As the leaves change colors and the weather cools, we officially enter fall一some more eagerly than others. There’s a lot to love about autumn, like the musky-sweet earth scents, the cozy nights, and the start of the holiday season. But what many people forget to celebrate is that fall foods become available again.
Food serves several purposes unique to different cultures and occasions. Many think of fall foods as best for the ultimate comfort meals (think Thanksgiving). But it’s just as important that you eat fall foods to fuel your body in a healthy way. And if you’re familiar with BlendItUp and the many products and recipes we’re known for, you know we care about mindful eating.
So this harvest season, take the opportunity to think about what produce you pick and whether you're incorporating healthy meal components for a balanced diet. With the right guidance, you'll find that you can use the foods of this season to reach all of your health and wellness goals, like immune-building and weight loss.
Finding Fall Foods for Healthy Weight Loss
A balanced diet has been one of the most important health and wellness concepts for decades now. But what a "balanced diet" means has evolved throughout the years. If you’re looking for the most up-to-date nutritional advice on what we should be eating, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has started a campaign called MyPlate. MyPlate is a resource for recipes and menu planning that encourages Americans to choose more nutrient-rich options from all the food groups, including:
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy milk or yogurt
“When deciding what to eat or drink,” they say on their website, “choose options that are full of nutrients. Make every bite count.” Beneath this statement is a diagram depicting half the ideal plate, which consists of fruit and vegetables. Since produce makes up such a substantial portion of the perfectly balanced meal, you can use seasons to bring variety to your plates throughout the year.
Many delicious fruits and vegetables can improve your plate and even your community if you buy them fresh at farmer’s markets. And while fruits like apples are best eaten whole, there are endless ways to bring these fall foods into your diet to promote weight loss and support immune-building. Of course, this is always important, but it can be especially crucial in the fall and winter since cold weather can negatively affect a person’s immune response.
1. Winter Squash
When we talk about winter squash for weight loss, we’re actually talking about a variety of fruits that come into season this time of year. These include:
These annual, low-calorie fruits are good for more than carving near Halloween. They’re also flourishing in nutrients like vitamins A, B, and C. They have anti-inflammatory properties and can give you more than 20% of your daily fiber intake while also metabolizing fats and carbs.
There are a variety of squash recipes you can serve for yourself, friends, or family. But what if you’re not looking to put together a complicated recipe? If you just want an easy way to make a simple, fat-busting, immune-building meal, try substituting your traditional pasta for spaghetti squash. That’s an easy way to get more protein with less than a quarter of the calories.
Registered dietician nutritionist (RDN) Jennifer Glockner is the creator of the Smartee Plate series. In her nutrition lessons for children and parents, she praises the value of a good mushroom. These fungi truly are fun guys, as they’ve found a place on the toppings of pizzas as well as an entree and meat alternative. Their texture is similar to that of meat, but they can work more magic than that.
Glockner explains that mushrooms contain large amounts of selenium, which repairs cell damage and helps the thyroid. These effects allow the metabolism to work harder and faster, burning fat in the process. A new study has shown that white button mushrooms may even slow prostate cancer. That’s a lot of good in such a tiny spore!
If you’re looking to make a meal out of mushrooms, you could sautee them and serve them as a spiced and savory side dish. If you want them to be the main feature, consider the following possibilities:
- Mix with onions and spice up a grilled cheese
- Grill in place of a burger
- Add to fried rice
- Include in your stir fry
If you’re new to cooking for weight loss, mushrooms are a great place to start, as they’re extremely difficult to overcook.
Much like squash, a major benefit of cauliflower is that it’s so incredibly versatile. The USDA charts a cup of florets as having 27 calories and only five grams of carbohydrates. This cruciferous vegetable is also naturally high in fiber and rich in antioxidants, meaning its anti-inflammatory effects can boost immune health. So what meals can you make with this amazingly healthy vegetable?
