Food & Drink

Embrace fall's nutritious bounty

The month of October greets us with cooler temperatures and warmer colors. This is the season to enjoy the cornucopia of nature’s bounty. Many cultures around the world celebrate this time of the year, giving thanks to Earth and its harvest.

This month is dedicated to activities the Earth and all its inhabitants. October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, which kicks off with World Vegetarian Day on October 1, and ends with World Vegan Day on November 1 of each year. October 24 is Food Day, which is a nationwide celebration of healthy and sustainable food.

All these events and celebrations are an attempt to inspire us to take better care of this planet we call home. As the world’s population keeps growing, it is necessary to provide clean food and water for everyone. Research is showing that in order for us to live a healthy life and preserve this planet for future generations, it is imperative that we start thinking about what we are eating and how it is affecting everything around us.

Organizations such as the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University, The Humane Society, Meatless Monday, Food Day, and other such initiatives have made us aware of the health and environmental impact of our dietary practices.

According to the World Health Organization, chronic diseases will be the cause of 75 percent of deaths by the year 2020. These chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease can be largely preventable by changing our eating habits.

Therefore, this is the perfect time to talk about the benefits of a plant-based diet. Studies show that a diet of whole plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, decreases levels of oxidative stress and inflammation, which are associated with the development of chronic diseases.

So why not take advantage of all the foods available in the fall? Embrace the yellows, oranges and reds of the season. Enjoy butternut squash, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, apples, pomegranates and cranberries. Plus, don’t forget the greens! These foods are all full of antioxidants and phytochemicals that help build immunity. Did you know that spices are antioxidants too? Add flavor by using cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Walnuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds provide healthy fats that fight inflammation. Stay warm with soups, chili and hot side dishes made with whole grains and beans.

With the turn of the season, make these changes to fall back out of unhealthy habits so you can look forward to a healthy spring.

Parul Kharod is a clinical dietitian with WakeMed Health & Hospitals. Reach her at