With the season setting in, many of us are doing our best to avoid catching a cold or the flu before spring reaches us. We’ve all learned what it takes to protect ourselves against Coronavirus, from wearing masks and frequently washing our hands and socially distancing, but that isn’t always possible when you return to work or head to winter social events.
So, how can you protect yourself? Start with your internal defense system. Your immune system will fight any germs that find their way in. If it’s strong, it will beat back most colds and even flu, but if it’s lacking essential nutrients, it’s not going to have the strength to do so. Make sure your diet is full of these 7 foods if you want to stay strong and healthy this fall!7 Foods to Keep You Healthy This Fall
Fall is a very food- and drink-heavy season. It’s cold outside and all we want to do is snuggle up in the warmth with something rich and comforting to eat. And there’s no reason we can’t load up on vitamins and minerals while also diving into a bowl of something tasty! Here are seven delicious foods and ingredients to eat in abundance this fall:
Pumpkin: Delicious in pies, soups, pasta dishes, and purees, this low-calorie autumn food is also rich in beta-carotene, which the body converts into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is particularly helpful during flu season as it helps keep our mucous barriers healthy – which are our first defenses against things trying to infect us.
While pumpkin pie will probably get your mouth-watering, try to incorporate pumpkin into your diet in healthier ways, such as pumpkin soup or roast pumpkin in the oven and serve it instead of sweet potato or butternut squash.
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms are a good source of fiber, and antioxidants, and you’ll often see them advertised in health food stores in powder form for their potent health benefits. Some mushrooms are certainly better than others, but adding any to your meals will help. If you don’t normally like mushrooms for their texture, try recipes that include shiitake mushrooms or oyster mushrooms. Not only are they some of the most beneficial mushrooms, but they are also some of the most palatable and delicious options out there.Try adding them to your Bolognese sauce, savory pies, casseroles, Mexican dishes, and stir fries.
Spinach: Most of the carbs in this leafy green vegetable consist of fiber, which is great news if you’re watching your weight (since it bulks up your meals but largely passes through you). It’s also rich in Vitamin C, antioxidants, and beta-carotene, all of which help strengthen the immune system.
While cooked spinach does reduce to a tiny size (making it easy to eat in volume), it tastes best and offers the most benefits when eaten as fresh as possible. For this reason, try adding it to salads, smoothies, or add it last minute to your dishes so it retains as much of its nutritional content as possible.
Ginger: Gingerol, the primary bioactive compound found in ginger, is responsible for many of the medicinal properties ginger boasts. Loaded with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, ginger is good for high cholesterol, menstrual pain, chronic indigestion, and inflammatory gum disease. Ginger is a popular addition to many winter dishes and drinks, and goes particularly well with honey and lemon in tea, which is also great if you’re feeling under the weather!
Adding fresh ginger to your meals is always best, though you can also find pre-chopped ginger in a jar in some stores, which offers you the best of both worlds (ease and nutrition). Add it to any Asian dishes for the best results, but you can also usually hide a little bit of it in almost any dish.
Winter squash: This tasty root vegetable is rich in vitamins and low in calories, so you can almost as much of it as you want! It’s a delicious addition to baked dishes, risotto, pies, and soups. Winter squash is an excellent source of alpha-carotene and beta-carotene, which the body converts to Vitamin A. It also contains Vitamin C, fiber, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant compounds.
Nutmeg: Found in many winter dishes and beverages, nutmeg is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Nutmeg also has antibacterial properties and is often used by those with gingivitis and inflammatory gum disease. Nutmeg has also been seen to stunt the growth of dangerous strains of E. coli
bacteria. Nutmeg is a powerful spice that can prove helpful in several health situations. Sprinkle some over your desserts or holiday drinks for a warming, festive boost of health.
- Cinnamon: Another festive favorite, cinnamon is known for its vast medicinal properties including antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, ability to help reduce cholesterol, and even increase sensitivity to insulin. It’s also effective against various microbes that can cause infection, such as bacteria, yeast, and fungi.
While it’s important to practice mindful hygiene when in public spaces and socializing with friends and family, eating the right foods can help protect you against cold and flu. By choosing foods that are high in the right vitamins and anti-inflammatory compounds, you can boost your immune system and give yourself the best chance of fighting the common cold this fall.
Dr. Nancy Rahnama, MD, ABOM, ABIM, is a medical doctor board certified by both the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Her specialty is Clinical Nutrition, that is, the use of nutrition by a medical doctor to diagnose and treat disease. Dr. Rahnama has helped thousands of people achieve their goals of weight loss, gut health, improved mood and sleep, and managing chronic disease.