By: Leyanee Perez, R.D, L.D.N.
Hello fall, or is it “beautiful skin”? It may not be a coincidence that fall fruits and vegetables are rich in carotenes, the antioxidants that protect our skin, eyesight, and help regulate the immune system. After all, summer days are all about fun in the sun. Exposure to UV rays in sunlight is known to cause premature aging of the skin, sun damage, skin cancer, eye problems and weakens the immune system. The beginning of fall also marks the beginning of the U.S. 2020 - 2021 influenza season, a peak time for immune responses.
Why is Vitamin A important?
The body needs vitamin A to maintain the corneas, and other epithelial surfaces. According to a study published in JAMA Dermatology, “consuming foods rich in vitamin A can lower risk of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), the second most common type of skin cancer.” Vitamin A also plays a crucial role in maintenance and regulation of the immune system especially the important “regulatory T-cells” which are responsible for regulating the strength of the immune response in order to prevent “self” damage. 
Vitamin A is produced in the body by the breakdown of carotenes, the orange pigments in orange fruits and vegetables. Of all the carotenes, beta-carotene is the most important precursor for Vitamin A, found in leafy green vegetables, orange and yellow vegetables, tomato products, fruits and some vegetable oils. A preformed type of Vitamin A is also found in liver, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products.
As of January 1, 2020, food manufacturers are no longer required to list Vitamin A on the nutrition label because Vitamin A deficiency in the U.S. population is rare but Vitamin A continues to be an essential nutrient in the human body. Vitamin A deficiency is a serious world health problem, especially in developing countries. It is estimated to claim the lives of .6 million children under five annually.3]
Fall Flavors of America
Fall, also known as autumn, starts in September and ends in November. During this season, you will find more fruits and vegetables in shades of yellow and orange, which is an indication of their carotenoid and antioxidant properties. Sweet potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and cantaloupes are among the top ten contributors of vitamin A. Make sure to look for them.
Seasonal fruits and vegetables include acorn, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, dates, apples, pears, beets, fennel, grapes, and brussels sprouts. In Florida farmers markets, you may find locally grown mangoes, oranges, tangerines, mushrooms, grapefruit, avocados, bell peppers, cucumber, eggplant, squash, sweet corn, and tomatoes.
Fall Flavors of the World
Be adventurous with seasonal fruits from all over the world. Persimmons are delicious fruits also known as the “Fruit of Gods.” Persimmon is native of Japan, China and Korea. The most popular is perhaps the Fuyu Persimmon, which is a non-astringent, sweet type that can be eaten like an apple. Persimmons are an excellent source of all carotenoids, Vitamin A and fiber. You can enjoy them as a frozen treat by removing the top, freezing them and scooping out the frozen interior, or as a colorful addition to a harvest fall salad.
- Kim, J., et al. (2019). Association of Vitamin A Intake With Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma Risk in the United States. JAMA. DOI:10.1001/jamadermatol.2019.1937
- Mucida D, Park Y, Kim G, Turovskaya O, Scott I, Kronenberg M, Cheroutre H (July 2007). "Reciprocal TH17 and regulatory T cell differentiation mediated by retinoic acid". Science. 317 (5835): 256–60. doi:10.1126/science.1145697. PMID 17569825.
Get Movin’ with #GiveMe5
In addition to adopting healthier eating habits, it's important to get moving! We invite you and your family to join our Healthy Kids Challenge by downloading the Walker Tracker
app on your tablet or smartphone.
There are many benefits to eating well, from disease prevention to overall health and wellness. That’s why Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Foundation
have partnered with Kohl’s Cares on a program called #GiveMe5 to encourage children and families throughout the community to stay active and eat their five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Our partnership brings healthy eating tips and recipes to kids in local schools and to families at various community events throughout the year. For more information, please visit our #GiveMe5 page
About Leyanee Perez
Leyanee Perez is a Registered / Licensed Dietitian specializing in Community Programs and Health Communications who has worked with Nicklaus Children's Health System since 2018. She has impacted the lives of many children and families throughout Miami-Dade County through the nutrition outreach program called #GiveMe5, a partnership between Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Foundation and Kohl’s Cares. She works in collaboration with government agencies, faith-based organizations and schools to host a farmer’s market and deliver educational workshops focused on the importance of eating five servings of fruit and vegetables a day.