Autumn Comfort Foods for Good Health

image of assisted living residents enjoying a meal together

Why is comfort food comforting? Learn more about how comfort foods benefit everyone, especially seniors.

image of assisted living residents enjoying a meal togetherWhat could be better on a brisk autumn afternoon than spicy apple cider or a savory stew? Certain foods just feel right as the weather gets cooler. Of course, heartier food seems like a natural choice when the weather turns chilly, but did you ever wonder why?

It turns out those feel-good autumn comfort foods have both physical and emotional benefits during the cool, dry months, especially for seniors. Autumn favorites like warming spices, soups, gourds, apples, and potatoes provide a boost to circulation for warmth, help with digestion, support the immune system, and help to reduce inflammation.

Plus, comfort foods are comforting for a reason! Read on to learn more about the benefits of favorite autumn comfort foods.

Why is Comfort Food Comforting?

There are many ideas about why comfort food feels so good. Some theories suggest that comfort foods often are linked to happy memories. Others suggest that the release of dopamine – a feel-good neurotransmitter – when tasting rich and delicious food might be at cause. Or, there may be an evolutionary component. Comfort foods tend to be high in fat, calories, and carbohydrates (think macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes), which provide quick energy and sustenance. That would have been a big benefit at times when food was scarce.

There is also growing evidence that the link between the gut and the brain is at work when it comes to satisfying food, healthy digestion, and mood. The health of the gut microbiome – the beneficial bacteria that live in the GI tract – appears to be directly related to good digestion, a healthy immune system, and happier mood.

Seasonal Foods for Good Health and Happiness

Seasonal autumn foods bring just what the body and spirit need as the weather cools. Comforting autumn favorites help fight off the cold and fight off colds, as well as other challenges that cool weather might bring for seniors, like joint stiffness and discomfort.

Seasonal changes in mood are common, too. Some people may have a lower mood as routines change and the days get shorter and less light-filled, while others experience a burst of energy when the weather cools.

Enjoying the comforting foods of autumn helps to ease seasonal challenges while making the most of all the season has to offer. Following are some autumn favorites and their healthful benefits for seniors.

Autumn Spices: Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg

The heat or “bite” of fall spices is welcome on chilly days, and these spices have been shown to help improve circulation, too! Better circulation means staying warmer. Autumn spices also help to support the immune system as autumn sniffles roll in.

Plus, as we start eating heavier foods (and more treats – leftover Halloween candy, anyone?), cinnamon and ginger are helpful in relieving digestive discomfort.

Hearty Soups and Stews

What’s better than warming up with a steamy bowl of soup or a hearty stew? Soups and stews certainly warm you from the inside out. They also contain a lot of water, which is helpful in the dry, breezy autumn months. It’s easy to overlook drinking enough water when the weather cools, but good hydration is important year-round. It’s particularly important for seniors, as many common medications for seniors can by drying.

Gourds and Apples

Apples and gourds both are high in fiber and Vitamin C. High fiber diets help to keep digestion regular and reduce cholesterol. But, did you know that there is a link between fiber intake and mood, too? While the exact mechanism is not yet clear to researchers, high fiber diets are associated with decreased depressed feelings.

Gourds and apples also help to keep you healthy. All are high in Vitamin C, which provides a boost to the immune system to help fight off fall colds.

And, as if that weren’t enough, beneficial substances in apple peels (fiber and flavonoids) have anti-inflammatory properties. That’s great news when chilly weather brings some routine achiness. 

Potatoes

What’s so great about potatoes? In addition to being one of the most popular all-around comfort foods, potatoes are high in potassium and high in fiber. Specifically, potatoes are high in “resistant fiber,” which is beneficial for the healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. A healthy gut biome is associated not only with good digestive health, but good emotional health as well.

What’s on the menu at Sunnyside Manor?

We have great seasonal foods on the menu this fall! Our menu is resident driven, with something to suit every taste. Interested in learning more? Get to know our director of dining services, Jeff Groezinger, and see the great food related events on our calendar.

Please consult with your physician before making any dietary changes.

Learn More About Why Families Rely On Sunnyside Manor

When it is time to make decisions about senior living, we are here to help. Sunnyside Manor offers assisted living, memory support, and skilled nursing and rehabilitation. Learn more about Sunnyside Manor’s resources for caregivers. Whether you’re looking for short-term support or a longer-term plan, begin with our “Getting Started” guide. Please call us at 888-696-2052 to speak with a senior living expert.

Sunnyside Manor, located in Wall NJ, is the area’s premier senior living community. It features three distinctive neighborhoods: Independence ‘Plus’ Assisted Living, Recollections Memory Care and Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation.

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