Wow, what a gorgeous September we’ve had!
I love a gentle ease into autumn whilst watching the leaves changing into their beautiful colours.
When we think of autumn in the UK, we think of rich colours, red and yellow leaves, harvest, fields of hay bales, bonfires and an abundance of autumn produce.
Whilst this season is truly beautiful, it’s really important to take care of our health during this time, especially our immune systems. A strong immune system will get us though the cold months with little illness and help prevent disease.
Transitioning from one season to another always brings its viruses and summer to autumn can mean that we may catch colds and the flu.
This is even more prevalent this year, as we have just come out of 18 months of being apart from each other and I have read of some really nasty colds going around!
So it’s more important than ever to make small nutrition changes to help us adapt to the new season and to strengthen our immune system going into winter.
We develop a strong immune system from getting good quality sleep, keeping our stress levels low, taking plenty of exercise, hydrating and absorbing essential nutrients and minerals from our diets.
As the colder weather kicks in, many of us tend to eat more. This could be left over from when we had to store up during the bountiful autumn harvest in order to survive a long, scarce winter! However, now this ‘comfort eating’ can cause problems if we are indulging in heavy carbs and fats and not getting the proper nutrients. So it becomes even more important to eat a varied diet full of antioxidants and nutrients.
We define seasonal eating as food that is purchased and consumed around the time that we harvest it.
All produce has a natural harvest period, yet we have become more distanced from this as we’ve become accustomed to getting whatever food we’re craving at any point in the year.
Yet eating seasonally has so many benefits. The produce will be more nutritious and it’s environmentally friendly! When we buy seasonal food, we help to reduce the demand for out of season produce which needs to be transported from other countries whilst also supporting local farming.
Vegetables associated with autumn include artichokes, beetroots, peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, squash, cauliflower, chard, aubergines, fennel, garlic, mushrooms, cabbage, parsnips, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and radish.
Fruits associated with autumn are apples, pears, chestnuts, almonds, plums, pomegranate, tangerines, raspberries, and cranberries.
Why it’s important to eat seasonally
Now that you know what seasonal eating is, let’s talk about why you want to eat seasonally.
Seasonal fruit and veg is fresher, tastier, and more nutritious than food consumed out of season. It tends to come from local farms, meaning it will be fresher without the long transport distances and storage. A vegetable or fruit will start to lose some of its vitamins and minerals after it’s picked, so it makes sense that the sooner it’s eaten after harvest, the more nutritional it will be.
When consuming locally grown foods, produce ripens naturally, unlike produce harvested only to be shipped and distributed to supermarkets. Studies have shown that fruits and vegetables contain more nutrients when allowed to ripen naturally, so it’s a win for your body and the environment.
Where to find seasonal produce?
Shop in your local health food stores, farmers markets or order a veg box from a local supplier. There are lots of farm shops and community allotments, just look on line to find what’s near you.
My top foods for autumn
Root vegetables store for much longer and, because of their tougher skins, hold in their nutrients. Carrots, pumpkin and sweet potatoes are a significant source of carotenoids which is the precursor to vitamin A. Why not have a pumpkin or squash risotto, or a baked sweet potato with vegetables and feta, sprinkled with olive oil or lemon juice and herbs.
Parsnips are an excellent source of many nutrients, they are high in carbohydrates, fibre and protein and rich in antioxidants. They are the perfect veg for your Sunday roast, are great in a soup and can be seasoned with honey and roasted.
Cabbage is a powerful antioxidant. It contains glutathione which helps strengthen the immune system and is excellent if you have stomach issues. You can add cabbages to soups, stews and smoothies or combine with other vegetables to make a winter coleslaw.
Onions and garlic are excellent for the immune system and will help protect you against seasonal invaders. A tip; when chopping garlic and onions, leave them for 10-15 minutes. This is to allow activation of their immune activating properties. Add raw garlic to stews and soups after they have finished cooking. You can even rub raw garlic on a slice of sourdough bread with a little olive oil.
Mushrooms are excellent as they contain B vitamins, selenium, niacin and riboflavin, helping your immune system staying healthy. You can have them in an omelette or on rye bread for a snack or for breakfast.
Turmeric which I recently raved about a few weeks back is very good for the immune system.
Ginger is also great, you can add slices of ginger or juice to warm or cold water and sip it throughout the day, make ginger tea or use it in a stir-fry, soup or stew.
The old saying ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’ is so true. Apples are rich in antioxidants which are substances that protect your cells against free radical damage. They are high in vitamin C which can help boost your body’s resistance to infections. For the most nutrition, eat the whole apple. Apples also make good crumbles and pies – just don’t add too much sugar! Coconut sugar is a good alternative.
Supplements which support your immune system
There are many amazing supplements to take during the colder months. Vitamin D is very important, you can get your levels checked as it’s very common to have low levels in autumn and winter which increase your chances of catching colds and the flu. I did a blog post about vitamin D a few months back.
Getting a good multi vitamin for your age and gender is important – talk to a nutritionist for more advice on this.
The immune system is linked to your gut, so a strong probiotic is important to keep your gut healthy.
I would recommend taking Vitamin C 500mg four times a day throughout the year, but especially in the winter with zinc.
The Echinacea drops by A Vogel are also good – you can add them to water and they help to support your immune system.
It is important to remember that everyone’s needs are different. So I would recommend having a blood test to check vitamins and mineral deficiencies and look at your diet. If you need more support then I work with people 1-2-1 and in groups – please get in touch!
I hope you have found this post helpful. Remember that your health is wealth! And with a few small changes you can get through the autumn and winter looking and feeling great!