Fall is a season that lives up to its name in several ways. As the trees begin to lose their leaves and temperatures continue to drop, the desire to maintain a health-focused diet is also more likely to fall as we head into the many food-centered holidays this time of year. With so many carb-heavy and calorie-packed temptations available at most holiday gatherings, it’s easy to put healthy eating habits on the back burner in favor of a cheat day at your next seasonal soiree. However, there are many cozy comfort foods available to get you into the autumnal spirit while also providing you with several key vitamins and nutrients. Integrate these five best fall foods into your meal rotation to serve up a healthy harvest feast without sacrificing your waistline.
You’ve carved the perfect pumpkin into the creepiest, spookiest Jack O’Lantern on the block, and all that remains is a big mess of discarded chunks, seeds, and innards. Now what? While it might seem like you have a massive spread of wasted food on your hands, pumpkin is actually a hidden treasure trove of many of the beneficial vitamins your body needs to thrive.
Pumpkin is one of nature’s greatest sources of beta-carotene, a powerful immune boosting antioxidant that gives the gourd its signature orange coloring. Beta-carotene converts into vitamin A in the body, which triggers the creation of white blood cells to ward off infections and keep you healthy. As an added weight loss bonus, pumpkin’s highly fibrous seeds and skin help to keep you feeling fuller for longer to deter you from overeating at your next fall feast. Instead of getting your pumpkin fix from an artificially flavored store bought pie, roast some pumpkin seeds or blend together a pumpkin and greek yogurt smoothie for a healthy seasonal snack.
Canned artichoke hearts are commonly eaten year round, but making the switch to fresh produce when they are in season come early fall will provide a massive vitamin boost to your diet. Just 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of artichoke contains 25% of your daily recommended vitamin C intake. This vitamin C (also referred to as ascorbic acid) provides protection against harmful free radicals that could cause irreversible cell damage. The vitamin C in artichokes also helps with collagen production and iron absorption to help the body heal wounds quickly and fight off disease. For the greatest nutritional benefit, try roasting your artichoke – boiling them can cook out a significant portion of their vitamin C content.
A cranberry’s tart flavor might make it one of the most divisive fruits in the berry family, but their place in the best fall foods hall of fame is undeniable for several reasons. A study conducted by Tufts University uncovered several cardiovascular health benefits derived from cranberries, such as decreased hypertension, reduced inflammation, and arterial stiffness relief. Fresh cranberries have also been known to decrease the likelihood of developing high blood pressure and urinary tract infections. Just be sure your cranberry intake is coming fresh from the source, rather than from a sugary drink or a gelatinous can.
Step aside bananas – a new potassium powerhouse is making a name for itself in the produce section this fall! Sweet potatoes are often considered the healthier option compared to their white counterparts, and for a good reason. One cup of whole sweet potato baked in the skin provides 950 mg of potassium, which is more than twice the amount of famously potassium-rich bananas. This extra potassium boost will help rid the body of excess sodium, which can lower blood pressure and regulate cardiovascular function. Sweet potatoes are also loaded with vitamins A and C, which will provide you with a strengthened immune system heading into cold and flu season.
If a healthy heart is on your mind, look no further than brussel sprouts. These leafy greens make the list of the best fall foods because they are high in kaempferol, an antioxidant known to help reduce coronary heart disease. Brussel sprouts also promote heart health by significantly reducing stress. One study found that eating 2 cups (300 grams) of brussel sprouts per day decreased cell damage from oxidative stress by 28%. The approaching hustle and bustle of the holiday season can make the fall a stressful time of year – sit back, relax and load up on brussel sprouts to protect your heart from any excess stress-related damage.
Making the Most of the Best Fall Foods
This time of year might be known for sugary caramel apples and unlimited fun-sized candies, but this list of the best fall foods proves it is possible to get into the autumnal spirit without abandoning a health-focused mindset. As with all dietary changes, it is important to first discuss with a functional medicine doctor in order to create the perfect meal plan to fulfill your unique nutritional needs.
Dr. Lorraine Maita is a recognized and award-winning holistic, functional, and anti-aging physician and author. She transforms people’s lives by getting to the root cause of illness using the best of science and nature. Her approach is personalized, precision medicine where you are treated as the unique individual you are. If you’re ready to start your journey to a healthier, happier life, schedule your visit today!