If you’re trying to eat healthily, the transition into autumn can be a bit of a bind. Gone are the days where everyone seems to be joining you for a crispy salad lunch and juicy summer fruits are always on hand. Instead, as it starts to get colder, thoughts turn to stodgier fare and comfort food. But fear not, there are still plenty of delicious – and hearty – produce choices out there. What’s more, if you’re tempted to just go for a plate of buttery pasta or dumpling-filled stew, think about the health benefits that all of our top ten healthy autumn foods have (or at least put some of them in that stew).
1. Parsnips are a great source of vitamin C, calcium, fibre and iron. Choose small or medium-sized organic parsnips that are firm to the touch for the best flavour, and make everything from parsnip chips to mash made by combining them with carrots, fat-free crème fraiche and lots of pepper. They’re also great for making soup as well, offering a creamy flavour that won’t clog up the arteries or pile on the pounds. 2. Turnips and swedes are also perfect in the autumn. They are packed with fibre and vitamin C and contain sulforaphane, a phytochemical linked with cancer prevention. Use them as a healthy alternative to potatoes. 3. Sweet potatoes are one of the world’s healthiest foods. Strangely, given the name, sweet potatoes aren’t actually part of the potato family, but they do make a good substitute. Each serving will offer you the same amount of vitamin A as you would get if you ate 23 servings of broccoli. They are also high in fibre and vitamin C and are a low glycaemic option that is perfect for diabetics. 4. Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween – make them a part of your regular diet if you want an excellent source in folate, vitamin C and beta-carotene (vitamin A), which is an effective antioxidant and has been linked to cancer and heart disease prevention. Pumpkin seeds are also packed with protein and are a good source of heart-disease-fighting omega-3 fatty acids and zinc. If you don’t like the idea of the mess and fuss of preparing a pumpkin, just use canned pumpkin instead, which is perfect for creating everything from pies and bread to hearty soups and stews.
5. One of the most notable factors about the winter squash is that it is one of only a few vegetables that won’t lose quality after they are picked. In fact, the amount of vitamin A they contain actually increases during storage. They’re also full of nutrients essential for heart health. They’re surprisingly easy to grow. Grab some winter squash seeds, and you could be in business by next year 6. Don’t wait until Christmas to start on the clementines, and don’t reserve them just for eating on their own. They go really well in chicken dishes or added to autumn salads for a zingy twist. 7. Apples are full of antioxidant flavonoids, which have been linked with cancer and heart disease risk reduction. Eat them on their own or add to pork recipes. Alternatively, simply bake in the oven with a little water and a cinnamon stick. 8. Pears are packed with fibre – just one can give you as much as a healthy portion of brown rice – and they have been linked with lowering levels of cholesterol in the blood and improving sugar levels. Poach and serve with natural yoghurt or add to ham sandwiches for a really tasty twist. 9. If you need a berry fix in autumn, try cranberries. They are great at fending off a range of health problems, ranging from gum disease to urinary tract infections. Buy fresh or simply invest in some cranberry juice or a moreish packet of the dried fruit. 10. Figs aren’t to everyone’s taste, largely because of their chewy texture, but they are a great source of fibre and non-dairy calcium. You can also beat a texture issue by using fig puree, which makes an excellent fat substitute and sweetener in baked goods. Dried figs also make a handy snack, offering a healthy alternative to chocolate or biscuits if you have a sweet tooth, and chopped figs can even be used to liven up mashed potato that’s suffering from a lack of butter or cream.