Fall Foods to Keep You Fit

Fall may be our second favorite f word (after food), and for good reason. We love seasonal change and all of the coziness that comes with it – especially comforting meals made with colorful produce, so we’re highlighting a few of our fall favorites.   

 

Fall has arrived – although the warm weather is lingering, the shift into autumn ignites our desire for heartier foods. We begin to crave comfort foods with rich flavors and spices that compliment the approaching cooler temps. Along with cozy sweaters, fall brings football tailgates, Halloween festivities, and all the pumpkin spice treats that can tempt us to overindulge. Luckily, there are abundant healthy harvests this time of year, so we’re featuring five of our favorite superfoods to keep on your radar as you shop for seasonal produce this fall.

 

1.    Apples

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” right? Turns out, there is some merit to that statement as apples are packed with powerful antioxidants that can help ward off heart disease and cancer.  One phytochemical, quercetin, may lessen risk of Alzheimer’s disease due to it’s protective effect on brain cells. Don’t skimp on the apple’s skin, as that’s where it’s highly concentrated. Apples also contain soluble fiber, which can help us feel full and aid in weight management. Pectin, a soluble fiber found in apples also helps lower cholesterol. What’s more? Apples actually retain their phytochemicals with prolonged storage. Factor in their portability and you’ve got an excellent snack (especially when paired with nut butter for protein). Take an adventure to pick your own at an orchard or just head to your local farmer’s market –but fill up on crisp and juicy apples this fall.

 

2.    Beets

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Low in calories with a high water content, beets are great for weight loss—but offer additional health benefits as well. Beets and beetroot juice can help reduce hypertension (high blood pressure) due to dietary nitrates. Nitrates work to increase nitric oxide in our bodies, which dilate our blood vessels, improving circulation and lowering blood pressure. This helps our minds too by increasing blood flow to the brain, which can lead to improved mental and cognitive function. Nitrates may also enhance athletic performance by delaying exhaustion during high intensity exercise. Studies have shown improved cycling performance with beetroot juice consumption prior to competing (2-3 hours beforehand is best as that’s when peak blood levels occur). Like apples, beets also contain fiber, which not only helps increase satiety but also beneficial for our digestive health. The anti-inflammatory vegetable also strengthens our body’s detoxification system, allowing better excretion of unwanted toxins and waste from our cells. Though they can also be grown in the summer and winter months, the earthy flavor truly compliments the cooler season.

Recipe to try: roasted beet and butternut squash salad

 

3.    Pumpkin

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If there’s one food synonymous with fall, it’s pumpkin! Pumpkin lovers rejoice once September rolls around. Aside from their decorative appeal, pumpkins are packed with key nutrients while delivering savory or sweet flavor diversity to dishes. A great source of fiber, pumpkin flesh (as well as the seeds) offers up a host of vitamins and minerals. Pumpkin is loaded with beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that the body converts to vitamin A. Beta-carotene gives pumpkins their vibrant orange color, and has been associated with lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Along with beta-carotene, pumpkin contains vitamin C and E, which may support eye health and boost immunity, too. Loaded with electrolytes (such as potassium), it can help restore balance while also replenishing glycogen stores after an intense workout. Pumpkin can be added to homemade waffles, pancakes, soups, smoothies, hummus and more—just stick to using the actual food or canned pumpkin and skip the processed foods with artificial pumpkin flavoring.

Recipes to try: pumpkin smoothie and pumpkin pancakes

 

4.    Sweet Potatoes

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With a similar profile to pumpkin, sweet potatoes are another fall favorite that are incredibly diverse in how they can be enjoyed. While sweet potatoes have more sugar than white potatoes (approximately 4 g per medium spud), they also contain fiber, which helps stabilize our blood sugar. In addition to fiber, sweet potatoes are noted for providing vitamin C, A (beta-carotene), potassium and carotenoids. Sweet potatoes are a great carbohydrate choice when balancing macronutrients and possibly one of the best foods to prep when batch cooking as they can round out a healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Try roasting with a little salt and pepper or add a dash of cinnamon and paprika for spiced perfection. Their natural sweetness makes for a healthier dessert option if you want to curb a sweet tooth, and are delicious with cinnamon, dark chocolate or coconut. Recipe ideas are plentiful; you can use sweet potatoes in casseroles, chili, as toast, in tacos, nachos, or simply baked and topped with loads of goodness (aka sautéed greens). Regardless of your preference, make sure to reach for these spuds at your local farmer’s market.

Recipes to try: sweet potato, spinach, ginger and tofu curry and sweet potato toasts

 

5.    Brussels Sprouts

While not everyone is a fan of this veggie (hard to believe tbh), Brussels sprouts have made a comeback in recent years and their popularity has landed them on many restaurant menus. Along with broccoli and cabbage, Brussel sprouts are part of the cruciferous family, and pack a healthy punch for their small size. Just one half cup can provide more than your daily recommended intake (RDI) of vitamin K which supports strong bones and blood clotting. They’re also one of the best sources of vitamin C, which we know helps to strengthen our immune function (pretty key as we enter cold season) and helps promote iron absorption. Additionally, these little guys contain numerous compounds that may help fight cancer as well as aid detoxification. While they taste amazing when crispy and charred, they’re also surprisingly delicious when shaved in raw salads.

 We want to know, what are your fall favorites?

 

 

Blogpost written by Ascend Health Coach, Ashley Hart