Superfoods are pretty much just what they sound like – nutrient-dense foods with the ability to positively affect a person’s health. While there is no specific criteria for what defines a “superfood” and it can be argued that it is really just a buzzword to help food companies market their products, there is something to be said for these foods that offer so many essential vitamins and minerals. The nutrients in many superfoods, such as antioxidants, healthy fats, fiber, and phytochemicals, have been known to help prevent disease, cancer, and digestive issues.
Fall is the perfect time to embrace these in-season fruits and veggies and start adding warmer flavors and hearty ingredients into your diet. Here are some of our favorite superfoods for fall!
Pumpkin is basically the mascot for fall. Between Halloween and pumpkin-spice everything, pumpkins seem to be anywhere you look between October and January. While a pumpkin spice latte is likely not where you’re going to up your nutrition game, there are countless ways to implement the superfood into different recipes to get the full health benefits. So what are those benefits? Pumpkin’s orange color comes from beta-carotene, an antioxidant that is converted into vitamin A in the body. Beta-carotene is essential for eye health, retaining lung strength, and has been linked to preventing coronary heart disease. Pumpkin is also a great source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, magnesium, and iron, and is very low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. And that’s only the actual pumpkin! The seeds inside have even more super powers. Pumpkin seeds are packed with protein, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. They also contain high levels of phytosterols, which research suggests can lower cholesterol and even aid in cancer prevention.
Try out this Sheet Pan Harvest Bowl recipe that uses pumpkin seeds for delicious fall meal!
Often overshadowed by it’s slightly brighter cousin, pumpkin, Butternut squash is another gourd that offers up a lot of nutrients and positive health benefits. Similar to pumpkin, this superfood’s orange tint comes from beta-carotene and has additional amounts of vitamin A as well. A serving of butternut squash has about a third of the daily recommended value of vitamin C (about 30 grams), which is essential for the immune system, formation of collagen, and the maintenance of cartilage, bones, and teeth.
Butternut squash is a great source of potassium, iron, riboflavin, and magnesium. Plus, even though it’s a carbohydrate, this type of carb breaks down to sugar at a much slower speed, which stalls the release of insulin, and keeps sugar spikes leveled.
Butternut squash soup is an essential fall dish and a great way to get all of these amazing vitamins and minerals.
Some people love them, and some people hate them, but regardless of taste preference, Brussels sprouts have undeniable health benefits. First of all, they are low in calories, but high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals (vitamins K, C, and A, folate, and manganese). Brussels sprouts’ most impressive health benefit may be it’s high levels of antioxidants (specifically kaempferol). Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress in cells and can may prevent cancer growth, decrease inflammation, and aid in heart health. Last, but not least, they contain ALA Omega-3 Fatty Acids, and are one of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids (about 135 mg of ALA in a half-cup of cooked Brussels). Plant foods only contain ALA (alpha-linolenic), which are used less effectively in the body than omega-3’s from fish, meaning that you would need to eat a greater amount of ALA omega-3’s to get your daily need. Omega-3 fatty acids have been proven to reduce blood triglycerides, slow cognitive decline, reduce insulin resistance, and decrease inflammation in the body.
Try out this Roasted Brussels Sprouts in Agrodolce with Fennel Purree recipe! We have a feeling that (if you're not already), you’ll be converted to a Brussels sprouts fan in no time.
When you take them at face value, sweet potatoes seem minimally different than regular potatoes. They have almost the same calories, carbs, protein, and fat. And while both options are great and high in fiber and vitamins, sweet potatoes have a nutritional leg up due to their orange color (beta-carotene) and other micronutrients. Sweet potatoes provide 400% of your daily requirement of vitamin A (almost double regular potatoes) to aid in eye health and natural skin exfoliation. These nutritious root vegetables also have high levels of vitamin C (immune system), potassium and manganese (to maintain blood pressure) and calcium and magnesium (for bone health).
There’s no doubt that kale is the king of superfoods. And how could it not be? It’s leafy and green and dense in nutrients no matter how you eat it (raw, baked, blended, sautéed..) Kale is one of the best superfoods for weight loss and has tons of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium and manganese for very few calories. Cooked kale also has more iron per ounce than beef, so it is a great option for vegetarians or anyone who is anemic and needs more iron in their diet. Kale is also full of antioxidants, omega-3’s, and contains lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients that protect the eyes, and may lower the risk of common eye disorders such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
Check out two of our favorite kale recipes: Italian Sausage Kale Soup, and Kale Quinoa and Mushroom Breakfast Bowl. Or grab one of our brand new Garden Tomato and Quinoa Soup Cups to get your kale fix!
By Carlyn Shear, Content Manager