The Miracles of Autumn

by Cynthia Olsen

Fall is upon us. The September equinox occurs September 22nd. In the past few days I have observed splashes of yellow and orange color making its appearance around the Vail Valley. The next couple of months may still tease us with its warm days and cooler nights.

During the active summer months, our local farmers markets have gifted us with farm fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods have helped to detoxify the body and supply much needed energy during the warm summer months.  Many of us have home and community gardens, which await the cold weather vegetables to emerge. Now is a great time to stock up on the last of the summer produce. Freeze or can fruits and vegetables so it can be enjoyed throughout the next several months.

Nutrition plays an important role in promoting our overall wellbeing. Our brains get smarter, bodies get slimmer, hearts get healthier, just to name a few benefits.  During the warm months I enjoy fresh raw food and my green protein drinks. Even though the days are staying warm, I am adding warming soups and fall vegetables like squash and pumpkin. In the mountains, I find myself eating more grains and proteins during the fall and winter months. I do not eat red meat as a rule. However, my son in law provides fresh elk meat each fall.  If your kitchen has been stocked with fresh whole foods, you are well on your way to vibrant autumn health.

Take a day trip to Paonia, enjoy fall colors and bring home scrumptious apples and apple cider. Our family took a convertible ride to Paonia last weekend.  Delicious Orchards has a variety of apples; there are Jonathan, Jonagold, Macintosh and Honey Crisp. We got baskets and walked through the orchard to pick our own. My nine-year-old granddaughter Jadyn enjoyed every minute of our wonderful fall outing.

If you had more vitality, better health, a more positive outlook and an improved immune system, wouldn’t you feel differently about yourself? Exercising boosts our cognitive abilities and our brain can grow new cells.  We prevent joint pain and arthritis, osteoporosis, Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease. Colorado is blessed with activities we can choose to participate in year round. Fall allows us to bike, hike and run outdoors in cooler temperatures. Recently, I stepped into a yoga class and afterwards a cooling saltwater swim at the Westin Hotel.  The choices are endless. Activity helps us prepare for skiing, skating and winter fun.

The days are getting shorter in the northern hemisphere. Daylight is later and sunset earlier. Adjusting our sleep patterns in the fall is essential for our wellbeing. Dr. Eve Van Cauter at the University of Chicago found that chronic sleep deprivation- defined as 6.5 hours or less of sleep per night-has the same effect on insulin resistance as aging. Along with poor diet, a sedentary lifestyle, aging and chronic stress, lack of sleep is a risk factor for Type 2 Diabetes and obesity.  Some tips for a good night sleep are

Avoid bedtime snacks, particularly grains, sugar caffeine, liquor, high fat or spicy meals; these will raise blood sugar levels, stimulate digestion and make sleep difficult.

Eat foods that enhance serotonin levels such as salmon, hummus and baked tempeh.

Do not watch television or work in bed. Read inspirational literature for a few minutes before bed. For sound sleep, keep your bedroom dark. Keep all electrical devices turned off or distanced from your bed.

Try to reduce or avoid as many drugs as possible, which may affect sleep. There are a variety of herbs for a sound sleep such as Melatonin, Serotonin, Lavender, Chamomile, Hops and Valerian.

Autumn greets us with gold Aspen leaves, sweaters and boots, children back in school, crisp mornings, more stillness and inward focus. We are blessed to be living in a beautiful area. Take time to enjoy this season.