Fall has arrived. And with the change in seasons comes a completely different way of eating. Instead of light and refreshing salads, it’s time for nourishing, warming, nutrient-dense foods. If you’re not familiar with the term, nutrient density is the concept of eating foods which provide a lot of nutrients for not a lot of calories. This is contrasted with energy dense foods which provide a lot of calories but not a lot of nutrition. An apple, for example, is a more nutrient-dense food than fried apple fritters which are calorically (energy) dense.
Benefits of seasonal eating
When we change what we eat with the seasons there are many benefits for our health. The health benefits come in part from the fact that seasonal foods are usually picked at their peak of ripeness. This is when their nutrient value is highest. It’s a distinct difference from when they are picked early, stored, and force-ripened. While it may be nice to have apples, strawberries, or lettuces year round, the truth is they each have a season.
Taste is another health benefit of seasonal eating. Being fully ripe when picked often means the produce will taste better. That’s because it’s fully ripe so the flavors have had a chance to really develop. Anyone who questions this should think about the difference between cardboard tasting winter tomatoes and a mouthwateringly delicious vine-ripened summer tomato. There’s a huge difference, one that we shouldn’t ignore because the more flavorful tomato delivers more lycopene, vitamins C and K, biotin, molybdenum, and more.
Variety in the diet
Another important health benefit to seasonal eating is that it introduces more variety to your diet. When we eat the same foods all the time we can miss out on different nutrients from different foods. Micronutrient profiles are broad and varied among different foods, we can take advantage of that by eating with the season. For the Fall season, that means consuming a lot of foods that are rich in Vitamin A, a beta-carotene found in the red, orange and deep yellow foods of this season. Vitamin A is beneficial for eye health, hair, skin, nails, and can be supportive for respiratory health as well.
Just because a food is in season does not, unfortunately, mean that what you are buying at the grocery store is truly fresh. It is possible that foods traveling a far distance can be picked early and stored while they are shipped across the country or around the world. In order to ensure that you are getting in-season foods, it’s best to shop locally from farmer’s markets and CSA’s or to look for locally grown signs at your grocery store.
To help you add some of the delicious superfoods of Fall into your diet we’re sharing a few of our favorite recipes below:
The mild taste and slightly rough texture of cauliflower make it perfect to add to many dishes at this time of year. Rich in vitamin C, K, pantothenate, and folic acid, cauliflower is also excellent for helping with cholesterol health. You can use it as a mash in addition to or instead of potatoes, make lots of types of rice with it, or even make cauliflower steaks.
This recipe is a testament to my friend Padma who taught me so much about Indian cooking. Every time I wanted to learn how to make something she kindly and patiently invited me into her kitchen to guide me in learning to understand her cuisine. This recipe is one that I came up with for a quick and tasty curry. It's become a family favorite, I'm sure your family will love it too.
2 C. red lentils, cleaned, washed, and cooked
2 T. olive oil
½ t. yellow mustard seeds
½ t. cumin seeds
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. ginger, grated
1 T. curry powder
1 t. ground turmeric
2 C. tomato sauce
½ cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 t. sea salt
1 T. minced fresh cilantro
The curry sauce is made while the lentils are cooking. If the lentils finish before the sauce is ready, take them off the heat and set them aside until it is time to add them to the sauce.
In a large saucepan heat the oil
When the oil is hot add the mustard and cumin seeds, stirring constantly cook for 1 minute
Add onion and sauté until onion is golden and slightly wilted
Add garlic, ginger, curry powder and turmeric, cook 1 to 2 minutes
Add tomato sauce and cauliflower
Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until cauliflower is al dente, approximately 7-9 minutes
Add cooked lentils, sea salt and cilantro, cook 2-3 more minutes
Mild yet flavorful, leeks are a wonderful addition to any fall or winter dish. A great source of sulfur compounds leeks are also high in vitamin K and manganese. This particular recipe is from my Aunt Haya and is definitely one of my favorite comfort foods for this time of year. This recipe makes a large quiche and is great as leftovers.
