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10 Delicious Fall Foods at Their Peak

Of course, pumpkins and squash make the list, but you might be surprised from some of the other delicious foods in season during autumn.
Of course, pumpkins and squash make the list, but you might be surprised from some of the other delicious foods in season during autumn.
©iStockphoto/Thinkstock

This may not be a surprise to you if you stop to consider your own daily diet: Only a smidge more than one-quarter of American adults eat their vegetables, according to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [source: Severson]. French fries aside, that means most of us are missing out on the health benefits -- and the taste -- of all types of foods.

Depending on your age and gender (and how active you are every day) the amount of fruits and vegetables you need each day varies, but it's recommended that most American adults eat between 1.5 and 2 cups of fruit and vegetables. It may sound like a lot of food, but hang on -- consider that usually, one piece of fruit, such as an apple, or one cup of fruit is one serving (one cup of raw or cooked vegetables also counts as a serving of veggies). Multiple studies over the years have found that eating three or more servings of fruit and vegetables every day can help lower your risk of developing some serious, often chronic, health conditions, from age-related macular degeneration to inflammatory diseases and cancers.

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One of the best ways to make sure you're eating enough? Follow the USDA guidelines and fill half of your plate with fruits and veggies. And as autumn draws near, we've gathered our list of fresh fruits and vegetables that are not only nutritional powerhouses, but also taste great and happen to be at their peak just as the summer is coming to its end. Sorry, turkey, stuffing and apple pie won't appear on this list -- although apples minus the pie is a great place to start.

It's no secret that apples are full of nutrients. They just might be the perfect fall food.
It's no secret that apples are full of nutrients. They just might be the perfect fall food.
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You know the saying about an apple a day -- it keeps the doctor away. It may sound like an old wives' tale, but this is one old wives' tale with truth to it. Apples are good for you.

One medium-sized apple equals about one cup of fruit, and that one cup of fruit contains vitamin C, about four grams of soluble fiber, and fewer than 100 calories. Apples help regulate your blood sugar levels and help promote weight loss, and preliminary studies indicate they may also have benefits against some age-related illnesses (such as Alzheimer's disease).

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Apples also have anti-inflammatory properties, and multiple studies find that eating them regularly may help reduce your risk of developing certain cancers (including lung cancer), respiratory conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes as well as metabolic syndrome. And researchers have also found that apples may lower your risk of stroke.

Pears are often recommended by pediatricians as a good first food to introduce to babies because they're easily digestible, and considered to be a hypoallergenic food. But pears shouldn't be reserved just for infants and the allergy-prone.

Over the years, studies have found that pears may help prevent or reduce the risk of developing asthma and certain forms of cancer (including colon cancer, post-menopausal breast cancer and even lung cancer in women). They're rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, which may help prevent inflammation and the development of certain diseases.

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One pear -- average-sized, give or take a few ounces -- is a good source of soluble fiber (one pear has 4 grams of total fiber), and it contains no saturated fat, no cholesterol, no sodium, and has only about 100 calories, making it a perfect snack. Be sure to eat it with the skin on to get the biggest antioxidant benefits.

Radishes aren't just for garnishes -- they're also great sautéed or pickled.
Radishes aren't just for garnishes -- they're also great sautéed or pickled.
©iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Radishes don't get into the action in a lot of American meals, usually relegated to slivers or discs in your salad or carved into a garnish. They're a little bitter, a little spicy and a lot crunchy.

Throughout history, radishes have been considered good at detoxifying the body. And they are. Radishes contain sulfur-based chemicals, and these help to increase how much bile the body makes as well as how well it handles that bile, keeping not just the liver healthy, but the gallbladder and the digestive system too.

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Radishes are packed full of B vitamins, vitamin C, calcium and phosphorus. They are also a natural diuretic, which means eating them could help you fight off (or find relief from) urinary tract infections (UTIs).

In addition to (or instead of) slicing them into your salads, try sautéing or pickling radishes -- and try cooking the greens for a tasty and nutritional boost.

You may have shunned them throughout childhood, but let's get to know the Brussels sprout and why you should add them to your basket the next time you're at the store or farmers' market. Brussels sprouts are those mini cabbages you see over near the Napa and bok choy. They're in the same family as cabbage -- cruciferous vegetables -- and cruciferous vegetables are known sources of fiber, folate (one of the B vitamins) and vitamin C. Brussels sprouts, in addition, are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

The antioxidants in Brussels sprouts may help keep your immune system healthy, boost your body's ability to fight inflammation and help prevent some health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers (including cancers of the bladder, breast, colon, lung, prostate and ovaries) [source: George Mateljan Foundation].

