It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Yes, Fall, not Christmas. Winter and Christmas are certainly magical, but there is nothing as magical as the four seasons in one day that you get to experience in fall. There’s something about this fresh crisp air, something about those foggy mornings and blazing sunsets, those golden leaves that rustle softly as they are being ripped off branches and swayed around before they’re finally allowed to fall. Fall is my favourite season all around.
It is also the season when we get our warm clothes out and like to snuggle under the blanket with a mug of hot tea in front of a fireplace. It is the season when we crave warmth and comfort, especially as the winds start howling outside.
Unfortunately, cold seasons tend to mess up with our hormones due to lack of sunlight, making us feel blue, and they also weaken our immune systems as the temperatures decline and we become trapped indoors with the heating on. The lack of fresh fruits and vegetables also play a role in the reduced immunity and it is ultimately up to us to make sure that we stay on top of our nutrition to not become a victim of seasonal nutritional deficiencies.
What’s in the Season?
Eating foods that are in season has long been known as the most natural and sustainable way to nourish our bodies. And not is it only sustainable for health, but also for the planet. It involves less transportation, less processing, less greenhouse gas emissions and it costs less. Local and seasonal foods can often be healthier as they are less likely to be treated chemically to enhance the flavour or speed up ripening.
Eating seasonal produce in fall and winter means that you will be eating more root vegetables and thus more starchy carbohydrates, but there is no need to fret. Starchy carbohydrates are healthy and they provide us with easy to use energy and valuable for your health dietary fibre. Carbohydrates are not fattening when they are not processed and eaten within reasonable limits. Any macronutrient beyond the limit can be fattening, so don’t just blame carbs. In cold months we need more energy-dense foods for that extra boost and comfort, so embrace the colourful root vegetables and unleash your inner chef for some autumnal creativity.
Before the advancement of growing chemically treated foods that are out of season and using transportantion to avail of the foods grown overseas, human populations used to depend on the local seasonal produce. It is quite possible that our bodies are adapted to thrive on the locally produced foods and it is possible that this seasonal produce provides us with just the right nutrients for the season.
Let’s have a look at what exactly is in season in fall and what it can offer.
Apples are a good source of vitamin C, which is important for keeping your immune system strong for the cold season. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, but it is not the only one that apples can offer: there are also quercetin, epicatechin and procyanidin B2 among the others, and together they make a beautiful concoction that can help protect your body from the harmful effects of free radicals. It is also a source of B vitamins that are involved in metabolism of macronutrients and energy production. Vitamin A is also found in apples and it contributes to eye health. Small amounts of potassium, calcium and magnesium will still work towards your recommended daily intake, and they are important for healthy heart, muscles, bones and cells. There’s also a small amount of iron.
Beets contain many of the B vitamins, but they are particularly high in Folate, providing 27% DRV for a 100 g serving. Folic acid is essential in DNA production and is very important for expectant mothers, especially in their 1st trimester, as it helps prevent the neural tube defects of the foetus. There is also some vitamin C, some potassium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese and zinc. Beets contain quite a unique compound – glycine betaine – that lowers blood levels of homocysteine, a toxic metabolite that is responsible for atherosclerotic plaque formation and coronary heart disease.
Blackberries have remarkable amounts of vitamin C and are also quite high in vitamin K, but they contain most of the essential vitamins. The antioxidant content of blackberries is extraordinary, too: with anthocyanins, ellagic acid, tannin, quercetin, gallic acid, cyanidin, pelargonidin, catechins, kaempferol, and salicylic acid all present at one time, blackberries are one of the most potent berries when it comes to disease and ageing prevention, both of which are caused by free radicals. High in copper, they can contribute to red and white blood cell formation as well as bone health. Blackberries are also a source of calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, selenium and zinc. They aid the absorption of iron, DNA and cell protection, and eye and heart health.
Cauliflower contains good amounts of B vitamins, especially folate (B9), pantothenic acid (B5) and pyridoxine (B6), and vitamin K. It is very high in vitamin C, providing 80% DRV. Its antioxidants include sulphoraphan and indole-3-carbinol, which are both known for their potent anti-cancer properties and are being continuosly researched in cancer prevention and treatment. Cauliflower also provides some quantities of manganese, copper, iron, calcium and potassium. Among its health benefits are immune boosting properties, production of red blood cells, regulation of blood pressure and bone health.
Celeriac is another fall vegetable that offers cancer preventing properties thanks to its antioxidants, namely falcarinol, falcarindiol, panaxydiol, and methyl-falcarindiol. It contains many of the B complex vitamins, vitamin C and a small amount of vitamin E. It is incredibly high in vitamin K (34% DRV per 100g) that contributes to healthy blood clotting and bone mineralisation. Phosphorus, one of the minerals in celeriac, is also required for healthy bones and teeth. Other minerals include some calcium, magnesium, manganese and zinc, and moderate amounts of copper and iron.
