For plant-centric foodies like myself, fall harvest is one of the best seasons of the year, and for good reason. With fruits and vegetables taking center stage, now is the time to load up on edible powerhouses that are packed with vitamins, minerals and disease fighting antioxidants to keep you feeling strong, energized and on the top of your game all fall. These types of foods are considered the best way to reduce risk for chronic diseases, achieve and maintain a healthy weight and live a longer, healthier life.
By now I'm sure you've heard the term 'superfoods,' and know they pack a serious punch for optimal health benefits. These types of foods are rich in phytochemicals and have a high level of nutrient value. Consider this: with superfoods, there are no side effects. And for an added bonus, they put you in a good mood, so what's the downside? That's just it-there is none. Soon, leaves will start to change color, and the wind will blow a little cooler. So now's the time to start thinking about which fresh autumn superfoods to incorporate in to your diet to boost your health.
Half the battle is having a plan and being aware of what foods can give you the most benefit. When the food option is not available or convenient for your routine, consider the supplement counterpart to complement your diet.
Cranberries provide more disease-fighting antioxidants than any other fruit and vegetable on the table. This berry is a popular part of many Thanksgiving feasts. Best known for its ability to fight off urinary tract infections (UTIs), cranberry also has many more disease fighting qualities. Cranberries have a high concentration of phenols, which are good for fighting cancer, stomach infections, heart disease and strokes.
Try adding cranberries to leafy green salads, sprinkle dried cranberries on cheese and cracker boards or incorporate into cookie recipes, spreads, dips and try cranberry sauce on your favorite fish or poultry.
If you want an added boost or are simply unable to find fresh cranberries at your local farmers' market, supplement with Cran-Max, a highly concentrated whole berry cranberry ingredient found in a variety of natural supplement products. This particular cranberry ingredient has gone head-to-head against prescription antibiotics for prevention of bladder infections and was found to be equally effective and better tolerated.1,2,3
Next on my list: pumpkins, which provide beta-carotene, potassium, vitamin C and soluble fiber. Pumpkins also contain trigonelline and nicotinic acid that can help lower blood sugar, inhibit the accumulation of triglycerides in the blood and suppresses the onset of diabetes. Furthermore, pumpkin can help support immune function and prostate health for men.4
Incorporate pure pumpkin into pies, muffins, cookies, soups, bread, and ravioli. Roasted pumpkin seeds are a great addition to a home-made trail mix or sprinkle them on your oatmeal or breakfast cereal.
You may also try using pumpkin seed oil. Pumpkin seed oil has been used in salad dressing, ice cream and other food products, and is believed to benefit people at risk of BPH, irritable bowel syndrome, high cholesterol and certain parasitic infestations.
Walnuts rank No. 1 for the healthiest and highest potency of antioxidants among all other popular nuts including peanuts, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts and almonds. Walnuts are rich in polyphenols, compounds that can support heart health by lowering levels of blood cholesterol, which?improves blood flow and cools inflammation related to heart disease. Walnuts are wonderful for cheese and cracker boards, pies, stuffing, hummus, breads and dark chocolate fudge.
If you're in need of a supplement, try English walnut. The nut of the English walnut contains chemicals called fatty acids, which might be useful as part of a cholesterol-lowering diet. It also contains chemicals that can expand blood vessels, possibly improving circulation and the way the heart works.
If you have a sweet tooth, then you're in luck. My next fall superfood contains various nutrients and enzymes that can help calm everything from a cough to blemishes. Honey has long been known to treat numerous health conditions and boost overall health. This amazing bee-product possesses antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, and antioxidant properties - making it one of the most beneficial foods to consume.
Sticking with the antibacterial benefits of honey, one study published in the journal Microbiology found that "honey prevented a type of streptococcus pyogenes from inhibiting the healing of wounds."5
Researchers found that only a small amount of honey was needed to kill off the majority of bacterial cells on infected skin of wound sites. More than that, honey could even be utilized to prevent wounds in the first place.
To make it a part of your fall diet, add honey to Greek yogurt or use it in place of sugar in recipes. Be sure to try a teaspoonful of honey when suffering with a cough or sore throat. For a supplemental choice, try honey lozenges. These are an obvious choice when dealing with a cold, but these are also an excellent source for honey when you're feeling well, and would like to continue in good health.
Butternut Squash rounds out my list of fall superfoods. Butternut squash grows on a vine, and comes from the gourd family - a cousin of pumpkin. It is low in fat and provides a large dose of dietary fiber. Squash is packed with carotenoids, giving it its tangerine glow. This veggie is nutrient rich providing folic acid, omega 3s, potassium, and magnesium. Additionally, beta carotene, found in squash, has been shown to protect against heart disease as well as help as a deterrent against some cancers.
Not coincidentally, most of the foods on this list provide dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is found mostly in vegetables, whole grains, fruits and legumes, and is probably best known for its correlation with constipation. However, fiber foods can provide other health benefits as well, such as lowering your risk of diabetes and heart disease and maintaining a healthy diet.
Fall superfoods provide a cornucopia of delicious options, so dig in now.
- Cranberries vs antibiotics to prevent urinary tract infections. A randomized double-blind noninferiority trial in premenopausal women. Archive of Internal Medicine 2001;171(14):1270-8.
- A randomized trial to evaluate effectiveness and cost effectiveness of naturopathic cranberry products as prophylaxis against urinary tract infection in women. The Canadian Journal of Urology. 2002;9(3):1558-1562.
- Results of a randomized, double-blind study on the prevention of recurrent cystitis with GynDelta® (500 mg Cran-Max®). The Gynecologist’s and Obstetrician’s Journal. January 2007.
- Vahlensieck W1, Theurer C, Pfitzer E, Patz B, Banik N, Engelmann U. Effects of pumpkin seed in men with lower urinary tract symptoms due to benign prostatic hyperplasia in the one-year, randomized, placebo-controlled GRANU study. Urol Int. 2015;94(3):286-95. doi: 10.1159/000362903.
- Sarah E. Maddocks, Marta Salinas Lopez, Richard S. Rowlands, Rose A. Cooper; Manuka honey inhibits the development of Streptococcus pyogenes biofilms and causes reduced expression of two fibronectin binding proteins. Microbiology, March 2012 158: 781-790, doi: 10.1099/mic.0.053959-0
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Sherry Torkos, B.Sc.Phm., R.Ph.
Sherry Torkos, B.Sc.Phm., R.Ph., is a registered pharmacist, author and health enthusiast with a passion for prevention. She graduated with honors from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in 1992. Since then, she has been practicing pharmacy using an integrative approach, combining conventional and complementary therapies to optimize health and prevent disease. Torkos has won several national pharmacy awards for providing excellence in patient care.
As a leading health expert, she has delivered hundreds of lectures and is frequently interviewed by radio and TV talk shows throughout North America and abroad.
Sherry has authored 18 books and booklets, including The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine., Saving Women’s Hearts, and The Glycemic Index Made Simple.