The autumn season has an abundant yet contracting nature. Ideally, we want the autumn diet to reduce any accumulation of energy from the summer and to prepare the body gently for the colder, harsher season of winter. The diet should therefore emphasize warm, well-lubricated foods that are sweet and sour in taste. In general, cook with less water and at lower heat for longer periods of time. Concentrated foods and roots thicken the blood for cooler weather. Many autumn foods are rich in antioxidants and vitamins A, C and E, which help maintain a healthy immune system and protect us against infections such as colds and flu.
Diet Recommendations for the Fall Season
Here are some recommendations for eating this fall season:
- Eat more warm, cooked foods and fewer raw and cold foods. Switch from salads to soups and steamed vegetables.
- Add more sour flavored foods such as sourdough bread, sauerkraut, olives, pickles, leeks, aduki beans, salt plums, rose hip tea, vinegar, cheese, yoghurt, lemons, limes, grapefruits and the sour varieties of apples, plums and grapes.
- Include these warm and nourishing foods to your autumn and winter diet: apple, banana, beets, bell pepper, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, cranberry, figs, garlic, leeks, pears, plums, pomegranate, pumpkin, rosemary, sage, spinach, whole grains, winter squash and yam.
- Pungent foods are balancing for the colder months and protect the lungs, which are susceptible to colds and flu. These include garlic, ginger, hot peppers and chillies, peppercorns, onions, turnip, horseradish, cabbage and radish.
- Mucilaginous foods provide excellent support for the mucous membranes. These include seaweeds, kombu, marshmallow root, flaxseed and fenugreek.
- Increase dark green and golden orange vegetables which contain protective beta-carotene such as carrots, winter squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, yams, broccoli, parley, kale, turnip and mustard greens, watercress, wheat or barley grass.
- Incorporate yellow and red foods into your meals.
- Soups are an excellent addition to your fall and winter diet.
- Autumn is the time of dryness, so be sure to keep hydrated. In addition to hot herbal teas, drinking water at room temperature will help your body maintain warmth.
Five Food Rules to Live By
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, it's not only what you eat but how you eat that impacts your health. Here are some tips on eating wisely:
- Chew your food well. This allows the enzymes in your saliva to begin the digestive process.
- Stop eating before you feel completely full. This will prevent your digestive process from becoming overwhelmed and won't overburden the liver and kidneys' work of processing waste products.
- Eat in a calm, serene environment. Sit down to eat with mindfulness and keep conversation on pleasant topics.
- Finish your last meal at least 3 hours before bedtime. This prevents strain on the liver and digestive problems such as heartburn and acid reflux.
- If you have weak digestion, eat lightly cooked foods. Cooking allows easier assimilation of nutrients.
Bobbie Rene Parke, M.Ac.O.M., L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.