Picked at Their Peak: The Benefits of Choosing—and Eating—Seasonal Produce

Every season brings its own beauty, complemented by favorite foods. But there’s something special about fall that adds more color—and seasonal favorites—to our plates.  It’s true that most produce is available year-round. But are you aware of the benefits of eating these foods when harvested in peak season? Grab your shopping list as we journey down the produce aisle to explore the surprising discoveries of the fall season’s freshest produce.

Benefits of choosing (and eating) seasonal produce

Aside from waiting to make your favorite fall recipes, there are several benefits of eating produce when picked at its peak. Let’s see how many you know.

  • Better for your health—Produce that is harvested in its proper season matures longer on the plant, which makes it more nutrient-dense when compared to being picked before its prime. And were you aware that seasonal produce is likely to be locally grown? This is not only better for your health, but for your local economy too!
  • Tastes better—Seasonal produce simply tastes better since it’s been picked at the peak of flavor.
  • Saves money—Seasonal produce is typically sold at its best price, which keeps more money in your wallet. And that’s a good thing in any season!
  • Good for the environment—Buying seasonal produce can actually help the environment as it reduces water and land use, pollution, and soil degradation.

Health benefits of the season’s top fruits and vegetables

When it comes to choosing the best seasonal fruits and veggies, it’s all about your preferences. With so many to choose from, our specialists have narrowed it down to some of the most popular—with a few surprises thrown in. You might even discover a new fall favorite!

Fruits

Pumpkins

Surprise! Yes, pumpkin is technically a fruit—although it has the nutritional profile of a vegetable—giving you the best of both worlds. Considered the “star of the season,” pumpkin is a favorite fruit that endures right through the holiday season.

Health benefits of eating pumpkin:

  • Boosts your immunity
  • Cleanses your liver
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Prevents cancer and type 2 diabetes
  • Promotes healthy eyes and skin

Nutritional benefits—Pumpkin is rich in:

  • Fiber
  • Beta-carotene
  • Protein
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium

Not that we want to remind you, but when it comes to reaping the nutritional benefits of pumpkin, a pumpkin spice latte doesn’t count!

Apples

You may be surprised that apples are a fall fruit since they are available in grocery stores throughout the year. The truth is that apples have a season and are typically harvested from late summer until fall. Were you aware there are thousands of varieties of apples? When picked at their peak, there’s nothing like taking a bite out of a crisp, juicy apple.

Health benefits of eating apples:

  • Helps reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and asthma
  • May improve outcomes related to Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive decline of normal aging, diabetes, weight management, and bone health

Nutritional—Apples are rich in:

  • Antioxidants
  • Fiber
  • Phytonutrients

With all of these amazing benefits, an apple a day just may indeed keep the doctor away.

Figs

If you’re not familiar with figs, this is the season to acquaint yourself with this power fruit. Figs have a short second season in late fall (the first being summer) and a make their long-awaited appearance for the holiday season. (Figgy pudding, anyone?) This sweet fruit can be enjoyed fresh or dried, and it packs a nutritional punch in whatever way you choose to eat it. Surprised by this one? Check out the nutritional benefits below to find out why figs made our list.

Health benefits of eating figs:

  • Helps reduce cholesterol
  • Is suitable for diabetics, as potassium found in the fruit helps balance sugar levels and prevents spiking and crashing
  • Heart healthy, with beneficial effects on triglyceride levels
  • Can help protect against breast cancer in post-menopausal women
  • Can help against high blood pressure
  • Promotes healthy bones
  • Helps protect eye health and maintains vision as we age

Nutritional benefits—Figs are rich in:

  • Vitamins A, B1 and B2
  • Manganese, potassium, iron, calcium and phosphorous
  • Fiber
  • Phenols
  • Omega 3 and 5 fatty acids
  • Calcium

Fun fact: Fig leaves can be used to make a hot drink—similar to herbal tea—to soothe respiratory problems like asthma, bronchitis, and even sore throats.

Note: It’s recommended to eat figs in moderation since they are fairly high in calories and sugar. 

Cranberries

Considered one of the world’s healthiest fruits, this antioxidant powerhouse makes its appearance between October and December and is used in items ranging from baked goods, smoothies, and compotes to serving as tasty additions to oatmeal, granola, and even festive holiday decorations. One of the best things about cranberries is that they freeze well, so you can enjoy them all year long.

Health benefits of eating cranberries:

  • Reduces the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Helps prevent cancer
  • Boosts immune system
  • Helps with aging
  • Cleanses the liver
  • Lowers blood pressure

Nutritional benefits—Cranberries are rich in:

  • Phytonutrients (naturally derived plant compounds), particularly proanthocyanidin antioxidants, which are essential for overall well-being
  • Vitamins C, A and folate
  • Beta-carotene and lutein
  • Potassium
  • Manganese

Pears

This sweet, velvety fruit is not only delicious but packs a punch when it comes to nutrients. Although there are about 100 varieties of pears grown worldwide, the three most popular found in the U.S. are Bartlett, Bosc, and D’Anjou.

