Chill is in the air and leaves are changing to brilliant colors of red, orange and yellow. Fall is here! From pumpkin spice flavors to football games, there are many traditions that happen this time of the year. Adding nutritious, seasonal foods to your snacks and meals can be one of them!
Along with autumn’s temperature changes, comes the beginning of challenges to our immune system. Cold and flu season is coming into full swing and there are several things we can do to help improve our immunity and give us a greater chance of staying healthy as we all are inside more often.
Here are some of the top foods to consider including in your meals more often this time of the year:
1. Citrus Fruits
Fortunately, they are plentiful this time of the year and are an easy addition to any meal. Citrus fruits contain Vitamin C which is involved in the repair of body tissues. Vitamin C helps with the formation of collagen (which is important for healthy joints), iron absorption (which helps oxygen flow through our blood stream more efficiently, improving circulation and preventing fatigue) and improve your immune system (which makes it easier to recover from a cold or the flu). We need to eat foods with vitamin C daily because your body can’t store it and does not produce it. The recommended daily amount is 75 mg for women and 90 mg for men.
How can you incorporate more citrus fruits into your meals?
- Add a squeeze of lemon or lime to your water.
- Add an orange to your breakfast or lunch.
- Put clementine wedges on your salad.
- Add red bell peppers to your meal either raw or in a stir fry.
- Try to avoid citrus juices because they tend to add extra calories but don’t provide all of the fiber, vitamins and minerals available to you from fresh, whole fruits.
Broccoli is packed with vitamins A, C and E, as well as fiber. Raw or steamed is the best way to prevent nutrient loss in broccoli. The closer it is to its “whole” state the more nutritious it is.
Ginger may help decrease inflammation which can help reduce sore throat pain. It may also help with nausea. Ginger tastes great in tea (another warm fluid to help ease a sore throat or stuffy nose).
Spinach is another great source of Vitamin C, but it also has antioxidants and beta carotene, both of which help with immunity building.
Yogurt has “live and active cultures” that can help stimulate your immune system. They also contain probiotics that are great for “gut health.” A healthy gut contributes to a strong immune system and a greater ability to fight off viruses. Try to avoid “dessert” yogurts that are loaded with added sugars and sweeten instead with fruit or a drizzle of honey.
Turmeric can be used in curries or sprinkled on eggs. It can also be taken in supplement form. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties as well.
7. Chicken noodle soup
It is true that chicken noodle soup is a healthy choice when it comes to soothing cold symptoms and building immunity. The trick is how it’s prepared, though. When chicken noodle soup is made with fresh chicken (that contains vitamin B-6 that helps with the formation of red blood cells that helps bring oxygen throughout your body) and bone broth (which provides collagen that is rich in immunity building properties), then it is helpful with helping you feel better. It’s also comforting to sip something warm when we feel chilled or have a sore throat. Unfortunately, the canned varieties of chicken noodle soup are not as effective, but they do provide warmth and some calories if appetite is decreased.
These Fall foods offer delicious flavors and may help your immune system tackle seasonal germs. So enjoy a walk through the crunchy leaves or a hot tea while reading your favorite book, but also find ways to incorporate seasonal favorites into your Fall traditions. Happy Fall, everyone!
Jennifer Gilliland is an outpatient dietitian with ProMedica and a professional clinical counselor. She enjoys talking with people about the behavioral side of eating as well as educating people on the healthiest food choices.