Although quite high in sugar and glycemic index compared to other vegetables, corn is a good source of fibre. It could be enjoyed in relatively small amounts and still provide you with all of the essential vitamins and minerals from A to Z. Yellow corn contains antioxidant phenolic compounds such as ß-carotenes, lutein, xanthins and cryptoxanthin, which protect mucous membranes, skin and eyes. Ferulic acid, another antioxidant compound found in corn, may help prevent cancers, inflammation and ageing. Due to its folic acid, corn helps prevent birth defects, while the B-complex aids metabolism and potassium helps to keep electrolytes in balance.
Fresh figs are yum, and so are their health benefits. They are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, including the B complex, vitamins A, C and K, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and manganese. They are a great source of dietary fibre, too. Chlorogenic acid present in figs can help control blood glucose levels, which is important in prevention and management of type 2 diabetes mellitus. Minerals in figs help maintain a healthy electrolyte balance, muscle tone and bone health, while the vitamins contribute to eye health, metabolism and blood cell production. Figs are also rich in antioxidants.
Grapes are a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They are particularly rich in vitamin C and K and copper, a great source of iron and manganese, and some B-complex vitamins, such as Riboflavin, Thiamine and Pyridoxine. A rich source of resveratrol, they have a potential to slow down or even reverse ageing, prevent various cancers and reduce the risk of stroke. There are many antioxidant compounds in grapes, the most notorius ones being anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins in red and black grapes and catechins in white/green grapes. Anthocyanins have shown in the studies to be anti-allerginic, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and anti-cancer. Proanthocyanidins are potent free radical scavengers and may inhibit the growth of tumours. Catechins are tannins that also have health-protective properties. Grapes can help prevent anemia and ageing, boost immune function, contribute to eye health and regulate blood pressure.
As a great source of dietary fibre, parsnips offer help in controlling blood cholesterol levels and regulating bowel motions. They share many of the same antioxidants as celeriac, in particular, falcarinol, falcarindiol, panaxydiol, and methyl-falcarindiol. These antioxidants are antifungal and anti-inflammatory, and their anti-cancer properties may offer protection against colon cancer and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). B complex vitamins are present in parsnips in good amounts, with folates being the highest. Vitamin C content is also great with 29% per 100 g. Vitamins E and K amounts are also reasonably high. Parsnips contain some calcium, selenium and zinc, and good levels of other important minerals such as copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and phosphorus. Altogether, parsnips are good for muscle and nerve function, healthy metabolism, it helps prevent anemia and a great antioxidant.
Pears are a good source of dietary fibre (8% per 100g) and contribute to a healthy gut by not only providing bulk, but also binding to harmful chemicals that cause colon cancer and escorting them out. Pears contain most of the B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, C, E and K. Many of the trace minerals are also present in this fruit, from calcium to iron to zinc, with copper being the highest at 9% DRV. The main antioxidants in pears are β-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, as well as vitamins A and C. They are good for body tissues as they facilitate the cell repair and production, and the vitamins promote good metabolism and blood clotting.
Pumpkins are super-high in vitamin A (way over 100% DRV), which acts as an antioxidant and promotes eye health and strong immune system. Research also shows that vitamin A is able to help prevent lung cancer as well as oral cavity cancers. Zea-xanthin is another antioxidant in pumpkins that can prevent UV damage to eyes and contribute to healthy eyesight. Pumpkins are rich in many vitamins, including B-complex, vitamins C and E, and many minerals, being especially rich in copper and iron. They may help lower cholesterol, promote good digestion and heart and skeletal muscle function. Although deserving a different topic, pumpkin seeds are able to further boost your health, providing your body with excellent amounts of vitamins and minerals, especially iron, as well as protein, mono-unsaturated fatty acids and dietary fibre.
Just like pumkin, squashes are incredibly high in vitamin A (354% RDA for 100g of butternut squash!), as well as rich in vitamin C, E and B-complex. They are a great source of folic acid, which is essential for prevention of birth defects. Antioxidant compounds ß-carotenes, cryptoxanthin-ß, and lutein convert in the body into vitamin A and have the same protective and immune boosting functions. They are a good source of dietary fibre and contain many of the essential minerals. Squashes contribute to collagen production, eye health, immune function, muscle function and lung health.
Summer is not the only season that has colour. Fall can be colourful too. But these colours are not only vibrant, they are deeper and warmer, too. Add some colour to your plate this fall and it will add some cheer to your mood and healthy glow to your skin.
Stay in colour, stay healthy!