Modifying Food Selections for the Fall Season

Traditional Chinese medicine Five Phase theory considers the fall (or autumnal) season of the year to be the time when yin begins to advance and grow while yang begins to retreat and wane. It is the time of the year when the cycles of nature begin to slow. The flow of the lakes and rivers slows, the nourishing fluids of plants and trees begins to ebb so that they dry up, and nature generally begins to prepare for the quiet and rest of winter. Whether we are aware of it or not, these changes also begin to occur in our bodies.

With autumn, the humidity of late summer begins to be replaced by drying winds and, eventually, cold. Five Phase theory of Chinese medicine associates fall with the Lung and Large Intestine zang fu (Chinese organ pairs – here capitalized to differentiate them from our understanding of Western internal organ structures).

The Lung is responsible for, among other functions, dispersing and descending fluids to mist the hair and skin and moisten the Large Intestine. If our yin becomes consumed or we fail to nourish yin, our skin and hair may become dry and brittle our nasal passages become dry, and/or we may experience constipation.

Certain foods such as pears, pork, sesame seed, egg yolk, and spelt are good to nourish and moisten yin. Still others are good to nourish blood, a yin fluid. As the weather turns colder, Chinese medicine suggests that we begin to incorporate squashes, gourds, cruciferous vegetables, and more robust soups and stews into our dietary planning.

Certain of the cruciferous vegetables contain isothiocyanates, sulphur-containing phytochemicals with powerful anti-cancer effects. These include cauliflower, cabbage, and broccoli. Isothiocynates occur naturally as glucosinolate conjugates in cruciferous vegetables and are also responsible for the typical flavor of these vegetables.


Cauliflower belongs to the same family of plants as broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Cauliflower possesses high concentrations of fiber, vitamins C and B6, and folate. Along with the presence of isothiocyanates, cauliflower also has a high concentration of glucosinolates, which are key to cauliflower's anti-cancer properties and which help the liver detoxify carcinogenic substances. Along with treating depressed immune function, cauliflower is part of a diet to treat sinus problems, constipation, and skin conditions such as warts.


Cabbage, another cruciferous vegetable, possesses many of the same healing and nutritional properties related to the immune system and hindering the development of cancer. Cabbage is commonly associated with its high concentrations of vitamin C. It also possesses the anti-inflammatory properties of the amino acid glutamine. Along with treating immune-related conditions such as cold and flu, cabbage can also help in the treatment of acne, allergies, hives, constipation, arthritis, bronchitis, and Candida overgrowth.


Turnip is a root vegetable that is typically grown in temperate climates. Turnips are high in vitamin C. Their greens contain vitamins A and K as well as folate, calcium, and lutein, all very important nutrients. Turnips treat immune-related conditions such as bronchitis, incontinence, flatulence, and even jet lag symptoms. Lightly steam the greens; the bulb can be cut and sautéed or boiled and mash.


Garlic is a pungent, spicy herb that has bulbs, leaves, stems, and flowers that are edible. It has anti-bacterial properties. Garlic is also used as an antiseptic and a remedy for infections. It can be taken for digestive disorders and as a treatment for intestinal worms. Garlic can be incorporated into a heart healthy diet to prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, regulate blood sugar levels, prevent diabetes-related conditions, and treat allergies. It may help with arthritic conditions and to counter bone loss.

Want more suggestions about adjusting your food selections for the season and/or for good health? 

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