Top Fall Health Tips for a Healthy & Safe Autumn Season
As the leaves start changing, do not ‘fall’ into old habits. Put these autumn wellness tips into place for a safe, healthy fall season!
As summer melts into fall, a number of seasonal changes arise. Thus, the onset of a new season is also a great opportunity to reevaluate health practices and journeys.
What is working and what needs improvement? How do you want to feel about this upcoming season? All of these are great questions to ponder and reflect on.
In the meantime, check out these autumn health and wellness tips to stay safe and vital this fall season.
7 Fall Health and Autumn Safety Tips
From eating more in-season fruits and vegetables to ensuring enough of that sunshine vitamin, put these autumn wellness tips into place for a safe, healthy fall season.
1. Eat Seasonally
Eating seasonally is just as important for health as it is for the environment. It also promotes eating foods that are naturally grown during a certain season's time period for the utmost freshness.
As the weather outside changes, so too does the energy within us, including the digestive system. Whereas the body appropriately craves hydrating, light, and cool foods in the warmer months, it desires more grounding, warm, and cooked foods during colder months.
This naturally helped regulate the food supply and provide essential nutrients during changing seasons in historic times. Nowadays, eating seasonally is also more cost-effective and sustainable. A win, win!
So, what are typical Autumn foods?
• Spices: turmeric, rosemary, thyme, basil, dill, ginger, and cinnamon
• Grains: brown rice, quinoa, and oats
• Starchy vegetables: beans, lentils, and legumes
• Nightshades and squashes: squash, pumpkin, and potatoes
• Vegetables: carrots and spinach
• Cruciferous veggies: broccoli, kale, arugula, and artichokes
• Protein: sea bass, salmon, and haddock
• Fruit: apples, pears, pomegranates, and citrus fruits
2. Reset Your Circadian Rhythm
Improving sleep patterns can be accomplished at any time of the year. However, the darker months tend to present a more optimal time than summer with fewer late evening activities.
The best and easiest way to reset the circadian rhythm is by going to bed soon after it turns dark and rising with the sun. This method naturally promotes more sleep during the dark, cold months (AKA human hibernation), which gives the body ample time to rest and recover to be as strong as possible when warm weather hits.
Furthermore, fall is perhaps the optimal time to do this because days are moderately long and would generally promote shutting eyes sometimes from 8:00-10:00 p.m. and rising between 5:00-7:00 a.m. This is opposed to winter when someone could theoretically sleep for 12 or more hours by sleeping and rising with the shiny star.
To swiftly and simply transition your circadian rhythm, consider trying the following sleep hacks:
1. Use blue blockers to train the eyes to feel tired
2. Reduce screen time 2-3 hours before shut-eye
3. Drink calming teas or tinctures like chamomile or reishi
4. Supplement with magnesium glycinate or melatonin
5. Eat your last meal 3 to 4 hours before bed
6. Reduce stress and only do calming activities leading up to bed
7. Develop techniques to quiet the mind and prevent overthinking/analyzing when trying to fall asleep
Also, put a routine in place for daylight savings time as needed. While adjusting might take some time, using the aforementioned tips can ease the process.
3. Get Enough Vitamin D
An often overlooked nutrient, despite up to 90 percent of the US population being deficient in it, vitamin D is vital for many functions within the body. This fat-soluble vitamin helps balance calcium, make hormones and build the phospholipid layer of cells, and also serves as an antioxidant and immune booster.
Now, the most bioavailable (or functional) form of vitamin D is derived from none other than the sun. Yes, this means that someone who gets 10 minutes of daily sunshine without sunscreen will likely have better vitamin D status than someone who does not but eats foods high in vitamin D.
Unfortunately, sunshine can become limited during cooler months, but if possible, certainly prioritize getting out into the sun. Some opportunities include:
• Walking on a lunch break
• Reading a book outside in the afternoon
• Listening to a meditation or podcast before work in the morning
• Exercising outdoors
While vitamin D from foods is not completely converted into its most bioactive form, these foods can still help optimize levels. The highest sources of vitamin D are fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna, and sardines followed by mushrooms, fortified dairy and cereals, beef liver, and egg yolks.
Furthermore, because vitamin D is stored in adipose tissue, the daily recommendation increases for those in the overweight and obese category. Thus, supplementation is often necessary.
