Fall is prime harvest season and all athletes should take advantage of the nutrition-rich bounty. Pumpkins, squash and apples are the classics, but there are lower-profile fall plants that taste great and boost performance.
From leafy greens to plump persimmons, seasonal fruits and vegetables deserve a place on your menu. It’s hard to turn down the season’s apple pies and pumpkin flavored sweets but bumping up your consumption of fresh produce will keep you in tip-top nutritional shape, which you’ll be extra-grateful for when cold and flu season comes around.
These lesser-known autumnal superfoods will keep you on the move through the winter.
Though they lack the popularity of fall staple fruits like peaches or pears, persimmons are delicious, versatile and nutritious. They work well in both savory and sweet dishes or as a hearty snack. Persimmons are rich in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin A and a variety of the minerals that are depleted during exercise.
Honestly, Kale deserves an article of its own. Zone Diet book series writer Barry Sears says kale comes packed with beta-carotene, folate, vitamin C and abundant fiber. On top of that, kale is one a rich source of calcium, magnesium and potassium, which may help metabolize glucose for energy. One cup of chopped kale contains 10 percent of your daily value of calcium, 24 percent of your daily value of folate, 134 percent of your vitamin A and vitamin C and an impressive 500 percent of vitamin K.
While pumpkins and fall are almost synonymous, pumpkin seeds get less attention. According to Megan Ware of Medical News Today, one serving of pumpkin seeds contains 14 percent or more of your zinc needs for the day along with loads of manganese, phosphorus, iron and copper. Toast them with a dash of sea salt and olive oil or sprinkle the toasted seeds over salads as a healthy substitute for croutons.
No one really thinks of celery root as a performance food, but it’s loaded with nutrition, including complex carbohydrates and prebiotics. Celery root is packed with fiber, which keeps blood sugar stable after a taxing workout and helps aid digestion.
Endurance athletes know the endurance benefits of the beet very well. But New York City dietitian Rachael Link says the high fiber rooted vegetable also provides a wide range of nutrients like vitamin B-6, iron and magnesium, complex carbohydrates for replenishing glycogen stores and the fibers you need to keep the GI tract running smoothly. Mix beets and goat cheese into a salad for a healthy side dish. Grill or boil them and serve with other veggies. Beets are also great for pickling, canning or just eating them cold.
Pomegranates are a great alternative for fall dishes calling for cranberries. Moreover, they’re potent in nutrition and flavor. Certified Nutritionist and Holistic Health Counselor Betty Murray eats pomegranates for their high levels of antioxidants which helps reduce inflammation—the reason muscles feel so sore after tough workouts. Murray notes that a serving of pomegranate juice has more antioxidants than red wine, green tea or blueberries.
These mildly sweet fruits are nutritious and great to cook with. High in vitamin C, quince tastes like a cross between a pear and an apple. Enjoy quince fruits between October and December. They’re a natural choice for jams and jellies because they’re rich in pectin, a natural gelling agent. Pectin gives structure to fruit fillings and spreads and it contributes to their rich flavor.