Fall has a truly energizing effect on me…the cool, crisp days renew my focus, my attention and bring my body back into balance after a long, lazy summer. Of course, there are challenges to contend with, too. Cold and flu season is upon us – in fact, it seemed to start early here in Vancouver! Fresh, local produce will start dwindling soon and the cold weather tends to make the body crave comforting, often less nutritious foods and it can really ramp up our appetite as our ancient nature senses impending hibernation…

So in the spirit of good health, incorporate these five foods into your diet more often and enjoy a deliciously healthy autumn!

  1. Mushrooms

It’s mushroom season and foragers on the west coast are in full force for these mysterious fungi that call the forest home. Their meaty texture and rich flavours make for satisfying vegetarian dishes but did you know that mushrooms are incredibly beneficial for your immune system? Mushrooms provide beta-glucan, which helps support immune health and a vitamin D precursor that also supports immunity. Choose a variety of exotic and wild mushrooms when you can; otherwise choose crimini mushrooms – the brown button – as a healthy staple.

  1. Yams and Sweet Potatoes

There is no food more comforting than a roasted, baked or mashed sweet potato and choosing varieties with deep orange, gold and even purple hues ensures that you are getting a powerful dose of anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory plant pigments. With summer’s bounty  becoming a distant memory, we need ways of getting more colour into our cold weather diets – because unless you live in Mexico or Southern California, we are not meant to be eating strawberries in January.

  1. Beets

Beets are the jewel in the autumn harvest crown – their dark red colour hints at their incredibly nourishing nature. Betalains, which give beets their rosy glow, are an anti-inflammatory all star and beets are also high in folate for healthy red blood cells and a healthy pregnancy. Best of all, beets are very versatile. Raw, you can juice or blend them, grate or puree them; you can also sauté, roast or simmer them to go with whatever kind of warm dish you crave. The balance of earthiness and sweetness make the most out of any autumn meal.

  1. Lacto-fermented Sauerkraut

No one gives cabbage much of a chance but it is an incredibly nutritious member of the cancer-busting crucifer family. It is, however, the surge of interest in fermented foods that is giving a very traditional food like sauerkraut a new lease on life. Because of the friendly bacteria in raw fermented foods, they are an important part of your cold and flu season arsenal. Friendly lactic acid bacteria help crowd out more harmful ones that can literally ‘bug’ your immune system. Look for the words ‘raw’ and ‘fermented’ on sauerkraut at the store because many varieties are simply vinegar-ed – no real bacterial benefit there. You could also try to make your own!

  1. Pomegranates

Pomegranates might not be local food for most but they are in season right now. Pomegranates are a delicious, high fibre snack that keeps your hands busy on those long nights when you are curled up watching TV and might otherwise go for much less healthy fare.

Eat well this week,