Photo: Daniel Schludi
As much as we love to hold onto summer, as we enter mid October it is becoming abundantly clear that autumn is upon us. Pumpkins are out, leaves are changing, the sun is setting earlier, and temperatures in many places are cooler. Although autumn brings with it much joy-- bright, beautiful leaves, delicious winter squashes, and moderate temperatures, the transition into fall can leave many feeling a bit off. As our daily sunlight exposure dwindles, as fire season peaks in California, as we find ourselves fighting the first cold of the season, and as we collectively shift into a new cycle, it is understandable that we may not, at first, feel our best. But, by following a few simple, science backed tricks and tips, you can help to boost your immunity, connect with fall food, hack your circadian rhythm, and ensure an easy transition into autumn as we deal with fall time change.
Photo: Luisa Schetinge
As fall brings with it colder temperatures, many may find themselves feeling a little under the weather. And, as fire season peaks in California and COVID continues to spread, ensuring the health of your respiratory system has never been more important. For both immunity and respiratory health, herbs and spices provide a magical source of nutrition and flavor. Our favorite herbs to boost immune system and to consume to usher in the fall and fall time change include:
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon is warming, antioxidant rich, and may help fight against inflammation.
- Sage: Sage may improve brain function and memory, and provides flavor for fall dishes like a butternut squash sage bisque.
- Ginger: Ginger may help to relieve nausea, may help to reduce muscle pain, is an antioxidant, and may help fight against the cold and flu.
- Thyme: Thyme may help to alleviate coughs, is packed with vitamin C to help fight off colds, and thyme essential oil may help boost your mood. Thyme may also help to relax and reduce mucus in the lungs.
- Turmeric: Turmeric is an antioxidant and helps to boost your body's own antioxidant enzymes, turmeric also has strong anti-inflammatory effects. Turmeric is also a natural anti-viral that may help your body fight viruses. An extra tip to make turmeric more bioavailable is adding a pinch of black pepper as it contains an ingredient that allows your body to absorb the antioxidant and anti inflammatory effects from turmeric.
- Oregano: Oregano contains compounds that may help to reduce inflammation and fight congestion. Oregano also has antimicrobial properties that may help your body fight off bacterial infections.
Photo: Brigitte Tohm
Although we may miss the abundance of berries and fresh greens that summer holds, fall provides hearty squashes and cruciferous vegetables that we just can't get enough of. Our favorites include butternut squash, acorn squash, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, and apples. By transitioning to a more fall focused diet and consuming warming foods you can help to connect with the season on a deeper level. To really maximize your health, consider using herbs and spices in your cooking that can boost immunity and respiratory health. One of our favorite ways to consume the abundance of fall is in a grain based buddha bowl. Consider roasting a big batch of fall veggies: some cauliflower in turmeric, some butternut squash with sage, oregano, and thyme, and serving the roasted veggies atop a bed of kale massaged in olive oil with a scoop of fluffy quinoa. Finish it off with a drizzle of our Garlic Crema. For a perfect fall immunity boosting snack, slice up a fresh crisp apple and top with a dash of cinnamon.
Fall brings with it earlier nights and less sunlight, so making sure we're ready for daylight savings is important to make sure the change doesn't get the best of us. Sunlight is important for many reasons: it provides us with mood boosting and bone strengthening vitamin D, may help to prevent against certain cancers, may help heal certain skin conditions, and helps to regulate our hormones. Some of the hormones that sunlight helps to regulate include serotonin and melatonin. Sunlight triggers an increase in the brain's production of serotonin, which is associated with better mood and staying calm and focused. At night, darkness helps to trigger melatonin, the hormone that helps you sleep. Getting enough sunlight during the day is integral to proper serotonin and melatonin production, and exposure to artificial light and improper adjusting to seasonal changes/time changes can interfere with natural hormone production.
There are a few things you can do to help prepare for the time change, including prepping a few days before the change, keep to your schedule, and don't nap too much. Also, if you struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD, getting out in the morning for a walk or run can help you to get a good dose of sun before you've really begun your day. And, make sure you're making the most of daylight hours and try to spend more time outside during the day. If you are really intent on hacking your circadian rhythm, you can delve into chronotypes and learn how your own circadian rhyme is impacting your alertness and performance at different times of day.
As seasons change, so can our diets, our immunity, and our circadian rhythms. It is important to embrace these changes to really feel at peace as we enter this new phase of the year. By incorporating more immune boosting herbs and spices, more in season fall produce, and ensuring you're getting enough sunlight during the day and sleeping well at night, you can begin to appreciate fall in all her glory. Get out on a nice fall day and take in the beautiful turning leaves, the cool crisp air, and feel the world and yourself transitioning into autumn.