Many people look forward to the flavors that arrive with fall. Seasonal produce such as pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and cranberries are favorites. While these fruits and vegetables provide comfort and a variety of vitamins and minerals, be sure to expand your shopping list to include some of the less common varieties available this autumn. They are not only bursting with flavor, but with nutrients as well!
- Pumpkin – The orange color represents the antioxidant beta-carotene present in this vegetable. Pumpkins are also a great source of iron and fiber, and a whole cup provides less than 100 calories. Don’t throw away the seeds! They are full of protein and fiber and make a great snack raw or roasted.
- Sweet Potatoes – Like pumpkins, sweet potatoes are loaded with beta-carotene, as well as vitamin C and fiber. While most people are familiar with the orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, some are actually purple on the inside. Don’t let this scare you – the purple hue indicates the presence of the same powerful antioxidants that blueberries contain. Be sure you’re choosing true sweet potatoes rather than yams, as yams only provide about 1% of the Daily Value for beta-carotene while sweet potatoes offer over 200%!
- Cranberries – Cranberries outrank most other fruits and vegetables when it comes to disease-fighting antioxidants. Fresh cranberries are full of vitamin C and fiber, and are low in calories with about 50 per half-cup serving. Keep in mind that dried cranberries often have added sugar – so that same serving size quickly becomes 260 calories! Look carefully at the ingredients to find a variety that is free of added sugar, or find ways to enjoy fresh cranberries, such as in smoothies or muffins. When it comes to cranberry sauce, your best bet is to make it from scratch using stevia or another low-calorie alternative sweetener.
- Sugar Apple (Sweetsop) – This fruit is referred to as Custard Apple in India, as the flesh not only resembles but also tastes like custard. This fruit is loaded with vitamin C and fiber, and is also a good source of iron and calcium. You know it’s ripe when cracks start to form on the outer shell of the fruit, making it easy to pull it apart with your hands. Pull out the fruits segments one-by-one and enjoy!
- Kohlrabi – This vegetable can be eaten raw or cooked, and is popular from Germany all the way to South India. The flesh has a sweeter taste than most vegetables, but the outer layers should be removed as they do not soften with cooking. Kohlrabi is a great source of vitamin C, folic acid, calcium, and fiber.
- Chayote Squash – This pear shaped squash has a mild flavor, and is best enjoyed cooked in a soup, stew, or stir-fry. It is a common ingredient in Latin America cuisine. The flesh and even the seed are edible. It has a unique texture, often described as a cross between a potato and a cucumber. It is a great source of vitamin C, zinc, and folic acid, and is low in calories with only 12 per half-cup serving.
Hungry yet? Try out these Pumpkin Bars – they’re Medifast Maintenance approved!