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Kohlrabi may look a little like an alien plant, and it does have a nutritional profile that's out of this world.
Kohlrabi may look a little like an alien plant, and it does have a nutritional profile that's out of this world.
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Kohlrabi is a vegetable related to cabbage, but it doesn't look like any cabbage you may have seen. These alien-looking produce are usually white, purple or green, depending on the variety, and if you haven't heard of or tasted kohlrabi, its flavor is mild, often described as a cross between broccoli and cucumber (or broccoli and cabbage). It can be eaten raw or prepared in a variety of cooked methods (steaming may be the most versatile, but roasting kohlrabi will sweeten its flavor).

Kohlrabi is a low calorie (1 cup contains no more than 40 calories), low fat (specifically, saturated fat, the kind that's linked to heart disease), low sodium, low cholesterol food that is also packed full of vitamins and minerals, including folate, potassium, calcium, vitamin A and almost the entire recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin C.

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What do you reach for when you're looking to replenish your vitamin C? Oranges or orange juice often first come to mind for many of us, but as it turns out, we can improve upon that choice. Just about the time cold and flu season is beginning, kiwis are coming into season. Ounce per ounce, a single kiwi gives you more vitamin C than an orange (about 90 milligrams), which is good for keeping your respiratory system healthy, lowering the amount of stress hormones in your body and boosting your immune system.

One kiwi also contains three grams of fiber, which is beneficial for your digestive health. And if you've been avoiding kiwifruit because you aren't sure how to get beyond its fuzzy skin, consider giving it another try: Eating kiwi with its skin adds three times the amount of antioxidants than eating the fruit peeled [sources: Sharecare, Barbour].

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Turnips are a starchy vegetable, but don't let that deter you from adding them into regular rotation in your menu planning. If you're not sure what to do with them, try cooking the root like you would any other starchy vegetable (such as potatoes) -- from mashed to gratins to soups and more.

And don't toss the greens! Turnip greens taste a bit like kale (we'll get to kale soon), are packed full of calcium for strong bones and teeth, have potassium for strong muscles and healthy blood pressure, and provide anti-inflammatory benefits from vitamin K and omega-3 fatty acids. One cup of greens has more than the RDA of fiber and folate, and is a great low-cal (less than 60 calories per cup), low-fat (1 cup has only 1 gram of fat) addition to any meal.

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It wouldn't feel like autumn without pumpkins, whether they've been carved into jack-o'-lanterns or not.

Pumpkin, whether you're using fresh or canned, is a great source of beta-carotene (vitamin A), vitamin C and fiber, and can be cooked as a side dish or dessert, or even be the star of the main meal.

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If you're working with fresh pumpkin, don't throw away the seeds. Pumpkin seeds are also packed full of healthy nutrients including protein, iron, B vitamins, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. The calories can really begin to add up if you're snacking on pumpkin seeds, though, so limit yourself to a small handful (about 1/4 cup) a day. Additionally, preliminary research suggests pumpkin seed oil extract may help relieve the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, a condition where the prostate gland becomes enlarged) when taken orally.

Love squash? Then, take your pick! You're going to get delicious flavor and great nutrition with almost any choice.
Love squash? Then, take your pick! You're going to get delicious flavor and great nutrition with almost any choice.
©Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock

Pumpkin is not the only squash you should consider for your autumn menu, although you can't go wrong with it. But with pretty much any variety you choose, from butternut to acorn to kabocha, you'll reap the benefits of beta-carotene, which your body will turn into vitamin A, known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. It may also decrease your odds of developing conditions related to chronic inflammation, such as asthma and allergies, rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers. Winter squash are also good sources of B vitamins, vitamin C (one cup of squash contains about one third of your RDA of vitamin C), potassium, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.

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These days it seems kale is the darling of the greens. Kale is showing up in salads, as chips, as a substitute for spinach and even in smoothies and juices -- kale is far elevated from its previous role as a garnish. And three cheers for that, because kale has some seriously healthy benefits.

Let's look at just 1 cup of kale. It's only about 36 calories, but contains 5 grams of fiber, and is a good source of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and phosphorus, among other minerals. One cup of kale is also packed full of antioxidant power in the forms of vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as more than 1,000 percent of the RDA of the vitamin K, an important nutrient for preventing blood clots and lowering your risk of certain cancers (including bladder, breast, colon, ovarian and prostate cancers).

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