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Just when you thought you’d be mourning the inevitable end of summer, in waltzes fabulous fall—with its promise of crisp air, crunchy leaves, and incredible fruits and veggies. October marks the end of the weekly farmers market in many regions, so now’s the time to get your al fresco shopping on! Here are a few of our early-autumn produce favorites and why we love them.
Sweet Potatoes/Yams: Something this sweet, starchy, and satisfying just can’t be good for you, right? Wrong! In simple, healthy preparations—baked in the skin or roasted with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar—sweet potatoes are one of the healthiest foods you can put into your body. Rich in fiber, potassium, and iron, sweet potatoes are also loaded with antioxidants; high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C work together to banish harmful free radicals.
Butternut Squash: Low in fat and rich enough to evoke both buttery and nutty flavors, this decadent squash is similar to the sweet potato with its high concentrations of beta-carotene and antioxidants; a one-cup serving provides nearly half your recommended daily dose of vitamin C! When choosing this particular squash, look for an unblemished fruit with a matte finish—shiny specimens were likely picked too early, and won’t be as sweet.
Grapes: The perfect healthy snack any time of year, grapes are in their prime during the fall and a must-pick from your local fruit stand. Great sources of vitamins C and B-6 as well as potassium, thiamine, and riboflavin, they also contain flavanoids: powerful antioxidants that can help reduce atherosclerosis, a thickening of the arterial walls caused by cholesterol buildup. A word to the wise, though: Even organic grapes can retain pesticide residue on their skins, so always wash carefully.
Cranberries: High in antioxidants and proven to help fight free radicals, the crafty cranberry is a worthy autumn treat in its own right, with a sweet-tart flavor that enhances nearly any dish. But it seems the humble berry’s full potential may still be largely untapped; the National Institutes of Health is currently conducting research to investigate the fruit’s potential in fighting cancer, stroke, and viral infections.