Haya’s Spinach Leek Quiche
4 slices gluten-free bread
3 T olive oil
1 pound spinach leaves
2-3 leeks (depending on size), white parts only
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup organic milk
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp nutmeg, fresh ground
1 T. dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
2 C organic grated cheese (any flavor will do but I particularly like swiss)
1 C sliced mushrooms
Preheat oven to 350F
Lightly grease springform pan (place base or foil under the pan to prevent liquid seeping out)
Pulse bread in food processor until it turns into crumbs
Line bottom of springform pan with breadcrumbs
Slice leeks in half and then cut into 1/2” thick semi-circles, wash thoroughly to remove dirt
Heat wok or large pan
Add 2 T olive oil
Add spinach and saute until it starts to wilt
Add leeks and salute, adding more olive oil if needed
Add minced garlic
When spinach and leeks are fully wilted remove from heat and pour into springform pan
In a separate bowl mix together milk, eggs, and herbs beating well
Pour egg mixture over the greens
Top with grated cheese
Top with mushrooms
Bake 1 hour or until set
Let cool 10 minutes before slicing
One of the easiest healthy food swaps you can do with your fall superfoods is to use pumpkin puree in baked goods. You can often use it in place of other moist ingredients like oil and eggs. When using pumpkin you are also adding fiber, vitamins A and C, plus potassium.
Pumpkin Date Cake
1 cup almond flour
1 cup coconut flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
2 large eggs
Juice and zest of one orange
1/2 C evaporated cane juice crystals
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup chopped dates
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 10 x 12 baking pan
Mix together flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and whisk to combine.
In a separate mixing bowl beat the eggs; add the orange juice and zest, cane juice crystals, pumpkin puree, dates, and vanilla. Beat well. Add the dry ingredients into the wet, and beat for two minutes.
Bake 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and done in the center.
– this cake freezes well
– can also be used to make snack loaves or muffins
The last substitution you can make for a healthier superfood-rich meal is to replace your rice with quinoa. Most types of rice, including white rice and brown rice, are okay in moderation, but they lack the nutrition you need for a well-balanced meal. Quinoa is considered a superfood, so it is the perfect alternative when you want to have a side dish. It’s also a great way to add a little extra protein, manganese, copper, phosphorus, and magnesium to desserts such as in this recipe.
Quinoa stuffed baked apples
4 apples, washed, dried, and cored
3/4 cup cooked quinoa
3 T organic butter
3 T evaporated cane juice crystals
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup currants
Use a square cake pan to hold the apples
Preheat the oven to 400 F
Mix all filling ingredients together until well combined
Stuff equally into apples
Bake for 18-20 minutes until apples are tender and filling bubbles slightly
optional: if desired drizzle with organic heavy cream
Many people enjoy potatoes, especially in the fall when you want more savory dishes, but they tend to be high in carbs and fat, and not very nutritious. Instead of having traditional white potatoes in your dishes, try sweet potatoes. These are a superfood, so they are filled with nutrients, and are amazing to enjoy during the fall season. You can have stuffed sweet potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, or even sweet potato soup.
This recipe owes it's start to a much-loved favorite from my husband's family. Made for nearly every big family gathering everyone pitches in to roll the croquettes and then eagerly awaits the finished product.
Updated to use sweet potatoes and cinnamon, plus a few other healthy changes, these are a wonderful way to get beta-carotene as well as vitamin C and manganese. The recipe makes a lot but this is because we tend to make them for large family gatherings. You do not need to bake them all at once and can, if you like, freeze some to bake at a later time. While they take a while to assemble they are certainly worth the effort.
5 pounds of sweet potatoes, baked and peeled (be sure to not overbake so they are not mushy)
1 stick organic butter
1 C organic milk
¼ t. fresh ground nutmeg
½ t. ground cinnamon
Puree baked potatoes while still hot
Add other ingredients and mix well
Roll into croquette shape (an oval tube approximately 1 ½ inches long)
Prepare a pie dish with beaten egg (beat eggs one or two at a time to ensure you don't make too many)
Prepare a separate pie dish with breadcrumbs
Dip croquettes into beaten egg
Dip egg-coated croquettes in bread crumbs
Place croquettes on an un-greased baking tray, cool 2-4 hours (we usually cool them overnight)
Bake at 350 F for 20 minutes or until golden in color
For more seasonal and superfood info check out these posts: