5 Fall Superfoods
By: Brandi Wagner, RHN
1 October, 2017 by
5 Fall Superfoods
Sun Chlorella USA

I don't know about you, but when I think of fall I instantly start drooling. If you love comfort food, it's likely that fall is your happy place too. Squash is in season, turkey or tofurkey is likely to be in your near future and pumpkin spice lattes get ready to make their annual appearance once again.

The only caveat with the glorious season where the leaves turn bright orange and cozy wool sweaters emerge from your closet are the energy-crashing properties of tempting fall treats. Yes, I'm calling out those pumpkin spice lattes and festive bags of Halloween candy that grace the inner grocery store aisles. Not exactly fall superfoods, but super tasty nonetheless, right?

It can also be tempting to be less active as the months get cooler and the days get shorter. And the less active you are, the harder it can be to maintain healthy energy levels. Instead of rising at 6 a.m. to go to the gym, the cooler months can have a stay-warm-curled-up-in-blankets effect. When you add seasonal sweets to the mix, you're setting yourself up for energy crashes and feeling heavy and sluggish throughout the fall season.

How Processed Sugar Makes You Feel Tired and Sluggish

The processed sugar found in sweetened coffees, candy, chocolate bars, hot chocolate, cookies and muffins produce a not-so-ideal sequence of events in the body that wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar levels are imbalanced from consuming processed sugar, you'll feel a lack of energy throughout the day and eventually notice your overall feeling of health and wellness start to decline.

Unlike fruit and other foods found in nature, processed sugar does not contain the important nutrients such as protein, fiber and healthy fats that help slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream. Instead, processed sugar is a concentrated form of glucose that overwhelms your body upon ingestion.

As processed sugar enters your bloodstream, your blood sugar levels experience a rapid spike, causing you to feel an immediate increase in your energy levels. This sounds like a good thing, but because the energy isn't coming from a sustainable source, your energy levels will drop or crash just as quickly. As you begin to feel tired and drained, your body will send out signals for more energy, usually in the form of sugar cravings. And so the vicious blood sugar crash and spike cycle begins.

Rather than starting fall off in a way that causes your health and wellness to decline, take advantage of the nutrient-dense fall superfoods that this season has to offer instead. Despite the dark and sometimes gloomy autumn days, it's possible for your energy levels to soar and to wake up feeling refreshed naturally without hitting the snooze button 35 times.

As a sidenote, you may be thinking it's typical for a nutritionist to tell you to stay away from processed sugar—as if that's something you don't already know. But hear me out. When your diet is full of real, whole foods and you're receiving optimum levels of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and good quality protein, there's room for that little treat here and there. After all, I think we can agree that chocolate is one of life's greatest pleasures!

As a general guideline, follow the 80/20 rule. Keep 80% of your diet full of nutrient dense foods to allow flexibility with the other 20%. That way, you'll feel great throughout the fall season without a sense of being deprived of seasonal treats.

On that note, here are five nutrient-dense fall superfoods to provide your body with proper nutrition in the cooler months for rejuvenation and energy.

1. Pumpkins and Pumpkin Seeds 

Pumpkins are an energy boosting complex carbohydrate full of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Because they contain loads of fiber, the carbs in pumpkin break down into sugar slowly, which means your body is supplied with steady energy rather than a quick spike and crash. The fiber in pumpkin also helps keep your appetite satisfied for longer.

Pumpkins are high in potassium, which makes them a great plant based food to use as a pre-workout or post-workout ingredient in your smoothies. And don't forget about pumpkin seeds!

Also high in fiber, pumpkin seeds make excellent snacks (homemade cinnamon spiced trail mix, anyone?) and contain the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin- the feel good neurotransmitter. Pumpkin seeds also contain omega 3 and omega 6 essential fatty acids which are required by the body for a happy mood.When consuming pumpkin, be sure to consume it in its whole form, not as an additive to a processed food.

Pumpkin flavour is often added to packaged foods or drinks to make the food seem healthier, when in reality it's just another unnecessary sugar source in your diet.

2. Herbal Tea 

Herbal tea is cozy, comforting and warming on cold fall days. Certain herbal teas such as yerba mate provide the body with a sustainable energy source without a caffeine crash. For this reason, yerba mate is a great alternative to coffee. Rooibos and lavender teas have a calming effect on your nervous system and promote a restful sleep.

Drinking herbal teas that contain adaptogenic herbs are another ideal way to combat sluggishness in the fall season, and may help to gently detoxify the body. Adaptogens are a class of herbs that help the body cope with and adapt to stressful situations. Herbal teas that contain such ingredients are superior for providing mental clarity, stress relief, focus and energy without the jitters all in one cup.

3. Yams 

Yams are fibrous fall root veggies that are high in fiber and vitamins A and C, two vitamins that assist with gentle body detoxification. With their sweet taste, they can satisfy any sugar craving in a hearty and nutritious dish.

Yams are richer in vitamins and minerals than white potatoes, making them an ideal choice when choosing to make homemade french fries or other festive dishes that contain starchy vegetables. They are also rich in the complex carbohydrates that provide your body with slow releasing, sustainable energy.

Yams aren't to be confused with sweet potatoes, which are a cousin of the yam. A yam is higher in nutrients than a sweet potato and has brightly coloured orange flesh, a sign of being rich in antioxidant vitamin A. A sweet potato looks similar to a white potato when cut open but tastes sweeter than a regular white potato.

4. Apples

Apples are an energizing fall fruit with a high nutrient profile. Apples are high in fiber but low in sugar, making them one of the best foods to include in your diet to feel refreshed throughout the fall season without experiencing energy crashes.

Apples contain the antioxidant vitamins A,C and E which work as immune system boosters, as well as potassium and magnesium, two electrolytes that also help keep your body energized.

Apples are a versatile ingredient to any dish. They can be put a festive and nutritious spin on any dish, such as homemade whole grain apple crumble, apple cider, spiced apple oatmeal and applesauce (which makes a great healthy baking ingredient).

If you find yourself feeling sluggish in the fall despite exercising and eating well, the fiber in apples also helps clear out stagnant waste from your digestive tract ”often a hidden cause of feeling "blah.”

5. Pears

Pears have a very similar nutrient profile to apples as a low sugar fruit full of vitamins and minerals, but are even higher in fiber.

Pears help cleanse the digestive system by promoting regularity and also provide a dose of natural energy- two mechanisms that help your body feel rejuvenated.

Pears contain antioxidant vitamins A, C and E, and are said to help lubricate the lungs, which are susceptible to becoming more dry in the autumn season. Pears also make a great pre- or post-workout replenishment snack due to their electrolyte content and high concentration of natural vitamins.

To include more pears in your diet this fall, try them sliced in your salads, blend them in smoothies and for the cooler days, try a warming poached pear recipe. 

About Brandi Wagner, RHN
Brandi Wagner is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist from Vancouver, B.C. Experiencing her own health challenges at a young age led her to become passionate about educating on the healing properties of food, and how to achieve hormone balance, clear skin and sustainable weight loss naturally. In her spare time you'll find Brandi writing in her blog and hanging out with her teacup chihuahua, Coconut.

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