Seasonal vegetables generally offer just the nutrients you need for best health in the coming season, and Fall’s final harvest is no exception. Powerhouse veggies with high levels of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients help repair our bodies, fight cancer and strengthen our immune systems to prepare for the long winter ahead.
The abundance of root vegetables available in such as squash, beets, parsnips, carrots, turnips, celery root offer healthy complex carbohydrates, providing soluble fiber which aids digestion, helps keep blood blood sugar low and acts as prebiotic to feed all that good bacteria in your gut. Root vegetables are also wonderful sources of vitamins A and C, both powerful antioxidant cancer-fighters and important for maintaining strong bones and a healthy immune system. Roasted or pureed, root veggies are filling and the perfect base for a cozy meal on a chilly Fall night. Mixing in pureed parsnips to mashed sweet potatoes helps to cut the sweetness a bit and add a new twist to a yummy side dish.
Fennel is a late-season herb that is anti-inflammatory and chock-full of fiber, potassium, folate, calcium, vitamin C and Vitamin B6 making it beneficial for bone health, heart health and cancer prevention! Its distinctive anise-like flavor makes it a tasty addition to Fall dishes such as soups and roasts. Escarole is a hearty leafy green with major vitamin A power, not to mention Vitamin B, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B5, Vitamin C and minerals Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Selenium and Zinc! Add this awesome antioxidant and heart disease fighter to white bean soup for a delicious cancer-fighting lunch.
Cruciferous veggies such as collard greens, chard, kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are high in fiber and, like many of those above, contain cancer-fighting and inflammation-reducing compounds. Cruciferous vegetables also aid in liver (i.e. whole body!) detoxification and promote hormone balance and blood sugar regulation. Cruciferous veggies are best served steamed or roasted with lots of garlic.
As the air outside cools down, Fall is the ideal time for more warming foods to help keep your body calm and balanced. Soup is one of my favorite meals to prepare during the colder months – they’re really flexible recipes and a great way to incorporate lots of veggies. Soups are also super easy to prepare in advance in a slow-cooker or instant pot and usually provide enough leftovers for easy meals later in the week – I’ll take anything that makes weeknight dinners easier!
Here’s one of my favorite fall soup recipes that I’ve slowly adapted over the years:
Squash and Apple Soup
Avocado oil or ghee
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, diced
½ head fennel, cored + chopped
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded + chopped
3-4 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
3 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
Heat 2 Tbsp oil in heavy 6-8 quart pot.
Add garlic and shallot to oil and cook until garlic is pale gold in color, about 1 minute. Add fennel, celery and carrots and sauté for about 8 minutes until vegetables begin to soften; add apple and cook 2 minutes more. Add squash, thyme, bay leaves, broth, water, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered, until all vegetables are soft and tender, about 30. Remove and discard thyme and bay leaves.
In batches, purée about 4 cups of the soup in a blender until smooth. (Be careful not to fill the blender more than 1/3 full at a time, as hot liquids can often ‘jump’.) I like to leave some of the cooked veggies intact for a more rustic soup, but you can certainly puree all for a smoother soup. Return to pot and season with salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste.
Koren Bradshaw, MS, CLC is a clinical nutritionist and certified lactation counselor passionate about functional nutrition and lifestyle education.