Many people use cauliflowers as a spectacular low-carb substitute for grains, and legumes, such as rice and mash. For most recipes, you have to pulse cauliflower in a food processor, after which you can use it as a building block for low-carb pizza, mac and cheese, hummus, or tortillas.
Since these florets are so high in fiber, they promote fullness and leave you satisfied at the end of your meal, reducing overall calorie intake. Not only that, but the National Cancer Institute has shown that cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower can reduce the risk of developing certain cancers and other chronic diseases.
We can’t talk about fall foods for weight loss and immune-building without mentioning the noble apple. A medium apple (think Granny Smith, Fuji, or McIntosh) will deliver over four grams of fiber at only 95 calories. Paired with its delectably sweet taste, many people use apples to satisfy sweet cravings without nearly as many consequences. And the Mayo Clinic has shown that fiber-rich foods allow you to feel fuller for longer and with fewer calories.
What’s important to note about the apple is that most of its nutrients come from the skin, such as quercetin, a plant pigment flavonoid that reduces inflammation and boosts the immune system.
Non-organic apples contain a higher concentration of pesticides, so it’s best to buy your apples organic or wholesale and eat them whole. You could also consider slicing them, as apples make a spectacular pairing with:
- Yogurt and oatmeal
- Cheese and nuts
And that’s just a brief list. You can use this highly nutritious fruit in baking, cooking, and sauce recipes.
Fall Foods to Avoid
Not all foods you can find in the fall are considered "fall foods" in our book. For instance, a tomato is a healthy piece of produce at any point in the year. However, this juicy, sweet fruit full of antioxidants is "in season" during the summer. That means the tomatoes you find in the fall won't be very nutritious. They also won’t taste as flavorful out of season.
It’s a similar story with strawberries. Though you may have access to these small, pulpy fruits all year round, when it’s outside their "season," they’ve been shipped from other locations. During shipment, they age and lose valuable nutrients and taste as they age. If you love strawberries and can’t live without them all fall, stock up on frozen ones.
Corn is another popular food that you can get year-round. However, corn tastes different when it’s out of season. Same with watermelon, which is relatively flavorless and pale in the fall.
Build a Plate, Build Immunity
There is no diet, supplement, or lifestyle change that can completely protect you from COVID-19. If you’re looking to reduce your risk of exposure to coronavirus, it’s important to maintain social distancing and keep up with proper hygiene practices. All of that is key to staying safe from all other viruses and bacteria, too. However, that’s not to say your diet has no part to play in remaining healthy.
Fall foods have potential when it comes to immune-building in the colder season. With the proper diet, as well as other precautions, you can protect yourself during cold and flu season. And adding these immune-building foods is as easy as taking a trip to the farmer’s market.
Kale was once considered to be a trendy newcomer on the salad scene, but since then, it’s earned its place as one of the biggest, most popular superfoods around. In fact, it’s considered one of the healthiest plant foods on the planet. A single cup of raw kale (67 grams or just 2.4 ounces) contains huge amounts of vitamin A, K, and C, along with:
- Vitamin B6
Kale has also been shown to strengthen bones and promote heart health. And since it’s the leafy green of fall, its immune-building properties lower inflammation that may come from certain illnesses. Sure, you can sauté kale with oil and garlic or add it to a salad, but this little leaf can do far more than that.
Consider creating a kale pesto that you can add to pasta or a veggie pasta alternative! You can also pair it with quinoa or any variety of winter squash. This leafy cruciferous vegetable can even have a starring role in an endless variety of macro bowls, which are a filling, vegetarian way to get all kinds of healthful and immune-building produce in your diet.
Cranberries are the berries of autumn and winter. Many use them in cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, but they can do so much more than that. These little red fruits come packed with vitamins and antioxidants once used by Indigenous cultures in the United States to treat bladder and kidney disease. They’ve also been known to aid in:
- Stroke prevention
- Stomach ulcers
- Mouth and teeth health
It’s widely known that cranberries can aid in immune-building by improving gut health. The Journal of Integrative Biology has stated through a study that even just 42 grams of dried cranberries every day for two weeks was enough to improve the gut biome of healthy adults. You can add them to yogurt, pop them on a sweet and tangy salad, or sprinkle them over granola. (Actually, here's a delicious vegan recipe on our website.)