Health benefits of eating pears:

  • Supports cellular function
  • Energy production
  • Promotes healthy skin and wound healing
  • Supports a healthy immune system
  • Aids in nerve and heart function

Nutritional benefits—Pears are rich in:

  • Folate
  • Vitamin C
  • Copper
  • Potassium
  • Polyphenol antioxidants

Note: The peel of a pear contains up to six times more polyphenols than the flesh, so be sure to eat the entire pear!

Vegetables

Butternut squash

Butternut squash is just one variety of winter squashes that is gaining popularity for its sweet, nutty taste. Packed with nutrients, this delicious seasonal veggie is great in soups and stews or in one of your favorite recipes. Butternut squash stores well and will last throughout the winter when kept in a cool, dark place.

Health benefits of eating butternut squash:

  • Boosts immune system
  • Helps prevent and fight cancer
  • Prevents high blood pressure
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Improves eyesight
  • Keeps bones healthy
  • Aids in weight loss

Nutritional benefits—Butternut squash is rich in:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin A
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Antioxidants

Beets

Boasting a beautiful deep red color, beets are one of the season’s most versatile and nutrient-dense vegetables. They are at their sweetest in colder climates but can be found year-round in most grocery stores. And did you know that beet greens are chocked full of vitamins and minerals, too? They can be steamed and sauteed—just as you would with spinach, Swiss chard, or kale—or added to salads and even smoothies. Give them a try this season.

Health benefits of eating beets:

  • Helps with muscle fatigue
  • Aids in fighting infections
  • May help with liver damage
  • May support brain health
  • Boosts energy (and beet juice may help with athletic performance)
  • May help with digestive health

Nutritional benefits—Beets are rich in:

  • Folate
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Copper
  • Fiber

Sweet potatoes

Possibly the healthiest of the potato family due to their nutrient-dense properties, sweet potatoes are popular all year-round but especially during the fall and winter seasons when they are at their peak. Whether you enjoy them baked, mashed or in a favorite holiday recipe, sweet potatoes are a hit in any way you prepare them. And did you know they come in orange, white, and purple varieties?

Health benefits of eating sweet potatoes:

  • Supports healthy vision
  • May support immune system
  • May improve brain health
  • May help with gut health
  • May have cancer-fighting properties

Nutritional benefits—Sweet potatoes are rich in:

  • Beta-carotene (which is converted to Vitamin A in the body)
  • Fiber (soluble and insoluble)
  • Antioxidants

Brussels sprouts

You may be surprised to learn that these mini-cabbages have big disease-fighting properties. They are packed with nutrients, which make them extraordinarily healthy. In the past, Brussels sprouts were not received as a fall favorite. Today, however, you can find them on menus across the country. Culinary experts have even created recipes that are making Brussels sprouts their new addiction.

Health benefits of eating Brussels sprouts:

  • Helps fight cancer
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Promotes weight loss
  • Keeps bones strong and healthy

Nutritional benefits—Brussels sprouts are rich in:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Fiber
  • Phytochemicals

Fun fact: Any idea how Brussels sprouts got their name? They were cultivated in Belgium (where Brussels is the capital city) during the 16th century!

Eggplant

Eggplant is an amazing seasonal vegetable as it is—like pumpkin—botanically a fruit. Known for its “meaty” texture, eggplant is extremely versatile, as well as being a weight-loss wonder since it is low in calories and high in antioxidants. Eggplant is considered a nutrient-dense food and is part of the nightshade family of plants. 

Health benefits of eating eggplant:

  • Helps protect cells against free radicals
  • Found to assist in preventing heart disease and diabetes
  • Helps to maintain blood sugar levels

Nutritional benefit—Eggplant is rich in:

  • Antioxidants—particularly anthocyanins—a pigment that can help guard against cellular damage
  • Fiber
  • Polyphenols
  • Manganese

Fun fact: Wondering how eggplant got its name? During the 18th century, Europeans named the oddly shaped fruit after the shape and size of goose eggs.

Check out our blog, “Veggie Hacks: How to Include More Veggies in Your Diet.”

The New Mayo Clinic Diet makes it easy to enjoy seasonal produce and stay healthy

Choosing—and eating—seasonal fruits and vegetables just became easier. Did you know that you can eat an unlimited number of veggies on the New Mayo Clinic Diet? As you learned from this blog, there are many benefits to eating seasonal produce. Which ones are your favorites? Check out more seasonal fruits and vegetables here.

The New Mayo Clinic Diet’s flexible meal plans not only fit into any lifestyle, but they are healthy and easy to plan for. With easy-to-find ingredients that are light on your wallet—combined with quick prep times—you’ll be saving money and eating delicious meals while losing weight. Plus, the New Mayo Clinic Diet features a food tracker, so you can keep track of your veggie intake.

Our team of dietitians has developed six different meal plans which allow you to find and follow an eating style that suits your taste and diet preferences. Wondering what a “day on a plate” looks like? Have a look at a sample of the Original Mayo Clinic Diet meal plan.

Join the Mayo Clinic Diet today!

Join the Mayo Clinic Diet today!

If you’re ready to commit to making a real change in your life, we have a real solution. Start losing weight with the New Mayo Clinic Diet today!

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