As the leaves fall from the trees and the breeze gets a little crisper and cooler, you can almost smell the pumpkin spice in the air.
Fall is the time of year when many delicious fruits and vegetables come to harvest. With that harvest, comes opportunities to add flavorful fiber to your meals and snacks. The Fall is also a time when school is in full force, work gets busier, and holiday time is looming - which means rushed schedules, and often rushed eating. So let’s talk about ways you can get more fiber into your diet this Fall, which will help keep both your body and mind healthier and on track during this hectic time of year.
Why do we need fiber?
Fiber could be considered your gut’s best friend. It is not technically digested by the body (the insoluble kind) but it helps to slow down the digestive process. This slowed digestion helps your body better absorb nutrients from the food you eat. It also helps to keep you fuller longer between meals, keep your blood glucose levels more stable, and has been shown to benefit heart health. Unfortunately, only about one of ten people in the United States get enough fiber every day.
The average adult should get around 25 to 38 grams of fiber each day. To meet this daily recommendation, it is important to limit your intake of processed foods and refined carbohydrates like white flour, white rice, and white sugar-based foods. Instead, try to include a serving of fiber-rich foods at each meal and snack. Examples of such fiber-rich foods include most fruits and vegetables as well as other plant-based foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, and whole grains like wheat, corn, oats, brown rice, and quinoa, to name a few.
When you add fruits and vegetables to your diet, no matter what the season, it’s important to eat produce that is in season and local, if possible. Seasonal, local produce will not only retain more nutrients, but it will likely be more flavorful, more plentiful, and in turn good for your budget and your health.
Seasonal fall fruits and vegetables
The Fall season brings with it so many delicious fruits and vegetables that can add fiber to your diet. The most common Fall produce includes pumpkins, apples, squash, and sweet potatoes However, there are many other fall fruits and vegetables you should add to your autumn meals and snacks that include:
- Bell peppers
- Green beans
- Leafy greens like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, kale, and spinach
- Root vegetables like carrots, celery, garlic, ginger, onions, rutabaga, yams, and sweet potatoes
Fall produce is so colorful and bright, with each color you see bringing with it different nutritional benefits, including foods with antioxidant properties. These antioxidants work to help fight inflammation in the body and in turn help to reduce chronic disease risk.
The health benefits of certain produce are related to the color of the produce. For example, yellow-orange produce is rich in carotenoids that can be converted to vitamin A in the body. These carotenoids are beneficial to immune, bone, and eye health.
On the other hand, leafy green vegetables get their rich color from the plant pigment chlorophyll. These vegetables contain not only carotenoids, but also heart healthy nutrients like vitamin K, folic acid, and potassium. Other heart healthy produce like certain grapes and berries contain the antioxidant anthocyanin, found in blue and purple produce, that helps prevent blood clot formation and lowers risk of heart disease. Be sure to make your plate colorful to reap the full benefit of the many phytonutrients found in Fall produce.
How to fit Fall produce in your diet
There are so many ways to fit Fall produce into your diet. Here’s a few simple and flavorful ways to add fiber-rich fall produce to meal or snack.
- Grapes and raspberries are delicious - sweet snacks anytime, while bananas and persimmons are great portable snacks for on-the-go.
- Steam up some spinach, green beans, or broccoli for an antioxidant-rich side dish or use raw leafy greens as the foundation for your next salad.
- Prep some raw cauliflower, broccoli, or sliced raw peppers and pair with some Greek yogurt dressing for a savory snack option.
- Add spinach, sliced bell pepper, onions, and mushrooms to your morning omelet.
- Throw some dried cranberries or sliced apple onto your oatmeal or use sliced grapes as a layer in your fiber-rich fall parfait along with yogurt and fiber-rich granola.
- Wash, peel, and slice some carrots and sweet potatoes or prep some Brussels sprouts, drizzle with olive oil, and roast in the oven for a naturally sweet side dish for any dinner or holiday event.
- Create a fiber-rich, fall-themed seasonal produce salad consisting up a bed of leafy greens topped with sliced carrots, bell pepper, and sliced mushrooms. For an extra bit of sweetness, you can top your salad with some dried cranberries.
- Make a harvest vegetable soup by cooking up some diced root vegetables like yams, carrots, rutabaga, and onions and throwing them in a large pot with vegetable or chicken stock. Throw in a few bay leaves and the protein of your choice, allow to simmer, and enjoy for a flavorful and healthy fall comfort food meal.
Since the holiday season is so close to the Fall, you can add fiber-rich fall produce onto your dinner party menus by creating your comfort food favorites with such foods. For example, if you like cheesy pasta dishes for the holidays, swap out the pasta for sweet potato curls or spiralized squash. Or, if you like sweet treats like custard, instead try sliced frozen bananas drizzled with a bit of chocolate syrup.
The Fall brings with it not only comfortable cool weather, but also a vast array of flavorful fruits and vegetables. Don’t miss out on this delicious produce. Sure, a pumpkin or two on your front stoop provides some fall visual flavor to your doorstep, but the flavor of Fall is even better on your dinner plate. So, start the season off right and get your fiber intake on track, and reap the full benefits of this year’s fall harvest.