There are many reasons to love fall—cooler temps mean sweater weather, hot toddies, and a serious change of scenery.
Combat autumnal adversity with the season's own superfoods. Most plentiful and fresh during the next few months, these nutritional powerhouses are incredibly easy to add into nearly every meal. Harness their healing energy to banish winter blues, fight the flu, and even melt away fat.
Bright pink and heart-shaped, this favorite fruit has been prized for its crunchy, juicy seeds for millennia. Representative of fertility, health, and eternal life in many ancient religions, the pomegranate actually lives up to its hype. The deep burgundy juice contains antioxidants that are shown to lower blood pressure. In a study that followed patients with heart disease, those that supplemented with an ounce of pomegranate juice every day for a year had a 12 percent reduction in blood pressure and 30 percent less plaque in their arteries.
The seeds themselves also pack a hefty dose of fiber and vitamin C, so you'll feel good throughout the holiday season. Intimidated by deseeding the beautiful fruit? Try a scoop of pomegranate powder in your favorite smoothie.
Before you roll your eyes—'tis the season to OD on pumpkin flavored everything, so you might already be over the stuff—reconsider pumpkin from a health perspective. The gourd is high in fiber but low in calories, and thanks to its bright orange color, it's full of vitamin A, C, and beta-carotene. The carotenoids in pumpkin are also incredible disease fighters; the antioxidant that's found in brightly colored fruits and veggies has been proven to reduce heart disease and cancer risk. Carotenoids are best absorbed when eaten with a little fat, so don't feel too bad about that dollop of whipped cream on top of your slice of pumpkin pie!
Sweet, wrinkly, and full of flavor (and fiber), date fruits are harvested in the early fall. While you're used to seeing them year-round in their dry form, the fresh fruit is softer and more tender while still maintaining its sweetness. Perfect for adding a touch of natural sugar to anything you're cooking this fall, the fruit is full of skin-beautifying vitamin A and metabolism-boosting magnesium. Add them into your diet for a quick and clean source of energy during the winter months, and experiment with baking.
Low in calories but high in nutrients, tart cranberries are your new fall food BFF. Because they can be very tart to the point of bitterness, they're often eaten dried and sweetened or mixed into a goopy, sugary sauce. Not exactly the best way to deliver their cancer-fighting polyphenols.
Instead, get your hands on some fresh cranberries (or dried, unsweetened cranberries!) and add them into smoothies for a boost of flavor, color, and anti-inflammatory compounds. Cranberries are also notoriously effective for detoxification purposes, which means they're a perfect snack post-holiday sugar binge!
Stomach soother, stress reliever, bacteria killer—ginger is totally worthy of its superfood moniker. Fresh ginger root isn't exactly beautiful, but peel back that outer layer and a lovely light yellow interior is revealed. And this stuff is potent—ginger's spicy-sweet taste can be overwhelming, but the root contains 6-gingerol, a bioactive substance that has an effect on everything from fighting cancer to helping relieve nausea. Ginger also has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and can even ease pain after a tough workout. Try it freshly grated into soups, as a tea, or even as a ginger chew to soothe a stomach ache.
This staple spice makes its way into so many winter dishes, but it's worth adding a dash of cinnamon to your meals year round. Like many spices, it's got impressive anti-inflammatory capabilities and antimicrobial properties. But we love cinnamon for its fat-burning function—a sprinkle of cinnamon lowers blood sugar levels up to 15 percent, which helps the body burn fat more efficiently.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho