What’s in Season? Nutrient-Dense Foods for Late Summer and Early Fall

What’s in Season? Nutrient-Dense Foods for Late Summer and Early Fall

Sarah Caffrey, NTP Sarah Caffrey, NTP
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By the time September rolls around, it can be hard to figure out what foods are in season. Is it summer? Is it fall? What is Autumn? But late summer and early fall bring a bounty of produce just waiting to be taken advantage of. Naturally, produce peaks at different times in different parts of the country, so this is a general guide to what’s in season in late summer and early fall in most parts of the U.S. 

Why Should I Eat Seasonal Foods? 

What you’ve heard is true—eating seasonally is one of the best things you can do for both your health and our planet. 

Seasonal eating is the traditional practice of eating produce that grows best in a climate during a specific time of year.  It’s an easy way to increase the nutrient density (and taste!) of the foods you eat without breaking the bank. 

Before modern agriculture, it was common to only find seasonal foods. That meant things like tomatoes and cucumbers in the summer, apples in the fall, citrus in the winter, and asparagus in the spring.  These days, you can find almost any fruit or vegetable year-round. 

This may be convenient, but it can lead to less nutritious and less flavorful fruits and vegetables. As seasonal foods mature outdoors in a natural way, they absorb the energy of the sun. This natural process allows their nutrients to remain intact, resulting in a higher quality product. Simply put, foods in season taste better, are more nutritious and are less expensive than foods that aren’t. 

5 Nutrient-Dense Foods for Late Summer and Early Fall

There are so many delicious fruits and vegetables to choose from this time of year, this list is far from inclusive. Here are 5 of the most nutrient-dense foods for late summer and early fall. 

Apples are a good source of: 

  • Fiber
  • Phytochemicals
  • Vitamin C
  • Potassium

The first food I think of when September rolls around are apples. Yes, apples are easy to find year-round, but they peak during September and October. Apples are crisp, flavorful, and loaded with health benefits. They’re a great source of fiber, phytochemicals, vitamin C, and potassium.

Apples contain both soluble and insoluble fibers, which are important for different functions. Soluble fiber can aid digestion and help lower blood sugar, while insoluble fiber can prevent constipation by making stools easier to pass. Apples are also rich in pectin, a type of soluble fiber that can prevent constipation and lower cholesterol1. 

My favorite thing about apples is they are high in naturally occurring plant phytochemicals quercetin, catechin, and chlorogenic acid. Phytochemicals are organic plant compounds that have been researched for their potential role in disease prevention and longevity2. Quercetin is a flavonoid that has anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effects.  

My second favorite thing about apples is that they are not too sweet, not too tangy, and oh so versatile. They are great to eat by themselves, with nut butter, or even baked into a pie.  My family’s favorite way to eat them is sautéed in butter with a dash of cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup. See below for the recipe. 

“Caramelized” Maple Cinnamon Apples

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 apple, cored and cubed (not peeled!)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

Directions: 

  1. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. 
  2. Add 1 diced apple and ½ teaspoon cinnamon and stir to combine. 
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of water and 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and simmer until the apples begin to soften, about 5 minutes or so. 

Other delicious apple recipes:

Apple Pancakes https://rachlmansfield.com/healthy-apple-pie-oatmeal-pancakes-gluten-free/

Gluten-Free Apple Pie https://www.primalpalate.com/paleo-recipe/hayleys-apple-pie/

Cabbage is a good source of: 

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Folate
  • Potassium
  • Fiber

Cabbage is one of those underrated vegetables that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves. As delicious raw, as it is cooked, cabbage is a versatile vegetable that is inexpensive and has a very long shelf life when stored properly. The combination of its crunch, mild sweet flavor, high nutrient levels, and health-boosting properties make cabbage a staple in my refrigerator. 

There are hundreds of varieties of cabbage, but the most common are green, red/purple, Napa, and Savoy. Each one is surprisingly unique in its nutrient profile, but one stands out among the rest. 

Though all cabbage is excellent for digestion and immune function, red cabbage is a superstar for a variety of reasons. Red cabbage provides about twice the amount of vitamin C as the green variety–even more than oranges!  Red cabbage is also 10 times higher in vitamin A than green cabbage. Green cabbage, however, does contain almost twice as much vitamin K as red. 

Red cabbage also contains a substance called anthocyanins, which are responsible for its deep purple hue. This is where red cabbage really outshines its relatives. Studies have shown a link between higher levels of anthocyanin intake and decreased risk of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases3.  

