Because we can get most vegetables any time of the year, we may forget that certain vegetables are at their peak flavor in the Fall. A few of my favorite vegetables harvested in the Fall include eggplant, green beans, beets, parsnips, sweet potatoes and of course, winter squash. See Fall Veggie list below. These Fall vegetables are high in fiber, helping us feel fuller, longer, and keeping our digestive system running smoothly.
The most popular Fall vegetables are winter squashes - butternut squash, acorn squash, and pumpkin, to name a few. Squashes are some of the richest sources of Vitamin A, beta-carotene (cancer-fighting), and immune-boosting Omega 3s (take that, flu season!). Winter squash is also rich in calcium, potassium and magnesium, each one vital to many physiological processes including the formation and regeneration of bone matter and prevention of osteoporosis. They also play a role in energy metabolism, water balance in the body, and muscle contraction. Other minerals found in smaller amounts in winter quash include manganese, copper, iron, and zinc.
It's easy to include winter squash in your meal plans. Available in the winter months, it can be baked, sautéed, steamed, stuffed, pureed for soups, or incorporated into a variety of meat and vegetable dishes. Winter squash is a good source of Vitamin C, which supports immunity and works as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from oxidative stress that can lead to inflammation and health problems such as cancer or heart disease. To maximize the amount of vitamin C you receive from squash, use the vegetable within four days after purchase and cut it right before cooking. Steam or bake it instead of boiling it to keep vitamin C from being degraded in hot water.
I love squash for another reason, too – they can help keep sugar cravings in check. That’s because squash has a low glycemic index due to it's high fiber content. It doesn’t spike our blood sugar, so we don’t get that rollercoaster of sugar highs and sugar crashes. In fact, the cell walls of squash contain polysaccharides – powerful nutrients that are anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic (meaning they help regulate our body’s insulin). That said, if fat loss is a priority for you and/or if you follow a low-carb diet, you'll want to enjoy smaller portions of starchy or sweet vegetables.
You may even have a pumpkin or two hanging around the house, left over from Halloween decorations. If so, here’s another reason to consider cooking it: pumpkin seeds have tryptophan, which helps our bodies produce serotonin. Serotonin is a natural mood booster (important during the shorter days of Fall and winter) and can help improve our sleep.
Here's a list of delicious fall veggies to add to your grocery list:
- Boc Choy
- Brussels Sprouts
- Celery Root
- Swiss Chard
- Collard Greens
- Green Beans
- Sweet Potatoes
- Winter Squash