You might find that fall flavors and smells pack a lot of comfort, calling up memories of mom’s baking, trips to the pumpkin patch, or holiday meals shared with family.
But the mental health benefits of certain fall foods go beyond the food memories that make you feel good. The nutrients in these five fall foods can deliver a solid boost to your mood.
1. Acorn squash
“I love the fall season because that means it’s time for squash,” says registered dietitian Jenn Fillenworth, MS, RD. Acorn squash is a small type of winter squash with a light yet slightly sweet flavor.
There are several health benefits to acorn squash and other squashes in general. Acorn squash is one of the most nutrient-dense squash varieties and contains higher amounts of antioxidants.
An acorn squash contains magnesium, which is an important nutrient for helping with depression and anxiety.
“A recent study shows that increasing magnesium in the diet may lead to a significant decrease in symptoms of depression and anxiety regardless of age or severity of their depression,” Fillenworth adds.
Sure, apples are in stores year-round. But they’re especially delicious during the apple harvest season, which typically peaks in September and October.
Fillenworth says that over the past several years, nutrition research has focused on the effects of apple consumption and its relationship to providing protective neurological benefits.
“Since apples have a high phytochemical profile, they are excellent at preventing DNA damage, regulating hormones, and reducing oxidative damage,” she explains. “All of these things are directly related to supporting good mental health.”
Pumpkin is probably the most popular fall flavor. And it should be, says Fillenworth, especially since it contains minerals that boost brain function.
“Pumpkin contains lutein and zeaxanthin — both of these nutrients are excellent at boosting memory recall in both younger and older adults,” she explains.
Plus, pumpkin seeds are known to help boost your mood, something we can all use this time of the year. They contain the amino acid tryptophan, which we often equate with Thanksgiving turkey.
Including tryptophan in your diet helps your brain produce serotonin, a chemical known to boost your mood and give you an overall content feeling.
Food as medicine is not a new concept. We’ve been using various ingredients in recipes for centuries to help cure many ailments.
It also has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, it tastes delicious! Just remember, a little sprinkle goes a long way.
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Nothing says fall like the smell of cinnamon.
Cinnamon adds warmth to the flavor in teas, cider, oatmeal, breads, baked fruit and veggies, and more.
Sara Lindberg, BS, MEd, is a freelance health and fitness writer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s degree in counseling. She’s spent her life educating people on the importance of health, wellness, mindset, and mental health. She specializes in the mind-body connection, with a focus on how our mental and emotional well-being impact our physical fitness and health.