Crisp air, pumpkin carving and scarecrows. Corn mazes, bonfires and bobbing for apples. Autumn brings its own fun and games, as does each season, not just pumpkin spice lattes that are now available at coffee shops. While this fall has felt more like winter than those of the past, there are still many things to enjoy about the season, one of which is its bountiful harvest. Nature does an amazing thing by providing the right foods to support our bodies in each season. While spring is a time for fresh starts and spring cleaning, nature provides leafy greens during this season to help cleanse our bodies as well. During the hot summer months when we like to be outdoors more than indoors, again, nature is providing fruits like cucumbers and melons to keep us hydrated. In the same way, autumn’s harvest contains many nourishing foods that often need to be cooked which helps to keep us warm during these cooler months and offer many immune boosting nutrients.
In our modern world, we can go into any grocery store and have food from any season. Strawberries and blueberries are always available, and romaine lettuce is continuously a household staple and peppers are still eaten in the winter, because somewhere in the world these foods are in season. While there’s nothing wrong in partaking in these modern conveniences, we do lose sight of what types of fruits and vegetables nature is trying to provide for us in our backyard. There is a reason why squashes, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes are abundant now and why cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are in season. With colder weather, these foods can help protect us from the common cold or flu.
The seasonal favourite, pumpkin, is more often enjoyed as a pie or sweet treat but it is so much more than that. This fruit is full of fibre that supports intestinal health by feeding good bacteria which is part of our immune systems first line of defence and all that fibre will help us to feel satiated, reducing cravings. Pumpkins are also high in beta-carotene which converts to vitamin A in the body that will support our tissue health and immune system. They also contain the antioxidant zeaxanthin which promotes eye and tissue health. Squashes are also high in fibre and beta-carotene but also provide vitamin C for the immune system and the bone supporting minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium. Sweet potatoes and yams are also a classic in this season and contain lots of beta-carotene, as well as some B vitamins, vitamin C, potassium and iron. Beyond the warm orange colour that this season is famous for, many other veggies make a strong appearance. The Brassica vegetables broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are in season and are rich in phytonutrients. Phytonutrient means “plant nutrient” and impacts the way the food looks, tastes and smells. They outnumber macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) in plants 10,000 to 1 and make a significant impact on our health. The Brassica vegetables are high in sulphur-containing phytonutrients that work to cleanse the blood, lymph and body. This season also supplies plenty of onion and garlic, but beyond their classic taste that can be used in almost any dish, they can be used to treat the common cold. Packed with sulphur containing phytonutrients that give onion and garlic their classic eye-watering smell, these two vegetables help to cleanse the body of viruses. Garlic contains antibiotic and antiparasitic properties and is suitable for virtually any type of viral infection. Garlic does not provide many nutrients but, its sulphur containing phytonutrients is where it shines. While garlic is the more potent one out of the two, onions have antiseptic effects and provide a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Also, that strange white root vegetable that looks like a carrot imposter, the parsnip, along with its cousins the rutabaga and turnip, are very high in potassium, an important electrolyte, and contain reasonable amounts of vitamin C. Try these vegetables in a roasted root vegetable medley to add a peppery kick.
Antioxidant-rich fruits are not only found in the tropics or other exotic places. Autumn brings about its superfood fruits like cranberries and grapes. Cranberries are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C as well as prebiotic fibres that are good for our gut health. The skin of grapes contains the antioxidant resveratrol which has antiaging properties and supports heart health. Grapes also contain vitamin C, potassium and the phytonutrient quercetin that has antihistamine properties. Apples and pears also make their appearance this season, and both provide a wide variety of vitamins and minerals as well as quercetin. Apples are particularly special because they contain the soluble fibre pectin, that helps to feed good bacteria in the intestines and aids in cleansing the body.
There are plenty of foods in autumn to fall for and not only do they taste amazing, but they will also help protect you during cold and flu season. Try making a pumpkin smoothie for breakfast or roasted root vegetables for dinner. Eat an apple a day and sip on hot butternut squash soup. Enjoy the fruits and vegetables of the season, and they will help protect your body so you can go out and enjoy the season.