So why is autumn health so important? It feels as though we’ve made an overnight switch of seasons, with a sudden change to the warm days, misty mornings and rich seasonal colours that autumn brings us.
The return to school for those with children and move to spend more time inside may mean more challenges for our immune systems and mental health, so we thought we’d share our thoughts on ways to stay healthy through the season.
Get outside whatever the weather
Whether you’re enjoying the warm, sunny days of an Indian summer or starting to wrap up against cooler days and nights, spending time outside is one of the best things we can do for our overall autumn health.
While your body won’t make as much vitamin D from the weaker autumn sunlight, getting out early in the day and exposing yourself to natural light in the morning can help reset your circadian rhythm and as a result, help to improve sleep. In addition, being outside in nature on a regular basis has been shown to have positive effects on mental health.
You don’t need to live in the country to benefit from nature, a walk around a local park or watching birds or insects in the garden is often enough.
It can be challenging to go out when the weather is grey and rainy, but the hardest part is very often leaving the house. Committing to a 10-minute walk each day will still have a beneficial impact on mood and wellbeing, and may turn into a longer stroll once you’re out and about.
Enjoy seasonal fruit and vegetables
The deep, rich colours of autumn can be seen in the leaves on the trees and the seasonal fruit and vegetables that are ripe to harvest now. Hedgerows are laden with blackberries, rich in vitamin C to help maintain a healthy immune system and full of polyphenols that give them the deep purple colour.
These powerful antioxidants give blueberries their ‘superfood’ label, and are available in blackberries for free! Please note that it’s best to pick blackberries away from busy roads, and from higher on the plant to minimise chemicals and contact with animals.
What luck that the ripening of blackberries coincides with apple season. While raw apples are also rich in vitamin C, stewed apples have been shown to support digestion and help relieve constipation. Pair these two in a crumble or stew together and serve with live Greek yoghurt for a delicious autumnal treat that’s not to be missed.
Lastly, let’s not forget the bright yellows and oranges of autumn squashes. They are given their incredible colours by carotenoids in the flesh, the same family of phytonutrients that you may be familiar with in carrots.
Cooking or serving with some fat in the meal (think a drizzle of olive oil or roasting in coconut oil) helps to release the beta-carotene and make it more available for absorption and subsequent conversion in the body to vitamin A.
Think immune support
Coughs and colds are an accepted part of autumn and winter. However, there are certain vitamins and minerals that have been studied and shown to make a difference to both the frequency and duration of these seasonal complaints.
Vitamin C is undoubtedly top of the list when it comes to immune support. It contributes to the normal function of the immune system in both adults and children and can help alleviate tiredness and fatigue.
Found in blackberries and apples mentioned above, it is also present in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, particularly kiwi fruit, peppers, citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables such as kale.
Vitamin D is another vitamin that is understood to help maintain the normal function of the immune system. While it is produced by the body through exposure to sunlight, the sun at this time of the year may not be strong enough to boost levels sufficiently and topping up with foods and a supplement can help.
Vitamin D can be found in mushrooms, fish and fortified dairy products.
Zinc is the key mineral for immune support. It can be found in red meat, seafood (particularly oysters), pumpkin seeds, eggs and grains.
Ensuring a healthy digestive system is also one way of supporting immunity. It is understood that 70% of our immune system is in our gut, thanks to the billions of bacteria comprising our microbiome. Including fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut and live yoghurt in our daily diet is one way to boost the numbers of these bacteria.
Taking a well-researched friendly bacteria to supplement such as Lactobacillus acidophilus may also help.
Keep it balanced
The return to school often goes hand-in-hand with a variety of extra-curricular clubs and weekend sports fixtures for many. Ensuring a well-balanced diet throughout the day can provide children and teenagers (and parents!) with the nutrients they need to maintain their busy lifestyles.
Meals and snacks that combine all three macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein and fat – will help keep their energy levels steady and reduce blood sugar highs and lows. In turn, this will help with concentration and a sense of wellbeing throughout the day. Have a look at our previous blog post for ideas for healthy breakfasts, snacks and lunches.
There is also an important balance to achieve between being busy with activities, and taking moments throughout the day to relax and switch off, for people of all ages. The benefits of time spent doing something you love have been shown to have a powerful effect on both physical and mental health.
Further information on supporting your immune system can be found at the following links:
9 ways to boost your body’s natural defences – Healthline
How to support your immune system naturally – Holland and Barrett
Want to know more about autumn health?
ProVen Probiotics aim to provide the best support for both you and your health. If you wish to know more about gut health and staying healthy please do not hesitate to call us on 01639 825107 or alternatively, learn more via our blogs or in-depth ProVen research.
ProVen Probiotics, Unit 2 Christchurch Road, Baglan Industrial Park, Port Talbot, SA12 7DJ. Tel: 01639 825107