Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Temperatures are dropping, yet somehow, the urge to seek solace sometimes leads to an even colder place: the frozen-food aisle, where convenient comfort foods from frozen pizza to refined bread seem like easy items to pop in the oven.
The good news is that you can stay warm while also staying wise about menu planning and select healthy, seasonal and unprocessed foods. Apples, pumpkins and squash, among other autumnal abundance, contain the nutrients to help fight off cravings that either indicate or cause trouble.
“Comfort food can still be healthy when incorporating healthy fall produce,” says nutritionist Keith Kantor, ND, PhD. Here, he explains what your cold-weather cravings might mean and suggests five fruit picks that combat inflammation.
The skin of a pear contains more phenolic phytonutrients than its flesh, shows a 2015 study from North Dakota State University, which also recommends the fruit as a way to help better control blood glucose levels and prevent type 2 diabetes. Kantor adds that pears’ phytonutrients include antioxidant and anti-inflammatory flavonoids as well as cinnamic acids and other potentially anticancer phytonutrients.
Click here for our Pumpkin Pear Soup recipe.
“Flavonoids are found in plants and fruits, and protect the watery portions of our cells,” says Kantor. “One of the subclasses of flavonoids is referred to as anthocyanins, which are mainly found in berries. The latest studies have shown that fruits containing anthocyanins cause anti-inflammatory activity. Anthocyanins are also responsible for the blue, purple and red color we see in fruits.”
Click here for our Mini Blueberry Muffins recipe.
Triterpene, a compound found naturally in apple peels, reduces inflammation, explains Kantor. A study published in Pharmacognosy Magazine in 2014 showed that triterpene acids from apple peels – specifically, Fuji apple peels – revealed how tinctures can be used for medicinal preparations that help fight inflammation.
Explore our apple recipes here.
The beta-carotene in pumpkins can help prevent sun damage to the skin, says Kantor. And several reports, including one in Experimental & Molecular Medicine, have linked beta-carotene and anti-inflammatory activities, most likely because of its antioxidants.
Love pumpkin? Try our clean Pumpkin Spice Mousse recipe.
Winter squash contains specially structured polysaccharides that include special chains of D-galacturonic acid called homogalacturonan. Kantor says there is a growing amount of research that highlights the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antidiabetic properties of these chains.
Try our Walnut-Stuffed Squash recipe.
Beat Cold-Weather Cravings
Fuel willpower with these little-known nutrition facts sure to fight the urge to indulge.
If you crave:A sugary pumpkin spice latte
Don’t cave: “Sugar cravings often cause stimulation in the opiate receptors, which can cause inflammation or hormonal imbalances,” says Kantor. “You can get into a vicious cycle of craving and satisfying those cravings.”
If you crave: Lasagna
Don’t cave: A hankering for starchy carbohydrates could also cause, and indicate, inflammation, says Kantor, as well as stress-induced haywire hormones. “When the body’s looking for energy, or if insulin levels aren’t balanced,” he says, “it typically hungers for carbohydrates.”
If you crave:Whipped cream on apple pie
Don’t cave — if you’re lactose intolerant:According to Kantor, lactose intolerance can cause inflammation when foods containing dairy such as creamy soups, casseroles or drinks are consumed. This causes a vicious cycle as people tend to crave even more dairy products to relieve inflammation, even though dairy products are what aggravated it in the first place.