Seasonal nutrition: what to eat in autumn

A plate with autumn leaves to represent autumn food and nutritionAs we head into September we also fall into the change of seasons into Autumn.  Whilst most of us just want the summer to continue forever, just as night follows day, the seasons must change. 

Even during ‘normal’ times it is important to start thinking about how you can best protect your immune system for the colder months ahead. And right now, it is even more essential.  Eating with the seasons also provides foods that are more nutrient-dense, just as nature intended.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her five top seasonal foods as we head into Autumn.

Plums

Any darkly coloured fruits or vegetables deliver a wealth of protective antioxidants, and plums are no exception.  Unusually for fruit, plums are rich in vitamin E which is a very powerful antioxidant looking after the natural fatty part of our cells. They’re also high in heart-loving potassium and energising iron.

A bowl of plums on a blue wooden table

When plums are dried, they become known as prunes, probably best acknowledged for their fibrous content when bowels are sluggish.  You can also find them pickled in brine and called umebushi. Plums are especially tasty lightly poached with a little honey and added to oats or other breakfast cereals.

Venison

Venison from deer is actually one of the healthiest red meats available.  Deer generally move freely around which means the meat is tender and flavoursome. It is also lower in fat that a skinned breast of chicken and higher in iron than any other red meat.  If you can find venison from free-range or wild deer, that’s going to be the healthiest option.

A cooked venison steak on a chopping board

Venison is often thought of as a meat only eaten by the aristocracy because of the sport of hunting deer.  However, it’s certainly a food that could feature on the menu right now. It can be prepared and cooked in the same way as beef or steak, simply pan-fried.  Venison also makes a tasty curry or casserole.

Mackerel

Mackerel’s main claim to fame is down to the amount of healthy omega-3 fats it delivers.  These essential omegas have to be eaten in the diet, as the body can’t make them, and they are very important for heart, eye, skin, hormone and joint health. Oily fish, such as mackerel, is the best source of these fats.  There are plant sources of omega-3s, such as flaxseeds, but these are not always as well absorbed by the body.

Fresh mackerel with lemon and herbs on foil ready to be baked

Mackerel makes a great lunchtime meal with salad, especially when it’s smoked.  Although it will contain more salt when prepared in this way, it helps the fact that it doesn’t naturally have a strong flavour.  Mackerel is therefore best spiced up a little or paired with a sharp fruity sauce. Try to include it on your menu plan once a week if possible.

Apples

Apples are synonymous with Autumn as they always appear on the Harvest Festival table. However, they make a wonderful snack providing plenty of vitamin C, as well as being the star of any pie or crumble.  Apples are also low in both calories and on the glycaemic index, meaning they won’t upset blood sugar levels and are therefore great if you’re watching your weight.

Apples made into a heart shape on a wooden background

Supermarkets tend to store apples for many months, therefore buying them at farmer’s market or freshly picked is certainly preferable.  However, there are plenty to choose from with over 50 different varieties grown in the UK.  They’re very protective of the heart due to their potassium content and the presence of the flavonoid quercetin, plus, apples are a great source of fibre.  So many reasons to always have one handy as a go-to snack!

Kale

A member of the cabbage family and also known as curly kale or collard, kale has often been hailed as a superfood, alongside Brussels sprouts and broccoli.  This is partly because all these vegetables contain a phytonutrient called sulforaphane which is a powerful liver detoxifier.

Kale dish with sesame seeds and ginger

Kale is a very rich source of the antioxidants, vitamin C and beta carotene.  Even better, kale is a great source of the minerals iron, manganese, calcium and potassium which are often deficient in the typical western diet.

What do I do with it, you many ask! Kale can be very lightly boiled or steamed and then stir fried with garlic. It can be grilled with a little salt to make kale chips. It is also great in stir fries or in a delicious green soup with onion, potatoes, garlic and chorizo, if desired.

So, as we head into autumn enjoy these five delicious and super-healthy foods which are in season right now.

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All images: Shutterstock

 

Autumn Nutrition: top 5 seasonal foods

A plate with autumn leaves to represent autumn food and nutrition

As with any season, autumn brings its own wealth of foods in abundance. Fruits and vegetables always taste better when they’re eaten seasonally, and meats and fish may even be a little cheaper.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her 5 ‘what’s hot’ this autumn (and some are a little more unusual)!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

CELERIAC

It is often called ‘the ugly one’ because celeriac is so nodular, but once you’ve cut off the skin and the roots from the base, celeriac should be tried because it’s delicious. It’s closely related to celery (which lots of people avoid), but it has a much smoother taste and can be added to lots of different dishes.

Celeriac on a table

 

Celeriac works really well as a vegetable side boiled and then mashed with garlic and potato. It can also be made into delicious soup with Bramley apples (also now in season), a little cream and vegetable stock. Plus, it’s got a good nutrient profile, being high in vitamin C which supports the immune system and it is also great added to soups or stews, both for its taste and health benefits.

RABBIT

Interestingly, rabbit tends to be eaten more in other European countries, particularly Spain, than in the UK. However, it makes a great change to chicken and has a slightly more ‘gamey’ taste. Even better, wild rabbit is very lean because the animals have obviously been able to run around freely. Generally, rabbits are sold whole, mainly from butcher’s shops, and can be used in the same way as chicken. Rabbit is low in fat, high in protein and a good source of energising B-vitamins.

Rabbit stew

Rabbit works well in a one-pot dish. Add some onion, garlic, chicken stock and green olives and cook for just over an hour, for a really tasty and hearty autumnal dish.

