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FALLing for Vitamin C: 5 Seasonal Foods That Help Boost Immunity


Basket with pumpkins, squash and corn with fall leaves on the ground

Good news! Pumpkin spice is already back, making this year the earliest Starbucks has ever released their fall menu. The weather is transitioning from warm to cold and your coffee goes from iced to hot. There are neat stacks of pumpkin and squash in the grocery store, and you notice the sweet smell of apple cider donuts lingering in the air. What does this mean? Just like the seasons shift and the leaves change color, so do our diets. However, trudging through crunchy leaves on the ground indicates flu season is fast approaching. On that note, I have more good news-- adding fall foods to your diet can help fight germs and it’s actually easier (and tastier) than you might think!

One thing most fall foods have in common is color, and one thing fall colors all have in common are carotenoids and vitamin C.


Carotenoids:

  • Pigments found in orange, red and yellow plants with antioxidant properties

  • Beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, and lutein are the most common

  • Your body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which helps strengthen your vision and immune system

Vitamin C:

  • Antioxidant that helps fight free radicals that cause damage to our cells and lead to formation of certain diseases like cancer

  • Helps boost immune system

  • Important for collagen synthesis, which keeps your skin, bones, tendons and other tissues strong and healthy

  • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults is 65-90mg/day


Here are 5 festive foods everyone should be eating this flu season:

1. Sweet Potatoes

This hearty and vibrantly colored root is one of the richest sources of beta-carotene, which is good for eye health and protects your body from invasive pathogens, like viruses and bacteria that can make you sick. They are also a great source of vitamin C, with one-medium sweet potato containing 37% of the daily recommended amount, and a SWEET source of fiber, which has been shown to help lower cholesterol.

2. Pumpkins

Although ideal for carving, pumpkins are packed with beta-carotene and can be prepared many different ways. One cup of raw pumpkin contains 19% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C. Pumpkin seeds, which make a great savory snack, contain many additional important vitamins and minerals, like vitamin K, zinc and fiber, which are important for a strong immune system and good digestive health. They also contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which help decrease the risk of heart disease. So, save your seeds next time you carve a pumpkin!

3. Corn

This yellow seasonal favorite is rich in lutein, a carotenoid essential for eye health. It helps prevent cataracts and vision loss in aging adults. Corn is also a good source of vitamin C, with one cup serving of sweet yellow corn containing 17% of the daily recommended amount to help us fight certain diseases like cancer and heart disease.

4. Butternut Squash

Butternut squash has the highest vitamin C content out of all winter squash, with 30mg per 1 cup serving. It’s also high in carotenoids lutein, beta- and alpha-carotene, which help promote good vision. One serving also contains 87% water, to help keep you hydrated and flush out toxins, and is a great source of potassium, which helps lower blood pressure.

5. Bell Peppers

Colorful, crisp and full of flavor, bell peppers offer many health benefits. Just ½ cup of raw red pepper contains a whopping 95mg of vitamin C, giving your immune system an extra boost to help knockout a cold. In addition, they’re super simple to cook with and can be enjoyed raw making it easy to incorporate them in your diet.

In summary

Many seasonal foods contain carotenoids, which give foods like pumpkins and squash their bright colors, and vitamin C, an antioxidant that keeps our cells and immune systems strong and healthy. These nutrients are found naturally in our diets and can help us fight germs with the right amounts. So save your seeds next time you carve a pumpkin, eat the colors of the rainbow through bell peppers, and enjoy a deliciously baked sweet potato this Autumn!

Learn more about healthy eating and other wellness programs offered by Wellness Workdays.

Written By: Natasha Greeve, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern

Sources:

1. Medical News Today

2. Healthline

3. National Institutes of Health

4. National Library of Medicine

5. WebMD

#nutrition #autumn #vitaminC #health #diet #carotenoids

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