The darker days creep up on us slowly but there is no denying the fact that we are well in the grip of autumn now. How does the change of season affect your health? Do you embrace the ritual of making seasonal and nourishing soups and stews, or do you find yourself eating more comforting carbohydrates and craving sugary treats to boost mood?

In a world where we have the choice to eat whatever we want at any time of the year, I am a firm believer that our diet should change with the seasons. Not only does it keep us in touch with the changing seasons and natural world, but if we eat foods that are in season, we are more likely to be packing as much nutrition as possible on to our plates.

Strawberries, tomatoes and cucumber make way for more seasonal root vegetables, hardy kales and cabbages and local apples.

Autumn is the season to harvest, and at this time of year we can enjoy a new flavour palette from our fruit and vegetables. Some of my favourite seasonal foods are:

:: APPLE – choose local apples, not those that have travelled hundreds of food miles. We have some of the tastiest apples in the world and they are in season right now, so make the most of them.

:: BEETROOT – the vivid purple colour of beetroot packs a punch in terms of nutrition. This humble vegetable has been researched for its effects on athletic performance and supports a healthy blood pressure.

:: BRUSSELS SPROUTS, cabbage, kale – love them or loathe them, these brassicas are local super foods. Aim to eat a brassica every day for optimum health.

:: CELERIAC – this knobbly root veg is fantastic roasted or blended in soups.

:: CELERY – the stalwart of seasonal broths, soups, stews and casseroles.

:: JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE – this vegetable is a potent prebiotic, so it can have unwanted side effects, but it may help maintain healthy gut flora.

:: PUMPKIN AND SWEET POTATO – the orange colour of these seasonal vegetables is responsible for some of their health-promoting properties thanks to the antioxidant family of carotenoids.

:: ONION – a humble vegetable and a staple in every kitchen, the onion is packed with plenty of powerful antioxidants and nutrients thought to have a protective effect on the cardiovascular system and immune system.

RECIPE: Kale, carrot and apple salad

A late autumn salad of kale, apple and celery makes a delicious and nutritious lunch or side dish with some fish or meat. I know a salad sounds totally random and out of season, but trust me on this one. It is delicious.

l tend to make a big batch of this and eat over two or three days. Hardy curly kale can hold dressing better than soft salad leaves like rocket or watercress.

The quantities are not an exact science for this recipe, so every time it is slightly different, depending on what I have.

You will need:

A couple of big handfuls of kale

2 sticks celery, finely chopped

1 carrot, coarsely grated

1 apple, cored and finely diced

2 handfuls walnuts

For the dressing:

2 tablespoonfuls olive oil

1 tablespoonful cider vinegar

1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard

Method

Wash the kale and cut the stalks out. Cut into shreds. Place the kale in a large bowl with the chopped celery, grated carrot and diced apple. Crush the walnuts under the flat side of a large knife and add to the bowl. Whisk the oil, vinegar and mustard together to make the dressing and pour over the salad. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

This blog post originally appeared in my column in The Irish News on Saturday 10 November 2018.