MUSSELS

It’s peak season for mussels right now in the UK which will be great news for many people! Whilst we often associate mussels cooked with white wine and garlic as being traditionally French, it’s certainly a very popular dish closer to home.

Mussels should be tightly closed when they’re bought fresh. However, when they’re cooked (don’t forget to add some parsley and a little chopped onion), after about three or four minutes, they should open easily which proves their freshness. Any sauce can be soaked up with soft crusty bread.

Mussels in a pot

The dish itself is low in fat and mussels are high in the mineral selenium. It’s very often depleted in the UK diet and is a very powerful antioxidant, supporting the immune system as well as healthy hair and skin. Maybe a dish to be served at your next autumn dinner party?

WATERCRESS

Peppery, dark watercress leaves are among the healthiest of fresh salad vegetables. These leaves are a rich source of immune-boosting vitamins C and B6, plus beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant. Watercress is also a good source of iron, just like other dark, green leafy vegetables. In traditional medicine, it has long-been used to treat kidney and liver disorders, plus skin, and respiratory conditions; in short it seems to have wonderful restorative powers so now is certainly the time to be including it in your diet!

Watercress soup

One of the best recipes for watercress is in a soup. Simply fry up some chopped potato and onion, add some chicken stock and milk, boil until the vegetables are tender, then add the watercress and cook for another few minutes. The soup just needs to be popped through the blender and you’ve got yourself and really hearty, seasonal dish.

PLUMS

No autumn menu can be complete without plums! There are few fruits that come with such an array of colour variety. Plus, did you know that prunes are dried plums? Interestingly, they’re both very high in antioxidants although prunes tend to be an acquired taste and are often only used to ease constipation! They’re high in fibre but they also help to feed the beneficial gut bacteria.

Plums are also a great source of vitamin C and have been found to increase absorption of dietary iron.

A bowl full of plums

As with many fruits, plums are extremely versatile but keeping them simple is often the best way of preserving their wonderful flavour. They’re great sliced and added to breakfast cereal, they can be gently stewed and eaten with some natural yoghurt and sprinkled with seeds for an energising and quick breakfast, or served with savoury foods such as goat’s cheese in a salad.

So enjoy the wonderful tastes of autumn and relish the health benefits at the same time!

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Switch up your nutrition this autumn with some seasonal food favourites

As the new season arrives, a change in temperature also signals a change in what to eat.  It makes great health sense to eat with the seasons, as nature intended.  However, some of our traditional summer foods can still be eaten, in slightly different ways, as some seasonal ones are introduced.

Clinical Nutritionist Suzie Sawyer gives some top tips on what we should be eating this autumn!

SMALLER--4 Suzie Blog pic

As the days get a little colder and darker we may naturally reach for traditionally filling foods such as macaroni cheese or other heavy pasta dishes. Unfortunately these are notoriously difficult for the digestive system to cope with and can leave you feeling bloated and lacking in energy.

Instead, choose foods that are packed with nutrients and loaded with antioxidants.  Prevention is always better than cure and if you can keep your immune system in good shape now, hopefully you’ll dodge the autumn/winter bugs!

BERRIES

We tend to think of berries as being summer fruits.  However, they’re always available and whilst we may eat them just as they are or with a little crème fraiche in the summer, they’re also great in warming recipes.  Think warm blackberry coulis, apple and blackberry crumble, braised red cabbage with blackberries or raspberry muffins.

Whilst some of the vitamin C will be lost during cooking, these dark berry fruits are packed full of anthocyanins – powerful plant compounds that provide protective antioxidants to support the immune system as the nasty bug season starts!

HERBS AND SPICES

As the weather becomes a little chilly, the body craves more warming foods. Warming herbs and spices that are perfect for this time of year include black pepper, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, garlic, ginger and horseradish.

All are really easy to include in everyday dishes. Porridge is a great warming breakfast and works perfectly topped with some cinnamon.  Not only will your body be warmed and ready for the day, the oats will keep you feeling fuller for longer and this effect is also enhanced due to the blood sugar balancing effect of the cinnamon.

Ginger is also versatile in many recipes, particularly stir fries and Thai dishes, and is just as effective used in a tea.  It has thermogenic properties which can keep you warm and also speeds up the metabolism so you’ll burn more calories even whilst sitting at your desk!

And of course the traditional Sunday roast is perfect right now; roast beef with hot horseradish sauce is definitely an autumn favourite!

WINTER VEG

Many delicious vegetables come into season as we move into the autumn months.  Pumpkins, of course, are very seasonal with the approach of Halloween.  But don’t just use them as lanterns; pumpkins are packed with nutritional wonders!  They contain high levels of beta-carotene which the body turns into vitamin A, which is essential for the immune system and also for night vision (perfect for the darker evenings!)   Curried pumpkin soup is a real winner.  You’ve got all the nutritional benefits of pumpkin but you can also include many warming spices such as ginger, chilli, cayenne and cumin.

Swede is great as a vegetable side dish mashed with black pepper or can equally be used in stews. Celeriac often gets forgotten about but makes a great vegetable side dish, and courgettes add colour and taste to any plate.

Why not roast a large tray of root vegetables for a warming supper dish; carrots, beetroot, artichokes, onions and parsnips all work well together and complement roasted cod with garlic perfectly!

So enjoy experimenting with more warming foods this autumn and embrace the seasonal produce!

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Follow and Chat with Suzie on Twitter @nutritionsuzie

For everything you need to know about vitamins, minerals and herbs visit Herbfacts