As we move into autumn and the weather starts to change and cool, our bodies can find it hard to adapt to the shifting environment around us. As a result, our immune systems can often suffer, and we can be hit with another round of seasonal colds and allergies, or our mood and energy levels can begin to decline.
In fact, recent scientific research has demonstrated that the changing of seasons causes simultaneous changes within the body, leading to the expression of different genes which may help to explain why we often observe seasonal changes in immunity and many other physical functions .
However, with the help of traditional knowledge, we can harness the foods that we eat to help balance out the external effects of the elements and support the changes our bodies are going through.
This scientific research is reminiscent of the traditional knowledge of Western holistic medicine which has been passed down over hundreds of years and espoused by the likes of Hippocrates and Nicholas Culpeper. They taught that the ‘character’ of our diet should be in opposition to the current season to protect our bodies from the changes in weather and ensure we keep ourselves in balance. Therefore, knowing how to adapt our diets and change the way we prepare our foods can help smooth our transition from one season to the next.
Simply put, foods and the seasons can be considered to have a heating, cooling, drying or moistening effect upon the body. As autumn is the season associated with a cold and dry environment, we need to be eating more heating and moistening foods to keep us in balance.
We are now moving on from summer (which is heating and drying), where we were drawn towards a lot of cooling and moistening foods- think fresh raw salads with crisp lettuce leaves and watery vegetables such as cucumber, capsicum and tomatoes, smoothies with tropical fruits, bananas and coconut water, and seafood.
Therefore, to help our body transition into Autumn, we need to start incorporating more heating and cooked foods to counteract the effects of the cooling external environment.
Here are some quick tips that can help you do that:
- Roasted pumpkin and sweet potato can be added to your salads to break up the raw foods, and can be made particularly heating to the body by tossing them in olive oil and warming spices such as ground turmeric, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, cumin and coriander seeds
- Chickpeas have an innate heating and moistening effect upon the body, and can also be added to salads (perhaps spiced and roasted) or used as a base for curries and stews
- Cut back on the cold smoothies, especially in the mornings, or if you love your smoothies make sure it has some warming element to it- ginger is great with greens and cinnamon and nut butter is perfect for those sweeter smoothies
- Cooked breakfasts are the way to go on colder mornings: Eggs served with stir-fried greens cooked in ginger, garlic and chilli.
- Stewed or baked apples with raisins and cinnamon are the perfect comforting and warming food that can be eaten by themselves or with muesli or porridge.
- Porridge can also begin to take the place of muesli, as the cooking of rolled oats adds a particularly warming virtue which can be enhanced by spices such as nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon
- Raw unsalted nuts and figs are perfect wholefood snacks to be enjoyed in Autumn
- Start your day with a warming herbal tea, left to infuse overnight in a thermos or brewed freshly in the morning. Ask your naturopath which herbal teas would be best suited for you!
By attuning ourselves to the qualities of our foods and observing the changes in weather, we can easily make simple dietary changes that will help keep us balanced and feeling our best even during the tumultuous time that is the changing of seasons.
Tobyn, G. (1997) Culpeper’s medicine: A practice of Western holistic medicine, Great Britain: Element Books
 Tobyn, G. (1997) Culpeper’s medicine: A practice of Western holistic medicine, Great Britain: Element Books