To get all the health and immune-building benefits this fruit offers, you want to eat cranberries dried. The best news? You can actually take advantage of this fall berry all year long!
If you’ve ever enjoyed Asian cuisine, the odds are good that you’ve tasted ginger. It’s a root that’s very common in the Southeastern part of the continent, and even though it’s not used as much in the West, it has so many benefits. Most of ginger’s use comes from gingerol, one of the oils that give the spice its distinct fragrance and flavor.
Gingerol has a list of medicinal benefits, some of which are:
- Anti-inflammation (antioxidants)
- Reduced oxidative stress
- Protection against flu and cold
- Antinausea properties
- Potential help against infection
And ginger is an incredibly versatile tool that you can use in various meals, drinks, and sauces. Boil it with water and lemon to create a revitalizing tea that’s perfect for fighting back illness, or turn a fruit salad into something distinct and pleasant. You can even create a healthy soup (like turmeric-ginger chicken soup) that features this no-calorie source of antioxidants that stimulates digestion and can even heal irritated skin.
For an easy way to get the good out of your ginger, add it to your morning smoothie. Along with other smoothie additives, sliced ginger gives a background kick to any combination of fall produce. This way, you can make a drink that’s immune-building as well as delicious.
Some have considered pomegranates to be anti-aging. While that hasn’t been proven for sure, the fruit has its own merits in both immune-building, versatility, and unique taste. This big round fruit contains high levels of antioxidants, along with the kinds of vitamins that work to lower your risk of certain illnesses.
Maybe you’ve seen pomegranates in the grocery store一the musty red balloons with hard and thick skin. Many pass by without realizing that within that shell is a bounty of sweet seeds known as arils. And in one cup of those seeds come seven grams of fiber and three grams of protein, along with:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin K
To get these arils, though, you have to peel and seed the fruit by hand. Some find this process quite a hassle, and some stores sell the seeds separately. If you have trouble finding pomegranate seeds in your local grocery store, go for pomegranate-based supplements or pomegranate juice. Both will give you all the benefits and none of the nuisance of seeding.
Like ginger, pomegranate juice is an excellent addition to any smoothie you make. And they pair even better with a reliable protein powder that can turn your produce into a complete meal with all of the immune-building and weight loss benefits.
Other Ways to Build Immunity in the Fall
A healthy diet alone can't prevent diseases and illnesses. If you really want to focus on immune-building to get you through another flu season, you must consider other factors. Eating all of the whole foods you can get your hands on won’t make much of a difference if you aren’t sleeping properly, exercising, or staying hydrated every day.
As for sleeping, the National Sleep Foundation guidelines urge adults to get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night to remain healthy. Wondering whether you’re drinking enough water? The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reports that a sufficient daily fluid intake is roughly 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) a day for men and 11.5 cups (2.7 liters) of fluids for women.
You may even want to consider adding supplements to your diet if you’re unable to get sufficient levels from other sources. Here are some popular supplements you can find in most product-based stores.
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
These vitamins and supplements can help protect you from common illnesses and limit how long you spend under the weather if you do get sick.
To put it simply, whether it’s on your plate or in your glass, the food you eat plays a big part in how you live your life. We all want to feel better and live happier healthier lives, and your diet can work wonders for your wellness goals.
BlenditUp can help, too. If you’re a vegan individual still looking for a way to get the nutrition and immune-building properties you need, we offer seasonings and protein shakes that give you a solid foundation every morning with a single pour of the glass. You can also find recipes created by our team to inspire your food choices in the best way possible.
So please take full advantage of the fall and all of the enticing produce that comes with it, and use BlenditUp and our line of products to make your journey all the more successful.