Up until lately here in Milan, autumn has felt like a distant dream, and only as I write this is the weather cooling down enough to justify all of my sweater weather and fall color fantasies. Even just a few days of drizzle and cooler temps have me breaking out all the jackets and knits that have been staring longingly at me from my closets, content to get some fresh air even if they do leave me consistently sweating by midday. The other element of fall I am anxious to jump into is food – and while I still know many that anxiously await the arrival of Pumpkin Spice Latte season, I am specifically talking about the arrival of all of the freshest seasonal bounties of mother nature. I’ll take my coffee black, thank you.
Autumn is a time to slow down the pace a bit, and an opportunity to let go of what no longer serves us. We spend all summer cramming our already-packed days with more activities to make sure we are maximizing the season, picking up and holding onto so much… and by fall it is time to start letting go, just like the trees shed their leaves.
While I have started my journey through decluttering – starting with my office, which hasn’t seen a spruce up since I moved into this house ten years ago – I am also taking the time to form new habits. Seasonal eating is a big part of this, and, when combined with buying locally grown products, puts us on the right track to not only lowering our carbon footprint, but also putting our body and wellbeing first.
There are plenty of apples for the picking as fall comes around, and with over 7,500 types you can really go for whatever your taste buds desire. Fuji apples have the highest concentration of phenolics and flavonoids (our power antioxidants), while granny smith (or other green, tart types) are best for drying out the mucus that accompanies fall weather for so many. Apples are loaded with vitamin C, which is essential in this season full of immunity issues. Fiber found in apples aid in moving waste out the gut, prepping for digestion of heavier foods to come in winter. Apples are on lower side of the sugar scale and relatively low in calories, perfect anytime snack. Eat them whole and raw; make applesauce or apple butter, or even a mouthwatering apple pie.
The bounty of mushrooms that bloom during fall gives us lots to work with. There are also a plethora of types: button, oyster, porcini, chanterelles, reishi, shitake, maitake, lion’s mane (ok I will stop there, but you get the idea). All types of edible mushrooms contain diverse amounts of protein, fiber and vitamin B. Their ultimate power comes from their powerful antioxidant, selenium, which helps support our immune system. They improve the immune response to infection with the stimulation of killer T-cell production. With the lower amount of sunlight we are exposed to in the fall and winter months, as the days get shorter our vitamin D intake needs assistance. During white button mushroom’s growth, they are exposed to UV light, soaking in an even higher concentration of Vitamin D.
You can always count on the orange veggies to be vibrant and harvested just on time for fall. Pumpkins are one of the best sources of alpha and beta-carotene (why vegetables and fruits have that vibrant orange color), which our bodies convert into vitamin A (retinol), which we need for healthy skin and eye health and vision. It doesn’t stop there though; we also have spaghetti or acorn squash, sweet potatoes, and yams that share the same healing elements that we love about pumpkin. Don’t forget about the seeds; roast them and toss them into salads, or atop your soup. Seeds from squash and pumpkins are an amazing source of plant-based protein high in folate, potassium, and vitamin A and C.
Spices can get you into the fall mood and out of the summer saddies when you’re having a tough time with that transition. Cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves are all spices that focus on warming you up on the inside. Not to mention their smell always conjures fall.
Most importantly, whatever you choose to include in your diet, try to make sure the food you eat is warm, and avoid cold drinks. Our bodies go through a drop in temperature along with the weather, so we have to make sure we keep it up with the warmth. My fall regime is jam-packed with soups and broth, and according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, eating too many cold and raw foods during cold seasons can create dampness – meaning that yucky mucus and phlegm that seems to take over our bodies with the never-ending colds of the fall and winter months.
Stay warm and eat up Pretty Birds!