The word “superfood” has gained popularity in recent years, as people are more in pursuit of optimal health and longevity than ever. Superfoods, described as nutritionally rich foods that provide solid overall health benefits, are characterized by having high levels of vitamins and minerals as well as other beneficial nutrients like antioxidants, protein, fiber, and healthy fats — all of which boost health and are thought to ward off illness. Additionally, superfoods are typically plant-based and notoriously versatile, meaning they can be consumed in a number of ways. And given that the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirms that people who consume more fresh fruits and veggies are less likely to struggle with chronic disease, there are ever more reasons to start eating some popular superfoods.
But it’s not enough to grab just any superfood and plop it on your plate. Those that are in season provide even greater nutritional bang for your bite, as they are more likely to be produced locally — not picked well before their peak and subjected to chemical processing in order to withstand a lengthy transit to your local grocery store. And they’re tastier and easier on your wallet too.
So, now that the weather is cooler and the leaves are changing color, it’s time to take advantage of some of the best superfoods that are either in season now or that pair beautifully with autumnal dishes. Check them out below.
A cruciferous vegetable, cauliflower is rapidly rising in the superfood ranks, both for its versatility and its broad range of health benefits. Rich in vitamins and minerals, this colorless cousin of broccoli provides an excellent source of fiber and omega-3s and brings with it countless health benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, it’s thought to have properties that combat or prevent cancer and other chronic diseases. Not a fan of cauliflower? You’re in luck! Its mild flavor means it can be combined with other foods and slipped into the diet in any number of ways, like in this macaroni and cheese.
In addition to making a delicious accompaniment to the standard Thanksgiving dinner, cranberries are a superfood that provide an impressive amount of health benefits. Most widely known for their role in fighting urinary tract infections, cranberries are also rich in antioxidants and play important roles in promoting heart health and, thanks to their high fiber content, digestive health.
Turmeric is thought to be highly effective as an anti-inflammatory agent, helping ease the pain of those who suffer from arthritis or other joint issues. But its reputation doesn’t stop there. In fact, benefit-rich turmeric has been found to help calm heartburn and nausea (though that could also be due to its anti-inflammatory values). Find it in pill form, or grab a jar from the spice aisle of your grocery store and sprinkle it into recipes to enjoy its benefits. The rich spice is delicious in all of fall’s savory soups and stews, or you can sip on this healing turmeric tea to stay warm on cool evenings.
When it comes to superfood lists, people tend to gravitate to more exotic offerings, and the humble apple rarely gets its due. But when it comes to all-around benefit, few foods are as nutritious as apples. Apples are a close runner-up to berries in antioxidant power, and their high fiber content helps heal digestion issues. That fiber also helps lower cholesterol, fight diabetes, and maintain healthy weight. The secret to reaping all of the apple’s health rewards is to eat the whole fruit — most of its nutrients are in the peel.
The new supernut on the block is the nutrition-loaded walnut, a tree nut that has countless health benefits. Its omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial in maintaining heart health and aiding in the pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis. And walnuts are a jackpot source of fiber, protein, vitamin E, magnesium, folate, copper, and the ever-beneficial antioxidants.
Related: Ab-Friendly Autumn Foods
Fall is the season of the gourd, and for butternut squash fans, every autumn brings the welcome return of this delicious superfood. Butternut squash is orange in color, meaning it is naturally rich in carotenoids, which are known for their cancer-preventing properties as well as their role in promoting eye health. Additionally, butternut squash plays an important role in heart health, as it’s another plant-based source of omega-3s. Need ideas for how to prepare this super-versatile superfood? These recipes should keep you satisfied for a bit.
If you’re looking for an alternative to quinoa to satisfy your gluten-free needs, meet amaranth. A native crop of Peru, it’s cooked in a similar fashion to quinoa and can stand in for rice in most dishes. Amaranth is highly regarded for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and it is also high in protein, iron, phosphorus, and carotenoids, making it a versatile superfood that aids in digestion while also benefitting heart and bone health. As the weather cools, we typically reach for heavier, more filling meals. Amaranth is the perfect grain-free addition (it’s actually a seed) to fall’s comforting dishes.
Related: 4 Warming Recipes for Fall
I don’t encourage people to eat a diet that’s high in potatoes — white potatoes, that is. But while standard russets are high in starch and a key contributor to weight gain when eaten is excess, sweet potatoes are the exact opposite. In addition to offering a lower glycemic load, sweet potatoes are full of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. That makes them great for weight loss, skin health, prostate health, and even preventing and fighting cancer.
After you finish carving the jack-o’-lantern for your front porch, make sure to hold on to those pumpkin seeds. Packed with magnesium, iron, protein, and zinc, pumpkin seeds are as tasty as they are nutritious. By saving them from the trash bin and incorporating them into your diet, you’ll maximize bone health and stabilize blood pressure.