As a Canadian, I feel lucky to live in a country with four seasons and I eagerly anticipate the change from one to the next. Fall is most certainly my favourite season. Nature’s beauty as it turns down for winter plus the abundance of the harvest define these months as a season of comfort and well-being.
When it comes to our nutrition, I let the harvest guide my food selections as I try to focus my family’s eating on seasonal and local goodness. The basics of wholesome legumes, root vegetables and fall herbs can all be included in soups, stews and other hearty recipes. Mother Nature knows how to ‘let thy food be thy medicine’. By incorporating these superfoods into your diet, you will strengthen your immune system and prepare your body for the cooler months ahead.
As a nutritionist, have seen far too many food trends come and go over the past twenty years, resulting in unprecedented rates of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Less talked about, but of equal importance are many of the nutritional deficiencies that result as we search for that perfect ratio of carbohydrates, fats and protein.
As we transition into the fall season, let’s turn our attention to seasonal whole foods that are loaded with nutrients the body needs to reach optimal health.
As the saying goes, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, and for good reason. Loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C, fibre and pectin, apples are delicious eaten raw or added to soups, smoothies, muffins and just about any recipe you can think of. For a great family fall activity, head out to a local apple farm and you will have a new appreciation for the most popular fruit in the country.
Considered an antioxidant powerhouse, vitamin C and folate make these tart seeds and juice a fall wonder when used in marinades or simply tossed with a salad.
These are my favourite pick for a fall vegetable— and if cooked properly they taste incredible. Folate, vitamin K and iron are just a few of the nutrients that make these a must-have on your menu. My favourite cooking suggestion is to coat them with olive oil, fresh garlic and lemon juice, roast for 20 minutes and toss with parmesan cheese. You will never turn your nose up again at these sprouts!
With their sweet, nutty flavor and fibrous goodness, parsnips are a fabulous fall veggie to add to soups and stews.
Was considered one of the “hottest” superfoods for 2014. Cauliflower makes a wonderful side dish through the fall and winter months. Phytonutrients and vitamin C help to keep our bodies healthy during the seasonal changes.
After marrying into an Italian family, I appreciate the value of a tomato more than ever! Pasta sauce, salsa, salads, soups and stews are perfect fall and winter foods as we enjoy the sweet, juicy tomatoes recently picked from the vines. Rich in antioxidants, lycopene, and vitamin C, tomatoes are a daily ‘must’ in our family.
The seeds found in the winter squash are high in zinc and iron, and also contain omega-3 fatty acids, necessary for moisturizing and fighting dry skin. The seeds can be incorporated into daily recipes or roasted for a healthy, protein and fibre-filled snack.
I’m a firm believer in the value and power of nutritional supplements. As beautiful and bountiful as fall is, it also marks the return to schedules, routines and the transition to a stressful time of year. Omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics and vitamin D are my three top supplements for the fall season. Vitamin D is of particular importance as exposure to sunlight is minimal. A daily supplement of vitamin D3 (your dose should be 25 IU per pound of body weight) is recommended to protect your body and help boost mood and immune health.
Kale, White Bean and Pasta Soup
Ingredients1 can of cannellini beans
1 can of garbanzo beans
¼ cup olive oil
2 Tbsp minced garlic
1 large onion chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 large can of diced tomatoes
4 cups of vegetable broth
½ tsp of oregano
2 large bay leaves
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ pound spaghetti (broken into 1 inch pieces)
Bunch of kale (washed, stems trimmed and chopped into small pieces)
In a large pot, add the olive oil, garlic, onions, and celery. Sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes and their juice, another 2 cups of water and the broth. Bring again to a boil. Add the oregano, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Turn down the heat and let simmer for 1.5 hours (until the beans soften and begin to break apart). About 20 minutes before the soup is finished add the kale, cover and let steam until kale is tender.
In a separate pot cook the pasta and drain. Add to the simmering soup just a few minutes before you are ready to serve.
Serve with a nice loaf of Italian bread and sprinkle with parmesan cheese for extra flavor.
Karlene Karst is a registered dietitian, author and mom of three living in beautiful Vancouver, B.C. She spends her fall at the farmers’ markets, picking apples and harvest vegetables.