Fitness Facts: Fall nutrition

By Liz Cook
Registered Dietitian, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic

Fall weather has arrived in Phoenix! The temperatures are dropping, the sun is setting earlier and you might find yourself craving warmer, heartier meals.

Eating seasonally may just seem like a trend – hello, pumpkin spice everything – but there are real benefits to consuming seasonal produce.

Seasonal produce is often fresher, more flavorful and even more nutrient-dense than out-of-season produce. This is because the fruits and veggies are picked at peak ripeness and available for purchase immediately instead of harvested, transported, etc.

Eating seasonally, specifically items that are in season locally, also benefits the environment because less transportation means less pollution.

So what’s in season right now?

  • Apples
  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Citrus fruits
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Pumpkin
  • Winter squash
  • Sweet potatoes

These fruits and veggies are all in season in November. Some of them may be staples on your table, some may make an appearance at Thanksgiving, some may be things you’ve never tried. I really encourage trying to incorporate a few of these over the next few weeks while they are in season in Arizona.

What is the difference between eating fresh, local, seasonal produce rather than out-of-season produce that has been picked, packed and shipped? It means eating an apple that you just picked or purchased from a local farm, an apple that will give you more vitamins and minerals than one that was grown a few hours away and picked a few days ago.

Some notable nutrients in the items listed above are vitamin A and vitamin C. Vitamin A, found in carrots, kale, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and squash, is important for vision and immune function. Vitamin C, found in citrus fruits, cauliflower, sweet potatoes and parsnips, is important for our immune system as well as growth, development and repair within our bodies.

Another factor to consider when purchasing produce is whether to buy organic or conventional. Organic produce can be pricey, so I always recommend being smart about what you choose to buy organic.

The Environment Working Group puts out a yearly list that ranks popular produce items from those with most pesticide residue to those with the least pesticide residue. It also puts together two lists – the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen – that give you a good idea of what the buy organic (the dirty ones) and what to buy conventional (the cleaner ones).

From the list above, apples and kale both appear on the Dirty Dozen list, which means they hold a large amount of pesticides, and organic is likely better. Cauliflower is on the Clean Fifteen list, so there is likely far less pesticide residue on your cauliflower than your kale.

The others all fall somewhere in the middle of the list, so use your best judgment. The link above contains the full ranking if you’re curious to see where your favorite items fall.

If you need a little recipe inspiration for how to use some of these produce items, here are a few of my personal favorites to make this time of year:

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