one green planet
one green planet

Though pumpkins may steal all of the fall foodie glory once October rolls around, there are plenty of other nutrient-rich foods to celebrate as the leaves start to change color. Fall (and winter!) fruits and veggies tend to be rich in vital nutrients such as lycopene, carotenoids, flavonoids, potassium, and vitamin C, just to name a few! Here are five of those nutrients, along with information on the fall foods that contain them and tasty recipes to give you some inspiration.

1. Vitamin A

Vitamin A, best known for its role in preserving sharp eyesight, comes in two types: retinoids, which are found in animal products, and carotenoids, found in fruits and vegetables. Interestingly enough, although both types are essential for proper health, the body is usually capable of converting carotenoids into retinoids, meaning that consuming animal products is not necessary! In addition to supporting healthy vision, vitamin A plays an important role in bone development and also supports the immune system. Some vitamin A-rich fall fruits and veggies include sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, butternut squash, and cantaloupe.

For recipe ideas using these fall foods, try out these Lentil Curry Stuffed Sweet Potatoes, whip up a batch of Autumn-Style Kale Chips, or make some hearty Buckwheat With Roasted Heirloom Carrots and Miso Mushroom Gravy.

2. Lycopene

Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that is part of the carotenoid family and is also responsible for giving fruits and veggies such as tomatoes, grapefruit, and watermelon their trademark pink and red colors. Studies suggest that lycopene can help delay the deterioration of neural tissue, which frequently leads to such illnesses as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. It may also protect against certain varieties of cancer and promote stronger bones. Interestingly enough, when tomatoes are cooked, their lycopene content increases significantly–even more reason to eat tomato-based soups and chilis in the fall and winter! Some other lycopene-rich foods include asparagus, red cabbage, carrots, and grapefruit.

For recipe ideas, try out these Slow-Roasted Garlic and Herb Tomatoes, packed with antioxidants, or make this tasty and quick Kale, Red Cabbage, and Lentil Salad Wrap, or, for a unique dessert, sample these delicious Raw Grapefruit Doughnuts.

3. Vitamin C

Scurvy, or vitamin C deficiency, was such an enormous problem for sailors in the 18th century that a man named James Lind finally discovered that giving fresh lemons and oranges (high in vitamin C) to the afflicted men brought about rapid recovery. Though scurvy is no longer a major issue in the 21st century, the benefits of vitamin C live on! It can contribute to a stronger immune system, lead to better eyesight, and even stave off heart disease. It also increases the body’s absorption of iron, an essential mineral, so combining fresh fruits and veggies with foods such as lentils, beans, and tofu makes for an excellent one-two nutritional punch. Some vitamin C-rich fall foods include sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.

For recipe ideas, try these Scalloped Sweet Potatoes in Cauliflower Sauce, make this Spelt Salad With Oranges, Cranberries, and Feta, or whip up a batch of Spicy Cabbage Detox Soup.

4. Potassium

Found in more than just bananas, potassium is a vital electrolyte that is found in numerous fruits and veggies and is “required for normal cell function because of its role in maintaining intracellular fluid volume and transmembrane electrochemical gradients.” Science talk for: we need it in our diet! Potassium helps regulate muscle contraction, transmit neural impulses, and monitor the fluid balance in your body. It may also help regulate proper blood sugar levels and even reduce stress and anxiety. Some potassium-rich fruits and veggies include spinach, butternut squash, Swiss chard, and mushrooms.

For recipe ideas, make some Roasted Red Pepper, Chickpea, and Spinach Curry, try out this Butternut Squash and White Bean Risotto, or savor this Creamy Spaghetti With Wild Mushrooms.

5. Iron

This mineral is a crucial component of hemoglobin, a substance that helps the red blood cells transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. As a result, iron deficiency, also called anemia, can lead to fatigue and a compromised immune system. The two types of iron are heme (better absorbed) and non-heme iron (less readily absorbed). Heme iron is found only in animal meat, while non-heme iron is found in plant foods. While this may sound like a call to eat more meat, heme iron has been linked to an increased risk of coronary disease and colon cancer, since the body cannot limit how much heme iron it absorbs, which could lead to an iron overdose. Iron in general helps improve cognitive function, strengthen the immune system, and circulate oxygen throughout the body. Some iron-rich fall foods include dried apricots, spinach (and other dark leafy greens), acorn squash, and mushrooms.

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