45 minutes, depending on size. When you can easily poke a fork into the squash, it’s done. Let cool, scoop out the seeds, and then scoop out the flesh. Mash with cinnamon and maple syrup, or incorporate into a savory dish like a curried squash soup or a harvest-vegetable chili.
These off-maligned little spheres can be utterly delicious if prepared correctly, so don’t let childhood memories of mushy, bitter, boiled sprouts stand in the way of getting your cruciferous veg on!
Brussels sprouts are low in calories and high in many nutrients and vitamins, including vitamins K, C, and B6. They also offer fiber to help with regularity and gut health, heaps of antioxidants that boost your immune response and help to repair tissue, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are also involved in regulating the immune system.
To prepare Brussels sprouts, trim off the stem end and any discolored outer leaves. If the sprouts are large, cut in half lengthwise. Toss in olive oil liberally seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and any other herbs or spices you like. Place on a baking sheet or in a cast-iron skillet, making sure cut sides are down, and roast at 450F for about 25 minutes or until they are tender inside and have a crisp, browned, caramelized interior.
For an extra jolt of flavor, use bacon grease in lieu of olive oil, and sprinkle bacon bits over the sprouts before serving. Another tasty serving suggestion is to sprinkle the roasted sprouts with freshly squeezed lemon juice and parmesan cheese.
Every November, you dutifully buy a can of jellied cranberry sauce and watch as it slithers out of the can and onto your serving dish. But do you ever give whole, fresh
This seasonal berry is worth a second glance. Cranberries are rich in fiber, vitamin C, cranberries much thought? manganese, vitamin E, vitamin K1, and copper.
“Cranberries can help to support heart health and reduce the risk of infection, particularly urinary tract infections,” says Dr. Anteneh Belay, a doctor who provides urgent care in Deer Park, TX. “Their high levels of vitamin C might also assist in warding off colds and flu.”
Fresh cranberries, although delicious, are very tart. Unlike their sweeter cousins blueberries, they’re probably not a food you want to snack on out of hand — but they make a fine addition to many dishes, both special holiday treats and more humble, everyday fare. Make orange-cranberry muffins or quickbreads, toss them into your morning oatmeal or evening salad, or freeze them to add a festive note to punches and cocktails.
Time to Get Cookin’!
Of course, these are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg when it comes to delicious, nutritious seasonal foods. Why not try something new this year? Pick up an unusual vegetable or fruit and then do some experimenting in the kitchen, or source recipes and preparation methods online. No matter which vegetables you choose, you can’t go wrong eating seasonally.