No, they're not just for Halloween: pumpkins are nutritional powerhouses! Containing a whopping 19 vitamins and minerals (including antioxidants and filling fibre) pumpkin is a healthy and nutrient-dense food you can eat in a variety of ways.
Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamins A, C and zinc, all antioxidants that strengthen the immune system. Pumpkin also contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant plant pigment that may help reduce the risk of chronic eye diseases, including age-related eye degeneration and cataracts.
Pumpkin is an excellent source of lutein, also recognised for its role in eye health. Lutein can also improve cognitive function, including learning, memory, concentration and focus.
And don't discard the seeds. They're rich in dietary fibre and mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are great for heart health. Pumpkin seeds are also an excellent source of tryptophan, an essential amino acid that is converted to serotonin, a chemical associated with healthy sleep and happiness. Since the body cannot make tryptophan on its own, pumpkin seeds are an easy, versatile way to add it into your diet.
Pumpkin and red pepper soup recipe
They're available dried or in juice and sauces all year round – but from now until December, look out for fresh cranberries, too.
They're high in vitamins C and E, plus bone-building manganese. They also contain a large array of phytonutrients – natural plant chemicals that help protect the body from harmful free radicals and offer anti-inflammatory and cancer-preventing properties.
Chestnut and cranberry stuffing
'Apples are in season and in abundance in autumn,' says health expert and NHS weight loss consultant Dr Sally Norton.
'A great on-the-go snack, they're packed with fibre to keep you feeling full, and natural sugar to give you a little boost. You can also use them in place of sugar to sweeten any home-baked treats.'
Another good reason to eat apples? It'll help you stick to a healthier diet in general. People who ate an apple before going to the supermarket bought 28 per cent more fruit and vegetables than those who didn't, researchers at Cornell University have found.
Apples are low on the glycaemic index thanks to their fibre content. This, together with their high flavonoid content, may help to improve insulin sensitivity, which is important both for weight management and preventing diabetes.
Baked apples with granola
Did you know that sweet potatoes count towards your recommended 5-a-day portions of fruit and vegetables, whereas ordinary potatoes don't?
Sweet potatoes are a rich source of fibre as well as containing a good array of vitamins and minerals including iron, calcium and selenium. They’re also a good source of most of our B vitamins and vitamin C. One of the key nutritional benefits of sweet potato is that they're high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant powerhouse that prevents cell damage and converts to vitamin A in the body.
Loaded baked sweet potatoes
This is one of the few leafy green vegetables that's more abundant during the colder months.
It's seen by many as the “king of greens” because it provides protein, vitamins A, C, E and K, plus our friend lutein again, of pumpkin fame - the antioxidant that promotes good eye and skin health.
It contains more iron than the equivalent weight of steak and more bone-building calcium than milk.
With this outstanding nutrient profile, you can come close to getting your recommended daily allowance of anti-inflammatory vitamins A, C and K in just one serving.
What's more, there has been significant research into kale's high glucosinolate content. These are antioxidants that may have anti-cancer properties - read more about these compounds here.
Kale is also rich in sulphur compounds, which play a vital role in the detoxification process – making it the perfect food choice if you're in need of some liver support.
Kale and sausage casserole