Some of my favorite cabbage recipes include:

Traditional German Red Cabbage “Rotkohl” https://www.thespruceeats.com/german-red-cabbage-rotkohl-recipe-1447261

Red Cabbage Slaw https://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/red-cabbage-slaw

Sweet Potatoes are a good source of: 

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Fiber
  • Potassium

Though delicious all year round, sweet potatoes are a quintessential fall food. Their golden color, sweet flavor, and soft texture are warm and comforting, just like a big hug. Their natural sweetness and versatility make them a family-friendly favorite as well.

Sweet potatoes are typically known to have orange flesh and be high in beta-carotene, but they are many different varieties that are each unique in their nutrient profile. For example, sweet potatoes with purple flesh are higher in anthocyanins, another naturally occurring phytochemical along with beta carotene. Sweet potatoes are one of the top sources of beta carotene, which is a precursor to Vitamin A. 

A few of my favorite ways to eat sweet potatoes include:

Healthy Grilled Sweet Potato Nachos https://pinchofyum.com/healthy-grilled-sweet-potato-nachos

“Sloppy Jane’s” – Sloppy Joe topped sweet potato https://thedefineddish.com/sloppy-jane/

Oven-Baked Sweet Potato Fries https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/oven_baked_sweet_potato_fries/

Bell Peppers are a good source of: 

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin B6
  • Folate
  • Fiber
  • Antioxidants 

Bell peppers are a commonly enjoyed fruit (yes, fruit) more often touted for their sweet flavor and ability to brighten a dish than for their nutrient profile. But bell peppers are a nutrient powerhouse packed with many essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants necessary for a healthy lifestyle. Bell peppers are easy to find year-round in supermarkets, but nothing beats a homegrown bell pepper in its peak growing season—which usually lasts from July until November.

Bell peppers are great for so many reasons. They can boost immunity, keep your skin healthy and glowing, improve eye health, support mood, and reduce the risk of chronic disease. There are some significant nutritional differences between different color peppers, though—for example, red bell peppers contain more than 8 times the amount of vitamin C than green bell peppers. 

Bell peppers are convenient to keep on hand because they’re easy to turn into many different dishes. They can be sliced and served with dips, stuffed and baked, grilled, roasted, sauteed, or stir-fried. Here are some unique ways to incorporate more bell peppers into your diet. 

Spicy Braised Peppers and Eggs https://www.marthastewart.com/1554717/spicy-braised-peppers-and-eggs
Stuffed Bell Pepper Soup https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/stuffed-bell-pepper-soup-8357135

Cauliflower is a good source of: 

  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Folate 
  • Choline

Cauliflower may be a trendy food these days, but it’s always had a powerful nutrient profile. It’s also in season nearly year-round. But its peak season is late summer and early fall. And because of its hearty texture and robust flavor, cauliflower makes for a comforting fall food. 

Despite its plain white appearance, cauliflower is vitamin-rich and packed with phytonutrients and antioxidants. Cauliflower comes from the same brassica family as cabbage, so it has some of the same health benefits. Research has shown a relationship between intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower and cabbage, and lower risks of several chronic diseases. 

One of my favorite ways to eat cauliflower is in a creamy soup. Cauliflower has a special ability to make thick vegetable soups extra silky and smooth by being finely chopped and blended. I also love mixing cauliflower rice with regular rice to sneak in some veggies without anyone in my family even noticing.

Cauliflower doesn’t just come in the white variety, either. Look around at the supermarket and you’ll find purple, orange, and yellow cauliflower options. 

Baked Potato Cauliflower Soup https://www.erinliveswhole.com/baked-potato-cauliflower-soup/
Cauliflower Kimchi Fried Rice  https://nomnompaleo.com/2017091220170912kimchi-fried-cauliflower-rice
Pickled Cauliflower https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/pickled-cauliflower-with-carrots-red-bell-pepper

Other Notables:

Tomatoes and Zucchini

Tomatoes and zucchini can be a little harder to find later in fall, but they are abundant in many parts of the country through October. Keep your eyes peeled, as they are still in season and as delicious and nutritious as ever.  If you want to learn more about the best nutrient-dense foods for summer, check out that blog post here.  

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About the Author

Sarah is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, writer, and designer. She is passionate about all things nutrition and design. She believes the key to lasting health is to find a balance that feels good to you. One of her favorite phrases is, “everything in moderation, including moderation.” She has a special interest in gut health, mental health, hormone health, and the gut-brain connection.

Sarah is passionate about helping others improve their health through simple and sustainable nutrition and lifestyle adjustments. Read more about Sarah.

The information presented on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Statements within this site have not been evaluated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any specific condition or disease, nor is it medical advice and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical expertise. Readers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health conditions or concerns. One should always consult a qualified medical professional before engaging in any dietary and/or lifestyle change or new health program. Curated Wellness does not take responsibility for any health consequences of any person or persons following the information in this educational content. 

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