The Fall season has much to offer, from Halloween to pumpkin ales, apples to pears. The best part is that buying produce that’s in season means you are eating healthier foods with richer flavors. These foods are generally available at more affordable prices since they are abundant and come fresh from the farm directly into your home. With the days starting to turn cooler, luscious watermelons, and juicy peaches slowly disappearing from the farmer’s market, here are six fruits you can enjoy in autumn.
While pears may be available at your grocery store all year round, they have the best flavor in the fall when they are actually in season. Pears are sweet and can be categorized into two major groups: the European and Asian variety. The European varieties (Bosc and Bartlett) are more common in the U.S., and mostly grown on the west coast during autumn.
Pears are a good source of soluble fiber, with a medium-sized pear containing up to 5.5g of fiber (about 20 percent of your daily recommended value). Soluble fiber helps lower “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, making it a heart-friendly fruit.
Pears are also excellent sources of vitamin C and potassium, with a medium fruit packing almost 8mg of vitamin C (nine percent of daily value) and 206mg of potassium (four percent of daily value). Our bodies need potassium to help cells function at their optimal, regulate the heart, and keep the muscles and nerves functioning as they should.
Pears also contain copper, which helps prevent certain cancers, and boron, a nutrient that helps the body retain calcium.
How to pick: Buy pears when they are hard. Unlike many fruits, pears mature on the tree but ripen after harvest. Pick those without any nicks and wrap them in paper or perforated plastic bags if storing in the fridge.
These crunchy, sweet fruits are in full bloom in fall. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from, depending on your region, and you can be sure to find a variety you love the most. These popular fruits are loaded with healthy benefits, especially antioxidants, like vitamin C, which helps strengthen the immune system and lower the risk of cancer.
Fuji apples are said to pack the highest concentration of phenolics and flavonoids, while Cortland and Empire varieties have the lowest.
Apples are also high in fiber, with a medium-size fruit packing about 4.4g. It’s recommended to eat the apple with the skin on to reap the benefits of polyphenols and vitamin C, such as a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
These compounds can also help repair lung damage from the smoking. Apples also contain high levels of prebiotic pectin, which helps feed your gut bacteria and may help lower cholesterol.
How to pick: Buy apples that are firm with smooth unblemished skin. Avoid those with mushy spots, bruises, or holes. Store apples in perforated plastic bags when refrigerating. Brush them with lemon, orange, or grapefruit juice to retain flavor and keep them fresh after slicing.
You may associate grapes with wine, but they are delicious eaten directly from the tree, especially when in season. They are packed with vitamin K and polyphenols for strong bones.
They also contain flavonoid components that promote healthy function of the blood vessels and reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
Grapes also contain resveratrol, an anti-inflammatory compound that helps to keep your skin looking young. Grapes can be eaten raw, or you can store them in the freezer for a healthy sweet snack.
How to pick: Look for grapes that are plump and firm. Green grapes should have a yellowish amber, and red grapes should have a bright shade of crimson.
Cranberries are another autumn fruit that are full of health benefits. They make delicious toppings for oatmeal, pancakes, and desserts. Apart from being high in fiber and prebiotics, they also pack loads of vitamin C. These fruits are versatile and can be added to a variety of dishes for a nutritious flavor.
The deep red color is courtesy of anthocyanins, which have been found to reduce oxidative stress caused by too many free radicals in the body due to exposure to harmful chemicals. Cranberries are also a good source of manganese and vitamin A, which promotes healthy eyesight.
How to pick: Look for brightly colored and shiny berries. Avoid any that seem discolored or shriveled. Refrigerate cranberries in tightly wrapped plastic bags for up to two months or freeze for up to a year.
Persimmons are a delicacy from East Asia that look like small yellow-orange tomatoes. They have similar protective compounds like beta-carotene and lycopene. These golden fruits are full of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals and have a sweet and spicy taste.
In the U.S., there are two varieties of persimmons: Hachiyas, which are acorn-shaped, tart, and chalk until they ripen, and Fuyus, which are tomato-shaped, sweeter, and can be eaten when they are relatively unripe.
How to pick: Opt for persimmons with no bruises, holes, or brown spots.
Figs are small fruits filled with hundreds of tiny seeds. They are covered with an edible purple or green peel, and the flesh is pink with a mild, sweet taste. They bloom in autumn and offer a variety of health benefits, including promoting healthy digestion, reducing the risk of heart disease, and managing blood sugar levels. Figs are loaded with minerals and vitamins, like magnesium, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B6, and vitamin K.
They are also rich in fiber, which might help lower cholesterol, prevent constipation, and keep you full for longer.
How to pick: Buy figs that are soft with a fresh scent. They are best used immediately after purchase but can be refrigerated for up to seven days.
All images by Shutterstock