The fall season can wreak havoc on your health. Days get colder and nights get longer, both of which can affect your motivation to exercise and your craving for more calorie-laden comfort foods. In fact, in one study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, study participants were shown to consume a daily average of 86 more calories in the autumn months than in spring.
But even if you're seeking out the many fall foods that are loaded with vitamins and minerals, it can still be easy to get into a rut and end up eating only seasonal staples like carrots and potatoes. And while there’s nothing wrong with either, adding some new nutrient-packed fruits and vegetables into your meal plan will help you double down on staying fit and healthy throughout the colder months.
Stocking up on these five somewhat unconventional foods is a great starting point as you prepare to continue crushing workouts through some of the year's harshest months.
Artichokes are found in the vegetable section of most supermarkets, but they’re actually a type of thistle (which technically makes them flowers). That said, they’ve been eaten as part of a Mediterranean diet for decades, and pack a powerful nutritional punch.
Low in fat and high in fiber, artichokes are also one of the most antioxidant-rich additions to any meal. This means they have a top role to play in reducing the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and other serious health conditions.
And while you might think their weird appearance makes them tough to cook, you can grill, braise, steam, or stuff an artichoke. The leaves, inner stem, and meaty heart at the core of the vegetable are all edible, and work well with sauce and dips.
Though it’s another Mediterranean food favorite, licorice-tasting fennel rarely finds its way onto the American dinner table. But the vegetable (and its seeds) are rich in muscle- and joint-strengthening nutrients, which make it a must-have inclusion on any dedicated athlete’s weekly menu.
Niacin, a vital vitamin in fennel that is also known as B3, is not only proven to manage migraines and control cholesterol, but it helps increase joint mobility while decreasing inflammation and swelling.
Related: Niacin: The Heart Helper
Choline, a recently discovered nutrient that is essential for muscle movement, and vitamin C — crucial for the growth, development, and repair of all body tissues — are also present in fennel, and are needed to help maintain the strong immune system necessary for fall and winter workouts.
Kohlrabi is a cruciferous vegetable that gets featured a lot in traditional Asian cooking. A member of the cabbage family, it actually looks more like a little turnip, and can be eaten cooked or raw.
The vegetable boasts a potent blend of the vitamin B family. And as this is the group of vitamins necessary for a properly functioning metabolism, kohlrabi is a great go-to vegetable if autumn comfort eating has left your energy levels low and your digestive system sluggish.
According to the Journal of Integrative Medicine, it’s also a perfect food to aid in fat loss because it’s heavy on the fiber, which helps you feel fuller for longer, and also contains thylakoids, a compound that’s known to suppress appetite.
They may be small in size, but persimmons offer big health benefits when included in a regular meal plan.
Packed with heart-helping polyphenolic compounds including quercetin and kaempferol, meal plans loaded with these substances have shown in studies to have reduced the risk of heart disease.
Additionally, one of these little orange-colored fruits provides over half the daily recommended intake of vitamin A, a nutrient vital for reproduction, immune system building, and eye health.
Use them for jellies and jams or blend them with almond milk, ginger, cinnamon, and banana for a heart-warming autumn smoothie.
A hearty cruciferous vegetable that’s perfect for hot, steaming soups and stews, rutabagas (or “swedes," as they’re also known) are an excellent source of vitamin C, making them awesome for staving off fall colds and flus.
Their high vitamin C content also helps in protecting the skin from free radicals and promotes the synthesis of collagen.
Additional antioxidants in this power-packing vegetable, such as vitamin E and lycopene, work in tandem with the vitamin C to play a role in preventing skin aging. So, it’s a perfect food to eat after a run or outdoor workout in the colder autumnal climates.