Not all superheroes wear capes. While there are no such things as “superfoods,” clinically or scientifically speaking, we can certainly rely on certain autumnal foods to rescue us from potential health issues. Or at the very least, a doldrum dietary intake. All foods have merit, but certain fare associated with fall can be fun and fun-ctional.
The darling of fall foods and decor — pumpkin is actually a superb nutrition gourd. It’s packed with Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, calcium, potassium, copper, and fiber. It can also substitute for eggs in baking. And it’s even dog-friendly (as Madeleine, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, can attest). No need to hack at a raw one. You can buy unsweetened canned pumpkin year-round at the grocery store. Stir it into smoothies, overnight oats, or batter for waffles/pancake/muffins/cakes/breads. You can even use it as a spread like hummus/tapenade on your sandwiches.
If you do find yourself hankering to carve up a pumpkin, don’t toss the seeds. Rinse them, dry them, roll them in some coconut oil, paprika, cinnamon, salt, and even some cayenne pepper if you’re feeling brave — layer them on aluminum foil on a baking sheet and toast them in your toaster oven or “real” oven until they’re, well, toasty. They’re a great kid-friendly and school-friendly (nut-free!) snack packed with protein and flavor.
Not just for the fragrant broom in your corner — this pungent spice adds sweetness without sugar. It’s also been studied for anti-inflammatory effects and may help with blood glucose (sugar) metabolism. Regardless, it’s delicious topped on everything from oatmeal to popcorn. If you have raw cinnamon sticks, you can even steep them in boiling water to make a delicious tea. Or, if you’re a mom hacker like me, you can just buy hot cinnamon spice teas.
Oats are a year-round staple for me, but something about the Miami winter dipping below 80 just begs for a bowl of warm oatmeal, am I right? They have unique prebiotic fibers that nourish the probiotic microorganisms within our guts. They also possess a special fiber, beta-glucan, implicated in cholesterol metabolism. Regardless of their fearless fibers, they’re great hot (warm oatmeal bowl), cold (overnight oats), at room temperature (as “muesli”), thrown into a smoothie (use rolled oats), or sprinkled on top of crisps/pies/crumbles. I also like to use oat flour (pulverized oats) in place of white flour in baking.
Ah, the joy of fall apple picking in endless waving amber orchards… not in Miami. If you’re lucky enough to head north and leaf peep/pluck some fresh apples — please drop some off at my house. The rest of us will settle for the supermarket apples, which come in all sorts of tasty varieties, and all have wonderful amounts of soluble fiber, Vitamin C, quercetin (an antioxidant beneficial to health), and pectin (a prebiotic fiber that can nourish your microbiome community). Apples are easily softened by poaching, boiling, or baking for fall treats. You can also sautee them in some olive oil or ghee with cinnamon for an easy and quick topper to oats/ice cream (yes, this dietitian recommends ice cream.)
There are those who like to hack up pumpkins and squash with a knife, and those who boast that they love to simply roast (me). For the illustrious fall spaghetti squash, ripe with beta-carotene, Vitamin B6, fiber, and Vitamin C, it just loves to live in your fall kitchen lineup. Once cooked (halve it lengthwise, cover it with olive oil/salt/paprika/garlic, place facedown, and roast at 400 degrees for about 50-60 minutes until it’s tender), you can tease out the “spaghetti”-like tendrils with a fork and treat it like pasta. Though pasta it is not, it’s a nice nutrient-dense alternative to the traditional wheat pasta on our plates. Load it up with tomato sauce, pesto sauce, or simply as is. Enjoy the chartreuse fall splendor and nutrition it brings to your family’s plates.
Top off your fall superfoods lineup with… chocolate. Again, I’m everybody’s favorite dietitian, right? Cacao, the plant bean from which chocolate as we know it is derived, is rich in magnesium, iron, fiber, and other antioxidants. If you buy real cacao powder, which is simply pulverized cacao beans, you’ll get that rich chocolate flavor/all the health benefits — you simply have to add it to warm milk and add some sweetener (honey for infants over one, or maple syrup/date syrup) for a frothy anytime treat.
We want to hear from you! Tell us–how do you incorporate some of these fall superfoods into your family’s diet?
Updated October 2023