The third part of the annual life cycle is emerging. It is the last part of the vegetation’s growth cycle when growth and reproduction are over and it’s time to start withdrawal ahead of the winter. Many instinctively feel the need to stay indoors, get cosy and eat comfort foods. This kind of activity is in the nature’s design and it is supported by the seasonal harvest. The logic is to gather energy which means building thicker layers of fat. This is a natural need during a time of intense pressure by winter cold and almost complete lack of harvest.
Mother Nature’s grocery list in autumn is highly nutritious. Sugar content is high in the root vegetables and fruits such as apples and grapes, fat and proteins from nuts and seeds are all very attractive and satisfying for the bodymind. Proteins and fats both help supporting the nervous system and help to keep those seasonal disorders at bay. They ground and they calm lowering the incidence of dryness, constipation, insomnia and experience of pain.
So how does the fat build up? The answer is sugar. In autumn, the body is wired to convert as much sugar into fat manifesting as high sugar cravings. Chocolate, cake, pastries and pies feel very tempting right now. What they all have in common is high amount of carbs especially in the form of sugar. One thing is worth keeping in mind is that fat does not really build up fat, unless it is bad processed rancid fat. If you want to avoid fat accumulation, you reduce sugar intake, not fat (again, good fats). If you avoid fats in this period, the body is likely to go in an emergency mode and predispose us to seasonal disorders.
Grains have been growing during the summer providing us the pleasure of bread and other products like pasta. Sourdough bread responds to our needs of fermented products as well. Avoid any bread that is raised with commercial yeast and contain added oils (rancid by default). Choose bread that has only salt, water and flour as main ingredients, wholegrain preferably. It can also contain seeds and nuts or dried fruit. Bread in a form of a square and white in colour is bread in name only.
On that note, avoid all whites, sugar, flour and salt, but enjoy raw sugar, wholegrain flour or spelt, and natural salt from the sea or the rocks. Take fermented products and conserves, those that traditionally were prepared from the abundant harvest and foraging. Preservation for winter changes the qualities (gunas) of food items suitable for consumption in winter. Sweet, sour and salty, the ideal tastes (rasa) for autumn and winter are offered by conserves of sugary jams, vegetables in brine, and salted and cured meat and fish (for omnivores). Bone broth is without a doubt one of the most healing foods we can enjoy now. It is full of minerals needed to nourish our bodies and fortify our immunity.
Taking about immunity, the harvest is also designed to boost our defences against increasing amount of viruses and bacteria. The fruits and vegetables have a high amount of vitamin C, our favourite antioxidant of the season. Autumn berries, citrus fruits, grapes, potatoes and others naturally help us to have more resilience against pathogens. Still, it is good to supplement with some extra doses. Add freshly squeezed lemon juice in warm water and drink straight from bed. A very local exciting product to where I’m from is sea buckthorne. This highly sour orange berry also grows in UK but has only recently become more widely is known. It is THE berry with the most vitamin C content. An ayurvedic equivalent of a powerful antioxidant is amalaki fruit, which you can find in traditional signature products such as chyawanprash jam.
Autumn is usually the most delightful season for those with heat in their bodies. Especially now, when weather is still relatively warm but not intense as the summer heat. Foraging in nature is a wonderful therapy for pitta folks who tend to have built too much intensity and inflammation and stress at the end of the summer period.
The preparations for the new season should focus on gathering energies, increasing immunity and cherishing the last moments of warmth. We certainly have had a warm start of autumn which again might have helped in collecting vitamin D from the sun. The lack of sun in the winter and working indoors in summer is one of the reasons why we suffer from insomnia and poor immunity. Supplementing with Vitamin D is important during winter months.
Lastly, following the principle of opposites, as the weather turns cold remember to keep warm. Eat warm, drink warm and sleep warm. Exercise outdoors with sufficient clothing and if the nerves keep tensing, hug a hot water bottle against your heart when going to bed.