…They’re must-adds to your wellness plan for the fall season, if not the entire year. Why? They come preloaded and packed with naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that can ease your pain, support your immune system, and help you fight off the effects of aging.
All that from food? Absolutely! In my 20-year holistic, integrative practice, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to help many people seeking relief from a wide variety of conditions, including pain, stress, sleeplessness, skin disorders, and underperforming immune systems. After we discuss past histories and lifestyles, our conversations invariably turn to food, and that’s where the magic begins to happen.
Think about this: What’s on your fork becomes a part of your body, your very cells. Food provides the material that builds our health and wellness arsenals—or it doesn’t. With that in mind, placing our awareness on what we’re eating becomes increasingly critical. When we know what might possibly move the needle into the green regarding our health goals, our “food as medicine” thinking becomes a clear winner.
So, food is critical. But which ones should we choose to include in our diets, and when? As a follower of Chinese Medicine, I’d like to suggest that your list of healthful “superfoods” be informed by your individual bodies, but also by the larger natural universe, of which we are each a part.
Chinese Medicine teaches that during the summer, which is ruled by the Fire element, we deal more with the external—for example, outdoor activities or travel. By contrast, fall is a time of more internal introspection and organization with an eye to harvesting resources needed for the winter season ahead.
The fall season is governed by the Metal element, which comprises the Lung and Large Intestine meridians. The emotions traceable to the delicate Lung organ meridian are sadness and grief, while the Large Intestine meridian suggests the necessity for “letting go” of what no longer serves us. To support our lungs and immune systems in the autumn, foods should be warmer and more moistening and grounding, as the air becomes crisper and days grow shorter.
I have some suggestions to help you make easy, practical food choices—choices that can treat or prevent ailments you may be experiencing or worry about. This superfood list also respects time-tested traditional Chinese wisdom, and includes foods that best protect and nourish your Qi, or life force, during the fall.
- Wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, and other cold water fish, walnuts, and freshly ground flaxseed.
These foods are all rich in inflammation-fighting omega-3s. That means they’re not only heart and brain healthy, but they can also reduce joint pain. As you add these healthy-fat sources, reduce your intake of polyunsaturated vegetable oils (such as soybean, sunflower, corn, and safflower oils), replacing them instead with extra virgin olive oil (perhaps organic) to further balance your omega equation.
- Healing spices such as turmeric, ginger, and red pepper.
These wonderful ingredients can add zing to meals, but they’re also naturally anti-inflammatory and can help soothe sore, achy muscles. Mmm plus ahh!
This classic fall favorite isn’t just for Halloween. Used in pies, cakes, and puddings, pumpkin is rich in vitamin B as well as fiber. Keep the pumpkin seeds, too, and dry and roast them. They’re rich in magnesium—so enjoy the crunch, and ease migraines and other pain.
- Almonds, cashews, dark leafy vegetables, beans, and lentils.
Speaking of magnesium, it’s a natural muscle relaxer. Nuts, greens like spinach and kale, and legumes, which are all rich in this mineral, can also help relieve sleeplessness.
- Capsaicin (hint: it’s what gives peppers their heat).
Capsaicin is well-known for painkilling properties and is available in creams and patches—though eating them may give you the best results.
- Brussels sprouts.
Love them or hate them, but this cousin of cauliflower and broccoli (also superstars in their own right) is a source of antioxidants that keep inflammation and chronic diseases at bay. They’re also rich in vitamin C , iron, and folic acid, which all strengthen the immune system.
- Button mushrooms.
They might sound lowly, but they can help fight disease in several ways. These mushrooms fortify your immune system by providing two key B vitamins: riboflavin and niacin. Button mushrooms also supply selenium—and if you’re low on selenium, you may be more liable to coming down with the flu.
- Sweet potatoes.
Like carrots, sweet potatoes have beta-carotene, which your body converts into vitamin A, a compound that mops up damaging free radicals. This helps bolster the immune system and may even mitigate the aging process.
Root vegetables that resemble white carrots, parsnips are a rich source of potassium, a mineral that’s critical to the proper functioning of the muscular, cardiovascular, and digestive systems. Parsnips are also packed with fiber. This vegetable can be pureed and added to soups—or simply eaten cooked on their own.
Pears are a juicy alternative to crunchy apples. Whether you enjoy your pear fresh, roasted, or poached, it’s rich in fiber and immune-boosting vitamin C, as well as copper—a micronutrient needed by your skeletal and nervous systems.
My current fave! Cauliflower can be eaten steamed or mashed like potatoes. Have you seen the new packages of cauliflower rice? High in vitamin C, cauliflower also contains compounds that may help to prevent cancer.
- Winter squash such as butternut and acorn.
Winter squashes tend to be sweeter than the summer types, and they offer multiple whole-body nutrients including omegas and vitamin A. Have you tried spaghetti squash yet? It’s truly a wonder of nature and a delicious alternative to pasta.
Take a look at markets near you for some of these festive, delicious, and nourishing fall foods. Use them in favorite dishes, or have a health-forward eating adventure by trying these ingredients in inventive, appetizing ways. Meeting a new challenge? Click here to schedule a free consultation. I’d love to give you a hand through your wellness discoveries as you enjoy this wonderful transitional season.