The month of October brings autumn into sharp focus as the temperature begins to drop alongside the leaves. Dark nights and the autumn rituals of Halloween and Bonfire night thrill some people but leave others dreading the next few months. There are, however, many seasonal autumn ‘super’ foods, which can inspire us and make us enjoy the prospect of cooking and eating them. Here is a list of some of them with nutritional information and some different ideas of how to cook them.
APPLES It seems there may be some truth in the saying ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’. Apples are a great source of fibre as they contain a substance called quercetin which may play a role in memory and learning and help ward off dementia and other age-related illnesses. Their skins also contain healthy flavonoids which are antioxidants. Add some oats to your apple crumble mix as well as muesli or granola; this provides even more fibre. Apple pies, baked apples, apple sauce and apple in your winter salad are just some of the ways to use them.
BEETROOT These root vegetables have high levels of nitrates which may help improve blood flow and get more oxygen to muscles, which could help boost athletic performance and hypertension. You can eat them raw in salads or slaw as well as roasting or steaming them. A healthy alternative to crisps is to slice them thinly and bake.
PUMPKINS When you are scooping out the pumpkin for your own or your grandchildren’s Halloween lantern, please don’t throw the flesh away. It is rich in beta carotene which may help against the development of certain cancers and heart disease. It is low in calories, fat and sodium and high in fibre, rich in potassium and B vitamins. Dry the seeds to sprinkle on breakfast muesli or when making bread as they are high in protein, magnesium and iron too.
BRUSSEL SPROUTS Love them or hate them, brussel sprouts are about to make an appearance. Most cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, kale and cauliflower—are considered superfoods; Brussels sprouts contain sulforaphane, a compound that has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. They’re also high in fibre, iron, vitamins K and C. You can eat them raw shredded in salads, steam, roast or boil them. You can add some balsamic vinegar when you roast them to take the bitter taste away.
PARSNIPS Another seasonal vegetable usually eaten roasted with Sunday lunch and Christmas dinner. They are rich in potassium and if you leave the skins on a good source of fibre. You can also include them in mash potato and pureed as a natural thickener in soups and sauces.
PEARS Whilst eating a ripe pear is a delight for many, cooking brings out even more of their flavour. Their high fibre content helps gut health and they also contain plenty of vitamin C in the skin; so, leave it on. They are a good source of potassium, vitamin C and copper. Cook and eat pears in the same way you would apples. You can eat them raw in salads, add to your porridge, and are especially good with blue cheese. Poached pears in red wine are particularly good as a healthy dessert.
CAULIFLOWER This unassuming vegetable has recently come into its own. Its phytonutrients may lower cholesterol and it is an excellent source of vitamin C. There are many ways and recipes at the moment to make the best of it. Many people substitute cauliflower for potatoes and even rice. Steaming, boiling, mashing, roasting, ricing, are just some of the ways this fashionable and versatile vegetable can be used.
SWEET POTATOES These alternatives to white potatoes are more nutritionally dense. They are a good source of fibre, beta-carotene, potassium, vitamins C, E and A. They are lower in carbohydrate than white potatoes and you can cook them in the same way; boiled, roasted, mash
TANGERINES Usually eaten at Christmas time, they are a good source of vitamin C and beta-carotene.
DATES Another fruit usually reserved for Christmas; presented in their traditional box. As often happens, they may not get eaten. However, this low-fat fruit packed with fibre and potassium can be used in other ways. Try adding them to stews, typically a tagine. You can chop them up and use as source of sweetness in baking, desserts or stuffed with cream cheese.