Monday Medical: Fall flavors offer health benefits |

Monday Medical: Fall flavors offer health benefits

Susan Cunningham For Steamboat Today

From hearty root vegetables and winter squashes, to colorful fruits such as cranberries and pomegranates, fall produce offers palate-pleasing flavors as well as beneficial nutrients and antioxidants.

"The produce of this season can turn into many nourishing, comforting dishes," said Pam Wooster, a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator with UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. "And it is high in fiber and nutrient dense, which supports health."

Wooster will be showcasing a variety of fall flavors during a cooking demonstration Wednesday.

When working with winter produce, it's best to choose recipes that use real foods and fresh ingredients, and that stay away from processed ingredients and added sugars.

Winter squashes such as pumpkin, butternut, acorn and spaghetti squashes are excellent sources of vitamins A and C, and offer a natural sweetness that easily pairs with herbs and spices such as cinnamon, sage, cloves and turmeric. Plus, most winter squashes are a good source of fiber, providing five to 10 grams of fiber per serving.

Winter squashes can be roasted, boiled, sautéed or baked. If a squash is too hard to cut, it can be baked whole in the oven. The squash can be enjoyed as is, stuffed with a filling or added to or blended into soups, such as pumpkin curry soup with coconut milk.

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And don't forget about the seeds: Roast them with a little oil and salt and pepper, then enjoy as a snack or salad topping.

"The seeds are a great source of fiber, protein and healthy fats," Wooster said.

Fall fruits are a great addition to leafy green salads or grain-based salads, and bring texture as well as antioxidants, fiber and vitamins A and C. For instance, add farro and pomegranate seeds to a salad for a tasty and filling meal.

Root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, beets, turnips and sweet potatoes can be chopped and roasted, or added to an eggplant and tomato-based ratatouille.

Many types of fall produce have a longer shelf life, making them easier to store.

And when playing with your fall-themed recipes, don't forget to take advantage of spices and herbs. For instance, an apple-sage wild rice stuffing brings to mind the flavors of fall while also featuring sage, which has a medicinal use in reducing bacteria.

"The fall produces are a great vehicle for anti-inflammatory herbs and spices like cloves, rosemary, sage, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, saffron and fennel," Wooster said. "Besides adding flavor to dishes, spices are a really concentrated source of nutrition. Just a small amount of spice added to a food goes a long way in terms of improving nutrition."

This fall, don't hesitate to cook with the season's produce and complimentary herbs and spices. On the next chilly day, roast up a few of your favorites, then enjoy a warm, hearty meal and the pleasant smells of herbs and spices.

Susan Cunningham writes for UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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