One of our favorite reasons to smile this season is the abundance of fresh, colorful and did-we-mention delicious fall produce.
Some highlights are in the slideshow below. Think of something we missed? Let us know in the comments!
<strong>Why we love them: </strong> Another great source of eyesight-boosting vitamin A and beta-carotene, carrots are also rich in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/30/healthy-food-healthiest-list_n_1840547.html#slide=1446491">fiber, potassium and vitamins C and K</a>. Pratt calls them a pumpkin's sidekick, with similar nutrients in smaller amounts. <strong>How to enjoy:</strong> Crunch on the sticks raw or, for even better nutrient absorption, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/27/cook-vegetables-health_n_1919785.html#slide=1575583">try lightly cooking them</a>, reports Everyday Health. Serious Eats shares some <a href="http://www.seriouseats.com/2008/10/in-season-carrots-raw-roasted-sauteed-baked.html">recipes for carrots</a> that include everything from soup to cake (just go easy on the sweets!). Pratt swears by 100 percent organic carrot juice, saying he has a cup every day.
<strong>Why we love them:</strong> October's signature gourd is good for more than just that Jack-O-Lantern. A cup of mashed pumpkin packs more than 200 percent of your <a href="http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2601/2">daily recommended vitamin A</a>, crucial for <a href="http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/">healthy vision and immune system functioning</a>, among other things. Pumpkin is also rich in alpha- and beta-carotene, two nutrients that have been associated with longevity, says <a href="http://drstevepratt.com/?page_id=9">Dr. Steven G. Pratt, M.D.</a>, author of several books on nutrition, including "Superfoods Rx: Fourteen Foods that Will Change Your Life." The flesh of the pumpkin is also rich in fiber, which can help keep you feeling full longer. And did we mention it <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/24/love-fall_n_1905786.html#slide=1555165">tastes good in practically everything</a>? We also love <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/17/7-fall-superfoods_n_1007886.html#s404928&title=Pumpkin_Seeds">pumpkin <em>seeds</em></a>, which you can buy or roast yourself for a dose of healthy fats and a tasty crunch. <strong>How to enjoy:</strong> Roast the seeds on a baking sheet and eat 'em whole. Try the "meat" of the pumpkin in a soup, on pizza, in lasagna and other fun ideas like these <a href="http://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/cooking-ideas/10-delicious-ways-cook-pumpkin">recipes from Shape.com</a>. You can even cheat a little and eat the canned stuff, says Pratt, as long as the label says 100 percent pumpkin.
<strong>Why we love them: </strong>The tasty fall fruit is loaded with <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/29/healthy-food-healthiest-list_n_1636409.html#slide=1161983">heart-healthy antioxidants, fiber and vitamins C and K</a>. Pomegranate has also been linked to fighting prostate and breast cancers, says Pratt. <strong>How to enjoy:</strong> Mix the seeds into your morning cereal or into a salad, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cheryl-forberg-rd/">Cheryl Forberg, R.D.</a>, former nutritionist for "The Biggest Loser" <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/29/healthy-food-healthiest-list_n_1636409.html#slide=1161983">told HuffPost in June</a>. Or opt for the juice, which is made from the entire fruit, says Pratt, giving you the added nutrients found in the skin of the fruit, which is otherwise too tough to eat.
<strong>Why we love them:</strong> While their longest peak is from March to May, artichokes experience an autumnal <a href="http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/03/in-season-artichokes-choosing-picking-storing-20110319.html">mini-peak in October</a>. Artichokes are good sources of vitamin C and fiber, and the hearts in particular are a surprisingly rich source of antioxidants. A 2006 study ranked them number one in terms of antioxidant density, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/29/healthy-food-healthiest-list_n_1636409.html#slide=1162167">higher than well-known picks like dark chocolate and blueberries</a>, HuffPost reported. Plus, they're low in calories and it takes a while to eat them, Pratt points out. "You get all the pleasures of eating without a whole lot of calories, and quite a bit of fiber, too," he says. <strong>How to enjoy:</strong> Steam the entire thing or add the hearts to a fall-flavored salad. Just be careful with dips -- it's easy to mindlessly drench leaves in butter or mayo, says Pratt. Opt for olive oil and non-salt seasoning instead.
<strong>Why we love them:</strong> The rich color of these root veggies is a tell-tale sign of the health benefits within. The compounds that give beets their color have <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/29/healthy-food-healthiest-list_n_1636409.html#slide=1162154">powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties</a>, similar to those of pomegranates and blueberries, says Pratt. <strong>How to enjoy:</strong> They work great <a href="http://www.cookinglight.com/food/in-season/in-season-beets-00400000001840/">raw in a salad</a>, but beets can also be <a href="http://www.yumsugar.com/How-Cook-Beets-5679612">roasted, pureed into soup, stirred into risotto and more</a>.
<strong>Why we love it:</strong> When it's not swimming in a mayo-y cole slaw, this often-overlooked fall veggie is surprisingly beneficial to your health. Cabbage is a <a href="http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2825/2">good course of vitamin C</a>, fiber and potassium. It also may play a role in fighting cancer, like a number of other <a href="http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/04/03/veggies-like-broccoli-cabbage-may-help-fight-breast-cancer-study">superfoods in the same family</a>, like broccoli, says Pratt. <strong>How to enjoy:</strong> Try it as a sandwich or burger topping, suggests <em>Men's Health</em> or opt for a <a href="http://www.menshealth.com/mhlists/best_healthy_foods/Cabbage.php">lighter, homemade slaw</a>. The <em>New York Times</em> shares some <a href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/health/series/recipes_for_health/cabbage/">tasty-looking soup recipes</a> and Pratt suggests adding purple cabbage to your next spinach salad.
<strong>Why we love them:</strong> While the tear-inducing bulb is essentially available year-round, the crop is <a href="http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/seasonalingredientmap">peaking in a number of states across the country</a> in October, according to the seasonal ingredient map at Epicurious. Onions have been linked to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and reduce risk of prostate cancer, not to mention they pack <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/30/healthy-food-healthiest-list_n_1840547.html#slide=1446647">anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties</a>. <strong>How to enjoy:</strong> Try them in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leo-galland-md/health-benefits-garlic_b_900784.html">soups, omelets, dips, salads and sandwiches</a>, writes physician and HuffPost blogger Dr. Leo Galland. Pratt cooks them over low heat with a little olive oil and adds them to just about every vegetable dish he eats, he says.
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