Embrace the fall season by incorporating these healthy foods into your diet.
Fall brings cooler weather, shorter days and changes in our diet and physical activity levels. Research has shown that during the fall/winter seasons, we are more driven to choose foods that are warmer, energy-dense, and festive due to the approaching holidays. But, with flu season in full swing and the COVID-19 virus still lingering, we need to prepare foods that keep us both in optimal health and in good spirits. Here is my list of the five foods you should be eating this season:
- Citrus foods – Oranges, mandarins, grapefruit, lemons, and limes, just to name a few, are high sources of vitamin C. This nutrient will keep your immune system thriving by producing white blood cells to fight off infections, among many other benefits. Add these citruses into your fruit and winter salads. Add citrus fruit zest to baked foods, salad dressings, relishes/sauces, and to breadcrumbs for your stuffing, pastas, and casserole dishes. Make citrus desserts, such as lemon bars, lime meringue pie, fresh cranberry sauce with fresh mandarins, glazed cakes, tarts and Christmas bread, this holiday season. As a side note: citrus foods are easily available during the fall/winter months.
- Dark leafy greens – Kale and spinach, collard greens, Swiss chard, watercress, arugula, and romaine lettuce are great sources of nutrition, and are high in vitamins A, C, E, K, and many B-vitamins, including folate. They are also high in many minerals and contain high levels of fiber. Health benefits include prevention of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, and achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Enjoy these food items in a salad, add to soups, serve steamed or stir-fried. As the holiday approaches, think about serving a watercress salad, sweet potato kale casserole, Swiss chard bean soup and adding fresh spinach/arugula to leftover turkey recipes (turkey sandwiches).
- Fatty fish – Salmon is the most popular fatty fish due to its high Vitamin D content. Other sources include tuna, trout, herring, sardines, and mackerel. Sunlight is a source of Vitamin D. Yet, with less sunlight and time spent outdoors during the fall/winter season, dietary consumption of Vitamin D is vital for bones, teeth, and muscle health. Additionally, vitamin D has been found to play a great role in maintaining mood. Fatty fish can effortlessly be your main entrée at any meal.
- Walnuts and dark chocolate – Researchers have found many health benefits in these two foods. Rich in antioxidants, both dark chocolate (70% or higher) and walnuts are great protectors of your skin, heart, and brain. Add roasted walnuts to green salads, vegetable and casserole dishes, baked breads and to your stuffing. Substitute milk chocolate recipes with dark chocolate in making traditional recipes such as chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake and brownies. Create new holiday desserts this season such as chocolate walnut bark, walnut roll, and dark chocolate truffles. Do keep in mind that all desserts should be eaten in moderation.
- Water – Lastly, do not forget to stay hydrated. Drinking enough water is needed for best overall health. The general recommendation for plain water intake is 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) a day for women and 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) a day for men. However, water intakes vary by age, sex, activity level, dietary habits, geographic location, and health status including pregnancy, and breastfeeding status.
It is important to eat healthy during every season. Try your best this season to incorporate these five foods.