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Food Colours of Autumn

Updated: May 6, 2021

While we have been safely tucked away  inside our homes, outside the seasons have changed. Here in the Southern Hemisphere it is Autumn, and in Melbourne the colours and light are different and we are starting to get crisp mornings and drier, windier weather.

Whether by nature or circumstance (or both) our energy has shifted from relaxed and carefree to more introspective and serious. The change in season naturally brings with it a shift in our attention, from expansive and external, to a more contracted and internal focus - providing the ideal opportunity to concentrate on our wellbeing.

Just as nature draws its energy inwards in preparation for its long winter slumber, so too can we use this time to nurture ourselves and support our health through the cold weather to come.

Autumn is the harvest season, when we reap brightly-coloured fruits and vegetables that we sowed in the spring & summer. Root vegetables, legumes, whole grains and spices are at the heart of wholesome and nurturing autumn cooking. As the weather outside cools down, we warm ourselves from within with easily digested, slow cooked foods like soups, stews, curries and warming drinks.

Autumn provides us with the foods we need to nourish and nurture ourselves.

Phytonutrients, or phytochemicals, are natural compounds found in plant foods that have biological activity in the body. In addition to imparting characteristics such as the taste, aroma and colour of foods; phytonutrients have profound health benefits as they possess immune-supportive antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and may help to protect against cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

When it comes to seasonal eating, autumn colours show us the way.

Green: Dark green leafy vegetables including kale, silverbeet, & spinach; as well as broccoli, beans, kiwifruit, brussel sprouts, zucchini, apple, kiwifruit and pear.

Herbs like rosemary, thyme, basil and dill are also rich in beneficial vitamins and phytonutrients.

Green plant foods get their colour from the phytonutrient chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a rich source of vitamins A, C, E and K as well as magnesium, iron and calcium.

Chlorophyll has a similar chemical structure to hemoglobin and as such supports healthy circulation by increasing the number of red blood cells and improving oxygen transport around the body. Green foods are a good source of carotenoids including lutein and zeaxanthin which help support eye health.

Orange: pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, oranges, mandarins, persimmon.

Yellow: swede, golden beetroot, lemon, banana, grapefruit, ginger, turmeric.

Orange and yellow plant foods get their pigments from beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A.

This fat soluble vitamin plays many important roles in the body including; immune support, eye health, skin health, growth and reproductive health. Eat orange, yellow and dark green vegetables with some oil or fat to improve absorption and gain maximum health benefits.

Red: beetroot, apples, rhubarb, pomegranate, cabbage, red onion, chilli, berries.

Red foods are a rich source of immune boosting vitamin C as well as lycopene and anthocyanins. These phytochemicals are powerful antioxidants that support the immune system and may be effective in preventing heart disease, prostate cancer, macular degeneration and stroke.

White: celeriac, kohlrabi, parsnip, daikon, turnip, fennel, garlic

Brown: potato, mushrooms, onion, cinnamon, cumin.

The white and brown foods in this group contain anthoxanthins which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral benefits and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and arthritis.

The onion family, including onions, shallots, garlic etc, contains allicin, a phytochemical with powerful antimicrobial (anti-bacterial and anti-viral) properties that may also reduce blood cholesterol.

Now, more than ever before, is the time for self-care. Take the time to look inward and notice what you need. Sleep a little longer, eat warm, nourishing foods, walk in the sunshine when you can, indulge in solitary hobbies like reading, knitting, writing or watching movies, have a bath.

Find the joy within and embrace your Autumn colours.

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