Today, SOL nutrition expert Florence Neville tells us what to eat in autumn, sharing advice and ideas to help you feel nourished and content throughout the season.
What to Eat in Autumn
Autumn’s element, metal, relates to the lungs and respiratory system but also the colon, or large intestine. Alongside all the other benefits of eating seasonally, we’re specifically looking to support the lungs, sinuses and the large intestine with our food choices. Luckily, there’s a delicious range of seasonal foods to choose from with plenty of punch and zing to increase our vitality in the coming months.
While Westerners tend to recognise four flavours, sweet, salty, sour and bitter, Eastern cuisines frequently include the distinctive flavour known as ‘pungent’. This is the flavour relating to the metal element and is thought to help disperse stagnation, promote circulation and stimulate digestion.
In both Eastern and Western medicinal practices, pungent foods such as garlic, onions, chilli, cumin, turmeric, horseradish and many fresh green herbs are celebrated for boosting immunity, clearing sinuses and bringing movement to a stagnant large intestine. Consume these any time you need support in these areas, but particularly during the autumn.
This is the perfect time of year to cook plenty of spicy curries, chillies and tagines to make the most of pungent foods and spices. Shredded fresh coriander leaves, a side of cooling fermented dairy (such as sour cream, yoghurt or kefir) and a little cooked rice are delicious and supportive accompaniments.
Aesthetics are considered part of the lung’s domain and so this is a lovely time to focus on a well laid table. Simple additions such as a posy of flowers, an unscented candle or a pressed napkin are visual reminders to breathe, slow down and relax during a meal.
Microbes, Antioxidants, Healthy Fats and Fermented Foods
The lung is paired with the large intestine and Chinese medicine has recognised their combined role in release, elimination and immunity for over 2000 years. Western medicine is currently researching the relationship between humans and their unique microbial ecosystems which are mostly hosted by the large intestine. These ecosystems are largely responsible for our immunity, our digestion, our hormone production and our mental health.
Clearly, if we want to enjoy optimal health and vitality then we need to nurture our microbes!
Our gut thrives on antioxidants, healthy fats, fermented foods, fibre and resistant starch, all of which we include in our retreat recipes and menus. But where can we get these from on a daily basis?
Fresh fruit and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants and you may be glad to know dark chocolate also makes it into the top ten! Spices provide, weight-for-weight, some of the most effective antioxidants, so should be used liberally.
Healthy fats include unrefined and cold pressed oils from organic sources. Coconut oil, butter, fats from organic pastured animals, fish, nut and seed oils all have beneficial effects on our digestive microbiome.
Fermented foods include live cultured vegetables (such as sauerkraut, kimchi and yoghurt) and drinks (kombucha and kefir.) While the live microorganisms don’t tend to stick around for long they do support our existing communities, rather like seasonal workers on a farm!
Fibre provides a major food source for our microbes and turns up in various plant foods such as vegetables, grains and legumes. Unfortunately, if our microbiome isn’t functioning optimally these same foods can often cause gas, indigestion and other digestive distress.
If you are unable to comfortably process fibre (and associated FODMAPs) then you and your microbes may still benefit from some of the resistant starches. Try cooking and then cooling rice or potatoes before a meal. The cooling process alters the chemical structure of the carbohydrate molecules to become perfect microbe food!
Cauliflower, Mushrooms, Cabbage and Leeks
Here are a few ways to incorporate seasonal produce during the autumnal months:
- Steam cauliflower, season and blend with a little butter and nutmeg for a lovely mashed potato alternative.
- Fry mushrooms and garlic in butter. Season generously and serve over toasted sourdough.
- Add diced celeriac to stews for a nutty depth of flavour.
- Trim, clean and bake leeks with a herbed breadcrumb and cheese topping or indulge in a creamy leek and potato soup.
- Caramelise onions with a little garlic, chilli and turmeric to top dals or hummus.
- Simmer shredded red cabbage with a little diced onion, apple cider vinegar, a splash of maple syrup and gently warming spices such as cinnamon and cloves to serve as a vibrant side dish.
- Pair a little grated horseradish with oily fish dishes.
- Slice Jerusalem artichokes into coins, season and roast until crisp and golden. Great served with dips or as a side dish.
What seasonal produce do you look forward to in autumn?
Love Lizzie, Florence and the SOL team x