As modern food consumers we are encouraged by chefs and the media to explore the world from our own kitchens and the ‘seven-ten a day’ rule (recently upped from five) means that we crow-bar into our daily diets a plethora of exotic fruits and vegetables. Somewhere along the way we seem to have forgotten that the healthiest way is nature’s way and that along with economical, sustainability, taste, cost and convenience benefits there are also enormous health benefits to eating seasonally. Seasonal foods are picked at the peak of freshness and so offer higher nutritional content than out of season, unripe fruits and vegetables. We are often so focused on eating as nature intended (i.e. the right foods) that we forget, sadly, to eat when it intended. When you next do your shopping try to avoid blindly throwing gazillions of ‘forced’ and imported fruits and vegetables into your basket; think quality not quantity. Here are a few nutritious foods that are bang on in season as we approach November in the UK:

There is no doubt that many of us struggle with the taste and texture of these reputed aphrodisiacs but my advice would be to persevere! Oysters are low in fat and high in protein and contain more zinc per serving than any other food which, particularly for men, is a key mineral for sexual health and also plays an important role in wound healing and maintaining a healthy immune system. They are also a good source of other minerals including calcium, magnesium and iron, vitamins A, B, C and D and contain amino acids which raise the levels of sex hormones in both men and women.

The pumpkin is often considered a cumbersome and smelly vegetable and we can sometimes question whether the taste and health benefits are worth the effort. Given that its season is so short I would encourage you to make tasty use of all that nutritious pulp. Pumpkins are incredibly rich in vitamin A and vital antioxidants such as carotenes. They are a very low calorie and contain no saturated fat or cholesterol and are rich in dietary fibre. Pumpkin gratin is delicious -there are lots of easy recipes about.

We can be trapped into the negative stereotype of over-boiled cabbage but this vegetable actually makes a fantastically sweet salad and contains a greater nutritional value when raw or lightly steamed. Try very finely slicing it raw and lightly dressing with linseed oil and salt and pepper. Cabbage is an especially good source of sinigrin, a compound which has shown unique cancer preventing properties, particularly in terms of bladder, colon and prostate cancer.  The under-rated vegetable is also a great source of roughage – a lack of which can result in constipation, stomach ulcers, headaches, eczema and premature ageing.

This spicy and pungent root is low in calories and fat yet brings significant flavour and excitement to a plate of food. It is a potent gastric stimulant which means it increases appetite and aids digestion. The volatile phyto-chemical compounds in the root stimulate salivary, gastric and intestinal glands to secrete digestive enzymes, thereby facilitating digestion.  Horseradish also contains good amounts of vitamin C, thereby alleviating viral infections and boosting immune system. It is rich in dietary fibre and anti-oxidants and is also found to have anti-inflammatory and nerve soothing effects – so good for stress relief.

Apples are delicious, versatile and packed full of nutrients.  They contain a fibre called pectin which helps prevent haemorrhoids, diarrhoea and constipation. They can also help to reduce tooth decay (because of all that chomping required to break them down) and protect against gallstones and cancer.  Red apples contain an antioxidant called quercetin which can help boost and fortify your immune system, especially when you are stressed out.  Diets rich in apples can ward off cataracts and irritable bowel syndrome and the soluble fibre found in them means a lower build-up of cholesterol-rich plaque in your arteries, a strong flow of blood to your heart and reduced chances of coronary artery disease.

Words by Nutritionist, Hayley Stafford-Smith. Please find out more about here her: https://www.facebook.com/TheBeautifulFoodProject