As the seasons change so do our tastes in food. Even the healthiest eater will feel less tempted by a salad at this time of year.
But just because we crave different dishes as the weather turns colder does not mean they have to be unhealthy.
In fact much of the produce traditionally harvested at this time of year is incredibly good for our health. Did you know, for example, that pumpkins and squashes can protect against cancer and mushrooms can ward off colds, flu, heart attacks and strokes?
Here is our guide to some of the best healing autumn foods you can choose at the moment. When you read how good they are for you we guarantee you'll want to include more in your diet!
PUMPKINS AND SQUASHES
The nearest most of us ever gets to a pumpkin is on Hallowe'en - and even then we don't eat it. But pumpkins and squashes, traditionally harvested at this time of year, are popular foods in other parts of the world and are gradually making their way on to supermarket shelves in this country.
They are also full of goodness and are thought to lower the risk of cancer. They are particularly good for smokers because they are thought to be effective in inhibiting lung cancer. Researchers also believe they may be able to help slow down the ageing process.
Several studies show that pumpkin and squash seeds - now sold in many health food shops - may inhibit cancer as they prevent viruses and cancer-causing chemicals from becoming activated in the intestinal tract. Pumpkin flesh is also thought to protect against cancer because its orange colour is full of compounds called carotenoids which are thought to fight free radicals - the cancer causing particles in our bodies caused by pollution, smoking and unhealthy food. Carotenoids are also thought to help protect against ageing.
Research at Middlesex University also recently showed that compounds in pumpkin seeds have been shown to deactivate the enzymes that cause prostate enlargement, so may help to prevent prostate cancer.
Apples have been associated with good health throughout the centuries - and, modern studies confirm, for good reason. They are great for our hearts, are a great diet food and fight colds, viruses and cancer. They are also a particularly good food for diabetics. This week - British Apple Week - is a particularly good time to include them in your diet because there are so many varieties around.
Italian, French and Irish researchers have all found that eating apples lowers cholesterol - one of the main causes of heart disease and strokes. It's thought the secret weapon is pectin - the soluble fibre apples contain - and that when combined with other contents of apples such as vitamin C it helps to remove cholesterol from the blood.
Apples also have what is known as a low glycaemic index - which means that the natural sugar they contain is released very slowly and steadily into our bloodstream. This makes them an excellent food for diabetics who have to be careful to keep their blood sugar levels well-balanced. Because apples keep blood sugar levels stable they also make us feel fuller for longer. This makes them a particularly good diet food as they help stave off hunger pangs. They are low in fat too!
It may be an accident of nature, but apples are a brilliant food to eat at the very time they are most plentiful - because they are also excellent fighters of colds and flu. Researchers have found that people who eat more apples have a lower incidence of colds and upper respiratory problems. This is partly due to the high levels of vitamin C they contain. The average apple contains 25 per cent of the recommended daily intake of this vitamin.
Fresh apples are also thought to be a great protector against cancer because they contain something called chlorogenic acid which, in tests, blocked cancer formation.
There's one cautionary note though. Apples have recently been linked to tooth decay because of the high amount of natural sugar they contain. To enjoy all the health benefits of apples without any of the downsides for your teeth have a drink of water after eating the fruit and then allow 45 minutes before brushing your teeth so that your tooth enamel will not be damaged.
Mushrooms have long been revered in the East for their health giving properties and such is the interest in their potential that there is now a Mushroom Research Institute in Japan. It's peak mushrooming season at the moment so the ideal time to take advantage of all the health benefits they have to offer.
Although scientists have yet to prove amazing health benefits for the common button mushroom there is now a great weight of evidence showing that Oriental mushrooms - particularly shiitake, oyster, enoki and tree ear - can stimulate the immune system, inhibit blood clotting which protects against heart disease and strokes and may even slow the development of cancer.
Of all these mushrooms the shiitake is the best studied. It has been found to contain a strong antiviral substance called lentinan that stimulates the immune system to such an extent that in tests it proved more effective against the flu virus than a powerful antiviral drug.
It is thought they work by stimulating the immune system to produce more interferon, which fights both viruses and cancer.
Tests also show that the shiitake may help lower blood cholesterol and reduce the harmful effects of saturated fat. In one test a group of 30 healthy women who ate three ounces of shiitake mushrooms every day for a week reduced their blood cholesterol by 12 per cent.
Studies on the tree ear - or wood ear - mushroom have shown that even in small amounts it can help to thin the blood which in turn can help to prevent heart disease and strokes. It has also been shown to slow cancer in animals.
The white stringy enoki mushroom has also been shown to stimulate the immune system and fight off viruses and tumors. It's also been shown that in the region of Japan where they are most commonly grown there is a lower rate of cancer.