It’s fall, which means the days are getting shorter, the leaves are starting to change colors and the temperatures are beginning to cool down. These shorter days result in less sunlight and for some can have a negative impact on mood.
This also signifies a change in what we begin to eat and drink! As the weather starts to get colder, our food choices begin to lean more towards heavier options. Gone are the summer fruits and lighter fare … and hello comfort food.
For many, the release of the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (aka PSL) is cause for celebration. There is scientific evidence to prove that many of the fall foods we know and love provide incredible benefits to both the body and the mind, however, the PSL from Starbucks is just not one of them. Weighing in at 380 kcals, 13g of fat and 49 grams of sugar (or 12 tsp) the grande hits both your pocketbook and your health, by pushing you over the recommended 9 tsp of sugar for men and 6 tsp for women.
So what fall foods provide the most bang for your buck?
Pumpkin/Sweet Potato: These colorful fall foods are known as both a superfood and a functional food. Packed full of nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, iron and fiber, they are also both an excellent source of Vitamin A, which helps support our immune system, regulates cell growth and division and promotes bone development. Their functional benefits come from the bright orange pigment, containing a very powerful anti-oxidant known as beta-carotene, which helps to neutralize free radicals, keeping the body healthy at a cellular level. Replace some of the oil or butter in recipes with unsweetened pumpkin or sweet potato purée for a nutritional boost.
Pumpkin seeds: Containing 23% of the RDA for zinc, along with a healthy dose of magnesium, these little seeds can be a powerful mood booster. Zinc also helps to reduce inflammation, which overtime can increase anxiety and depression. Add pumpkin seeds to smoothies, salads, or yogurt for a healthy crunch.
Apples: Although available year round, apples also make my list for a comforting but healthy fall food. Apples are low in calories, high in fiber and are a natural way to reduce cholesterol. The flavonoids they contain help protect the heart and can lower the risk of developing type II diabetes. With so many varieties, textures and flavors, there is an apple for everyone. For a quick and easy fall treat, cut an apple in half, core out the seeds, and fill with oats, brown sugar and cinnamon. Place in a 325 degree oven until oats are browned and apple is tender.
Cinnamon: This aromatic spice has been used as far back as 2000 BC to treat a wide variety of ailments. This pungent but soothing spice is loaded with anti-oxidants, has many anti-inflammatory properties. It has been shown to help lower blood sugar by regulating insulin levels, all of which help control anxiety and depression. It was once thought to be rare and valuable and was a gift fit for kings. Today it is inexpensive and found in every grocery store, however, be aware that not all cinnamon is created equal. There are actually two different types of cinnamon available, one of which can cause potential harm in large doses.
Ceylon cinnamon: Also known as “true “ cinnamon
Cassia cinnamon: Also called “regular” cinnamon —- this is the more common one we see in the grocery store generally referred to as “cinnamon”
In order to have a therapeutic effect, it is recommended that a person consume one to two teaspoons per day, however, the cassia or regular cinnamon contains a compound called coumarin, which can be toxic to the liver in high amounts. In fact, that same 1-2 tsp can put you over the daily limit.
Bottom line … Cinnamon is a wonderful spice that is linked to a whole host of benefits, but if you are consuming it for a therapeutic effect, make sure and purchase the Ceylon variety. It is available in most health food stores and online.
Enjoy the season to its fullest by incorporating some of the foods I’ve mentioned above. Of course kicking off the fall season with an occasional PSL won’t hurt anyone, but knowing and understanding which foods provide the most benefits, allows you the freedom to take better control over your health.