Fall Superfoods

When summer’s bounty is a thing of the past, it’s still possible to find fresh, in-season fruits and vegetables that pack a potent punch of nutrients. Here are four “superfoods” to try:

Apples

One large apple (unpeeled) provides 125 calories, about 6 grams of fiber (most of which is soluble, which is the kind that can help reduce cholesterol), and about 13% of the daily requirement for vitamin C. (This vitamin is destroyed by heat and some forms of processing, so cooked apples and pasteurized apple juice and apple cider have less vitamin C.)

The skins of red apples contain pigments called anthocyanins, and all apples supply plant compounds, or phytochemicals, called flavonoids. These compounds may provide protection from heart disease, reduce cholesterol levels, and help to prevent some types of cancer.

If you don’t have the time to take a day trip to pick your own apples, hit up a farmers market to explore the huge array that you’re unlikely to find in most supermarkets.

Best for snacking and eating raw: Braeburn, Cortland, Empire, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Macoun, McIntosh, Mutsu, Northern Spy.

Recipe to try: Caramelized Applesauce.

Cranberries

One cup of raw cranberries provides just under 50 calories, 4 grams of fiber, and about 14% of the daily requirement for vitamin C. Cranberries are extremely tart and are almost never served unsweetened, and the amount of sugar can vary widely among commercially prepared sauces. Making it at home is easy, and allows you to control how much you add.

Cranberries are extremely high in anthocyanins and several other compounds that have been found to limit infection and inflammation, reduce risk of some types of cancer and diseases related to aging, and can benefit oral and urinary tract health.

Fresh cranberries are hard to find most of the year, so consider buying a few extra bags in the fall to stash in the freezer so you’ll have some on hand year round.

Recipe to try: Easy Cranberry Sauce.

Winter Squash

Most winter squash (so called because, historically, they were harvested in the fall and their thick skins helped to preserve them throughout the winter) have a deep orange flesh—pumpkin, acorn, and butternut, are all examples. This color is from carotenoid pigments (think “carrots”) related to vitamin A that help promote healthy skin and eyes and protect against some forms of cancer. Winter squash is also an excellent source of fiber, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin C, and minerals like iron and magnesium.

There are several types of pumpkin, but the ones carved into jack-o’-lanterns aren’t good for eating. Look for sugar pumpkins at farmers markets, or opt for canned pumpkin—just be sure you buy 100% pumpkin purée, not pumpkin pie mix.

The two winter squash you’re most likely to see in markets are acorn and butternut. The easiest way to prepare these: Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out and discard the seeds, brush the exposed flesh with apple cider or juice, and then bake at 350°F until tender (30 to 45 minutes). Either serve right away, or scoop out the flesh, mash, and mix with broth and seasonings (try ginger or curry powder) for an easy soup.

Recipe to try: Pumpkin Bisque.

Red Cabbage

One cup of raw, shredded red cabbage supplies just 24 calories, about 2 grams of fiber, and more than half of your daily requirement of vitamin C. Red cabbage also supplies a variety of phytochemicals and pigments, including anthocyanins and resveratrol (the same compound that gives red wine its health benefits). These are thought to protect against cancers, especially those of the breast and prostate.

Look for heads that are dense and feel heavy for their size, and check the stem end to make sure it isn’t dry or cracked.

Recipe to try: Sweet-and-Sour Braised Red Cabbage.