Autumn seems to arrive before summer is over. It’s almost as if people cannot wait to decorate with fall foliage and cinnamon-scented pine cones. Pumpkin-spiced everything appears and people are in full fall mode, dressing in beanies and scarves even if the weather is perfect for beach days.
As most people learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for overall health and optimizing immune function is of the utmost importance. With schools back in session and the presence of new variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to maintain immune health. When the immune system operates at peak efficiency, it’s able to combat germs, viruses, or bacteria before they actually wreak havoc on the body. This can ultimately reduce the duration of illness or even fend off harsh symptoms.
For many people, it’s second nature to reach for vitamin C tablets, electrolyte powders, or other synthetics to enhance immune function. The average person doesn’t reach for fruits, vegetables, and herbs to keep the immune system in tip-top shape. Fall offers many beneficial produce items that improve immunity, and you can learn about them below.
One of fall’s best and most flavorful produce items, the pomegranate exhibits numerous health benefits. The Ancient Egyptians used pomegranates to treat infections, and incorporated them into other healing practices. According to several studies, the antioxidants in pomegranates help the body fight back against numerous viruses. Pomegranates are also rich sources of vitamin C, which boosts antibody production in immunity development.
The sweet potato, or yam, is a classic fall favorite that is a rich source of vitamins A & C. Sweet potatoes happen to be one of the best natural sources of beta-carotene, which is a plant-based compound that the body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A is an essential component of a healthy immune system. It helps to maintain mucous membranes in the gut, where the body is exposed to potential disease-causing pathogens. By promoting optimal gut health, vitamin A contributes to a healthier immune system.
It’s hard to think of garlic as a seasonal produce item because it’s available throughout the year. Garlic happens to be one of the most common ingredients in global cuisine. Several studies found that raw garlic may significantly reduce blood pressure. Raw garlic also exhibits antibiotic and anti-fungal properties that may help combat viruses and bacteria. Processing destroys all of garlic’s health benefits, so using garlic powder or pre-minced garlic won’t benefit the body.
Fresh grapes contain over 1,600 natural plant compounds, including a mixture of polyphenols and antioxidants. Both of these groups have proven their ability to protect cells from harmful pathogens. Grapes are also rich in resveratrol, which is a polyphenol that positively influences the immune system. One cup of raw grapes also satisfies 25% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C, and supplies the body with 2.5 ounces of water.
Just like sweet potatoes, pumpkins are excellent sources of beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. Several studies found that vitamin A strengthens the immune system to help combat infections. Researchers found that people who have low levels of vitamin A or vitamin A deficiency tend to have weaker immune systems. Additionally, pumpkins contain a high amount of vitamin C, which works to increase white blood cell production. More white blood cells encourage immune cells to work more efficiently, healing wounds faster.
There are so many apple varieties that arrive during fall. From Honeycrisp and Pink Lady to Jonagold and Granny Smith varieties, there’s no shortage of apples during fall. According to a 2015 study, people who consumed one apple daily used fewer prescription medications. Regularly consumption of apples supplies the body with lots of fiber, which can help reduce inflammation that’s common during infections. Additionally, apples contain khellin, which is a flavonoid that helps to open up airways and reduce respiratory symptoms, especially in asthma patients.
There are other beneficial produce items to explore during fall, especially right before winter arrives. Keep your eyes out for the arrival of citrus fruits, which offer lots of vitamin C. Tangerines, blood oranges, lemons, key limes, grapefruit, and many other orange varieties are excellent immune-boosting fruits.