Be sure to take Vitamin D3, preferably with vitamin K2 to increase absorption and ensure that most is converted into vitamin D-25-OH, the bioactive form in the body. Vitamin D2 supplements have been rendered virtually useless, so avoid wasting time and money with those!
4. Improve Immunity
Of course, an autumn health guide is not complete without mentioning ways to stave off the common flu and colds. Yet, it's a misconception that cold weather inherently causes sickness. In reality, the cooler temperatures make it easier for viruses and bacteria to thrive and replicate.
Thus, it is more important to bolster the immune system as a whole than wear appropriate coats and hats and gloves or completely avoid the rain but eat poorly, rarely move and skimp on sleep. In general, the immune system is boosted by healthful practices like eating a nutrient-dense diet and moving regularly. It can be diminished by mental, emotional, and physical stress such as over-exercising, poorly managed depression and anxiety, and not feeling connected to other humans.
Moreover, many people tend to focus on what supplements support immunity, but optimizing certain nutrients can help reinforce even better. These include:
• Vitamin C from bell peppers and citrus fruits
• Vitamin D in fatty fish
• Vitamin E in nuts and seeds and leafy greens
• Zinc in seafood, beans, and nuts
• Magnesium from vegetables and whole grains
• Typical supplements include elderberry, vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea
Beyond fueling, sleeping, and moving, supporting the immune system looks like:
• Getting regular doctor checkups and screenings
• Washing hands well
• Brushing and flossing teeth
• Wearing masks when asked, quarantining when appropriate, and remaining a reasonable distance away from others
Perhaps the greatest lesson to emerge from this pandemic is the notion that we can all improve our immune support.
5. Make Healthy Food Swaps
As mentioned, the body naturally craves warmer, more indulgent foods notoriously known as comfort food during cooling months. And while this is normal and even healthy, prioritize the most nutrient-dense forms of these foods. An easy way to do this is by making healthier swaps for typical comfort foods.
Check out these innovative solutions:
• Mashed potatoes: Use ghee in place of butter or margarine, keep the skin and use plant-based milk instead of dairy.
• Mac n' cheese: Use a high protein, plant based pasta or whole wheat version, experiment with plant-based cheeses and veggies like broccoli or cauliflower.
• Baked goods: Swap regular sugar for coconut, honey or maple syrup, sneak in neutral veggies like zucchini or summer squash, and replace refined white flour with almond, coconut, oat or chickpea.
• Apple cider: Juice a variety of apples for a naturally sweet and refreshing drink without the loads of added sugar
• Pumpkin pie: Elevate this typical treat by using real pumpkin instead of pumpkin pie filling, use an unrefined sugar like coconut or honey, and whipped greek yogurt atop rather than its cream counterpart.
6. Improve Connections & Relationships
Although this can be accomplished any time of year, Fall presents a unique opportunity because of all the fun activities offered. Take advantage of the clear, fresh air by taking a friend to pick pumpkins or apples, carve jack-o-lanterns, converse over a bonfire or tackle a corn maze.
Fall is also a great time to:
• Walk outside more, including with a furry friend!
• Enjoy yard work
• Teach kids how to ride a bike or bike with them
• Walk to a nearby pond or lake to fish
• Try a new sport
• Sample new foods amongst patios
Nonetheless, all of these activities are made better with others. Meaningful connections with others not only improve immunity, but also promote better mood and emotional regulation, self-confidence, and self-efficacy.
7. Wear the Right Gear
Finally, it is important to prepare for cooler weather by wearing proper attire, especially when exercising outdoors. Dressing improperly can decrease motivation to step outdoors at all and increases the risk of contracting a sickness, though it does not cause illness.
Generally speaking, it is wise to always have a lightweight coat handy and possibly even gloves and a hat. The earmuffs, heavy scarves, and ski masks can likely wait until November or December depending on the area of residence.
When exercising outside, focus on wearing gear that makes the outdoors tolerable but not too hot. Exercise performance is actually enhanced in cooler temperatures and suffers in those hotter marks. Typical attire includes lightweight jackets or vests, moisture wicking long sleeves, half or 7/8th tights and comfortably warm socks.
And just for fun, the most running world records have been broken during 52-degree weather!
Although not an exhaustive list, these seven health tips will help ensure a safe, strong, and fun Autumn season. In general, the cooler temps and shorter days provide opportunity to try new foods, optimize immunity and recalibrate sleep patterns.
Keep these in mind come winter, too!