Four Top Seasonal Superfoods

September 25, 2013 Updated: September 24, 2013

Harvest time is here, bringing a new crop of extraordinary superfoods. But what earns a food the superfood title?

“Superfoods are brimming with nutrients and antioxidants,” said Kari Kooi, a registered dietician at the Houston Methodist Hospital. “The benefits of adding them into your everyday meals are numerous. A nutritious diet can really have a positive impact on both your physical and mental health,” she said in a press release.

Kooi named the top-four autumn heroes of the superfood clan.

Pumpkins. Like carrots, they are high in beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, essential to eye health. Pumpkins are versatile. They can be roasted like winter squash, they make good soups and stews, and they can go the sweet route in muffins, breads, and pies.

According to Kooi, pureed pumpkin mixed with vanilla Greek yogurt makes a tasty pumpkin pudding, and a little pumpkin puree with pumpkin pie spice adds something special to morning oatmeal.

Pumpkin seeds. These little powerhouses “have heart healthy fat, protein, and fiber. They also have a lot of minerals like magnesium, which aids in bone health, and iron, which helps deliver oxygen to our cells. Try roasted pumpkin seeds, which can be eaten shell and all, for a healthy snack during the day,” wrote Kooi.

To roast your own seeds, soak them in salt water for several hours or overnight (or you can boil them 10 minutes). Clean off all debris and mix seeds with olive oil and a little salt or tamari. Bake at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove, stir the seeds, and bake for another 10 minutes, watching that they don’t burn. Enjoy a crispy, healthy snack!

Kiwis. Unless you’re in California, kiwis are not local, but they are in season from October to May. These tropical vine fruits have tremendous amounts of vitamin C. Their flavor evokes strawberries, melons, bananas, and citrus fruits. Kiwis can be cut in half and eaten with a spoon. Peeled and sliced crosswise, the emerald green fruits add vibrant color to tarts.

Pomegranates. This ancient, richly flavored tart fruit has been celebrated for centuries. It’s extremely rich in antioxidants and in fiber. But it’s hard to know how to handle them.

According to a news release from Houston Methodist Hospital, they can be easy to seed. Get around the challenge by cutting a pomegranate in half and putting it in a bowl of water. The translucent, ruby-colored arils will pop out of the pith, and the white, bitter pith will float to the surface.

Another method suggested by the Culinary Institute of America is to cut the fruit in half, scoop out the seeds with a spoon, and then hand separate the pith from the arils.

Sprinkle the arils into a salad, or eat them with feta cheese and dates.

When buying pomegranate, take note of the following recall: This summer, the Scenic Fruit Company of Gresham, Oregon, voluntarily recalled frozen pomegranate seeds imported from Turkey. The Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration were investigating the possibility that pomegranate seeds from Turkey were contaminated with Hepatitis A.

Scenic Fruit Company of Gresham also recalled over 5,000 cases of Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels. No illnesses were reported. The company stated it recalled the frozen seeds “out of an abundance of caution.”