6 Fall Foods That Boost Immune Function
As the winter weather approaches, so does cold and flu season. With that comes the extra threat of contracting a pesky illness that can put a dent in your fall or winter plans, work schedule, or desire to avoid getting sick altogether. And with the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting people, it’s that much more important to protect yourself from illness this season.
Since staying healthy and protected against the worst consequences of illnesses depends on your immune system, there is something you can do to help ward off illness: boost your immunity. The best way to boost immunity this fall is by eating seasonal foods that are loaded with the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to stay strong and ready to fight off anything that comes your way.
Why should you eat seasonal fall foods for immunity?
According to experts, there are many reasons why we should eat in-season foods. One of the benefits is that their nutrient content is at its highest. The longer it takes for a food to travel from where it was harvested, the more nutrients get lost in the process. According to an article published in the Chicago Tribune, roughly 30% of nutrients are lost three days after a vegetable or fruit is harvested. That’s not a long time – and that’s why you want to eat as locally and as seasonally as possible to ensure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to nutrient density.
Another benefit is how eating seasonally affects the microbiome, which is the good bacteria that lives in the digestive system and contributes to immune health, among other things. Eating seasonally is thought to help contribute to the growth of good bacteria. According to some studies, your gut essentially caters to the different foods that can be eaten during the different seasons to help keep you healthy.
What are the top immune-boosting foods in fall?
While eating any nutrient-rich foods will help keep your body running as it should, eating seasonal vegetables will give your immune system the boost it needs to keep you healthy as the days grow shorter and colder. The following six foods are great choices when it comes to eating seasonally in fall for optimal immune health.
Spinach is a dark leafy green that can be used in a variety of ways, such as in salads, on sandwiches, or even in smoothies. The vegetable is packed with vitamins and minerals such as potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6, B9, E, C, K, and A. It also contains high amounts of folic acid, iron, and calcium. The high amount of vitamins A, E, and iron in spinach are crucial for the immune system’s function.
Kale is another dark leafy green vegetable with high nutritional value. It is typically harvested at various points throughout the year, including fall. Nutrients in kale include vitamins A, K, B6, C, calcium, potassium, copper, and manganese. Research shows that eating kale can influence the inflammation in the body, which results in a better-working immune system.
Carrots are typically harvested in the fall and can continue to grow well into the season as long as they are pulled before the ground freezes. In some places, if the ground never freezes, carrots can be grown well throughout the winter season as well. Carrots contain high amounts of vitamins A, K, and C, as well as potassium, fiber, iron, and calcium. Studies show that eating carrots, especially organic varieties, can stimulate your immune system to better react to pathogens.
Cranberries are a tart and sweet fall fruit that can be used in many different ways and added to both savory and sweet dishes. They contain high amounts of vitamins C, K, and A, all of which have been shown to help boost the immune system and fight unnecessary inflammation throughout the body. The strong antioxidants in cranberries also give the immune system a helping hand by warding off oxidative stress, which can damage immune cells’ ability to fight off illness.
5. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a great fall food to help boost your immune system because they are so versatile. This root vegetable is rich in B vitamins as well vitamins C and D. Sweet potato also contains high amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. One specific compound found in sweet potato that benefits immune function is beta-carotene, which converts in vitamin A in the body. Beta-carotene has been shown to help mediate the action of immune system cells and boost the immune response.
Pumpkin is arguably the most popular fall food. It’s used in desserts, as decoration, and even in drinks. One incredible thing that many people may not know about pumpkin is how well it helps the immune system fight off illness. It contains high amounts of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as potassium, copper, manganese, riboflavin, iron, folate, and B vitamins. Pumpkin, like sweet potato, is also high in beta-carotene. With its high density of immune-boosting nutrients, research has shown that pumpkin can not only strengthen your immunity, but also fight off infections.
Eating seasonally is more than just getting to go to the local farm and pick up fresh-out-of-ground produce. It’s good for your health, and when you eat seasonally this fall, choosing one or all of the above immune-boosting foods is bound to give you a leg up against any illness that comes your way as the weather continues to grow colder.