Many fruits and vegetables reach peak harvest during the fall months, which means they’re abundant, at their most flavorful, and packed with nutrients.
Superfoods are nutrient-dense foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, or other bioactive compounds.
Support your well-being and bring new energy to dinner time with fall’s versatile “superfoods”, many of which can be enjoyed fresh or cooked.
If the start of fall has you looking forward to sweater weather, colorful foliage, and pumpkins everywhere, we have one more thing to add to your list of autumn favorites: in-season produce. Fall is known as harvest season because this time of year brings an abundance of colorful, delicious, and extra nutritious fruits and vegetables.
Produce that is grown and harvested at its peak tastes better and offers more nutrition than foods grown outside their natural growing season. Eating seasonally gives you the advantage of enjoying the best flavors of the season while filling your plate with nutrient-dense choices.
Fall’s selection of superfoods pair perfectly with cozier dinner recipes, like warming pots of soup and chili, hearty salads, and sheet pan meals. Adding more fall in-season superfoods, like apples, roots vegetables, and squash, to your shopping list can make meals more vibrant and bring new energy to dinnertime. Here’s what to stock up on this autumn.
What are Superfoods?
Superfoods don’t have a science-based definition, but in general, the superfood label is given to nutrient-dense foods.
Despite the nickname, superfoods don’t have superpowers. What they do have is an impressive nutrient profile. Superfoods are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support physical and mental well-being. Superfoods also contain bioactive compounds, which also support overall health.
Some people believe that superfoods are exotic and expensive, but that’s not necessarily true. Your local grocers and farmers' markets are chock full of superfoods all year round. The trick to adding more superfoods to your diet is knowing what to shop for each season.
Choosing in-season superfoods offers maximum nutrition benefits. Just one serving of some fall superfoods can help you meet your daily requirements for certain nutrients.
Here are six tasty fall superfoods to pile on your plate this season.
One medium apple packs over 4 grams of fiber to support digestive health and 11% of the Vitamin A you need in a day. Apples also contain naturally occuring antioxidants such as catechin and quercetin. Most of the antioxidants in apples are found in the skins, so enjoy whole apples in your recipes for a health boost.
From tart to sweet, there’s a variety of apples to match every culinary use you can dream up. They make a delicious snack on their own, but apples can also bring fruity flavor and texture to dinner.
Cut apples into wedges and roast with sliced onions and pork chops on a sheet pan. Try mixing some grated apples into ground chicken with an egg, some breadcrumbs, and herbs for baked apple-chicken meatballs. Don’t forget apples add a crave-worthy crunch to salads; toss chopped apples with leafy greens, and pecans or pumpkin seeds for an easy harvest salad.
Beets are rich in Folate, which is a B vitamin that’s essential for cell growth and development.  Folate also plays a role in healthy blood cell production and is essential during pregnancy for normal fetal development. Folic Acid is a form of Folate used in fortified foods and dietary supplements.
Beets get their vibrant, jewel-toned color from pigments called betalains, which also have antioxidant properties. These antioxidants help fight oxidative stress in the body. Beets are also a source of natural nitrates. Your body converts nitrates into nitric oxide, which supports healthy blood flow. Eating beets can help support normal blood pressure and blood flow during physical activity.
Enjoy more beets by adding peeled and shredded raw beets to salads or try roasting them for a savory side. Quarter beets, toss with olive oil, salt, black pepper, and any other herbs you like, and roast at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until tender, about 30 minutes.
These mini cabbages are rich in Vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that helps support your immune system. A single one-cup serving contains 75 mg of Vitamin C, which can help to meet your daily requirement of 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women. Brussels sprouts are also rich in Vitamin K1, which is an important nutrient that supports a healthy circulatory system.
Raw or cooked, brussels sprouts make an excellent salad base. If you’re in the mood for a crunchy salad, try shredding or thinly slicing raw Brussels. For deeper flavor, toss halved sprouts with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and black pepper and roast in a 375-degree Fahrenheit oven until caramelized and crispy on the outside, about 25 minutes. Top with a lean protein, such as chicken or salmon, shredded cheese, nuts, and/or fruit for a filling meal.
Butternut squash is rich in Vitamins A and C, plus minerals Potassium and Magnesium. The bright orange color comes from beta-carotene, which your body converts to Vitamin A. Vitamin A helps support the immune system and healthy vision. Potassium and Magnesium are essential for normal heart and muscle function.
Add cubed butternut squash to chili, soups, and grain bowls. Cubed squash is also delicious when roasted with a drizzle of oil and honey or maple syrup to highlight its natural sweetness. This squash can be blended into sauces for extra veggies; try adding a cup or two of steamed and pureed butternut squash to a traditional macaroni and cheese sauce for added nutrition.
Kale is a well-known leafy-green superfood, and it’s also a member of the cruciferous vegetable family. Cruciferous vegetables benefit health in a number of ways and higher intakes of these veggies have been linked to increased overall health.
Kale’s health benefits are attributed to its protective bioactive compounds, including glucosinolates and carotenoids. Kale is also an excellent source of Vitamins C and K.
Because kale can be tough and fibrous, most people prefer it cooked. Prepare it by removing thick stems and adding the leafy part to soups, sauces, or casseroles. You can also saute kale leaves with olive oil, minced garlic, and lemon juice.
This should come as no surprise, since, pumpkin flavored everything takes center stage during fall. Skip the sugary pumpkin spice lattes and baked goods in favor of whole fresh or canned pumpkin. Pumpkin contains many nutrients, including Vitamins A, C, E, and K. It’s also a source of fiber, plant-based (non-heme) Iron, Copper, and Magnesium. Like butternut squash, the orange hue comes from beta-carotene, which converts to Vitamin A in the body and supports vision and skin health.
You can buy fresh pumpkins and roast them yourself for use in recipes. Once baked, you can eat it as is, cube it and add it to grain bowls, or make your own puree for everything from soup to baked goods. If peeling and cubing a pumpkin is a deal breaker, you can get the same benefits from a can of unsweetened pumpkin puree. Stir homemade or canned pumpkin puree into chili, pasta sauce, or a pot of soup for a delicious fall twist.
If you roast your own pumpkin, don’t forget to save the seeds. Pumpkin seeds are a good source of Magnesium and Zinc. Rinse them clean, toss with olive oil and whatever seasoning you like, and roast until dry and crunchy. They’re tasty on their own or for adding crunch to salads and soups.
Each season offers nutrient-dense food choices, also called superfoods, that support well-being from the inside out. Fall superfoods include apples, beets, brussels sprouts, and pumpkins. Make weeknight dinners more exciting, flavorful, and nutritious by including more in-season foods this fall.
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Sharon Lehman, RD is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and a health writer. She specializes in intuitive eating, recipe development, food photography, and hormone health. She shares healthy living tips and recipes on her blog www.heartandstove.com
Kalyn is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and a Science & Health Educator with the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. Her experience in the field of nutrition prior to joining Pharmavite has included community and public health education, media dietetics, and clinical practice in the areas of disordered eating, diabetes, women’s health, and general wellness. Kalyn received her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Arizona State University in Phoenix, Arizona, and completed her dietetic supervised practice in Maricopa County, AZ, with an emphasis on public health. Kalyn is certified in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, where she is an active member in addition to memberships in Dietitians in Functional Medicine, Women’s Health Dietitians, and the International Federation of Eating Disorder Dietitians.