Eating with the Seasons
Have you ever heard about this? Maybe in conjunction with detoxes or Ayurvedic medicine? Have you wondered what it’s all about and if it has any merit? I thought this would be a good time to dive into this topic since we’ve just entered a new season. For some of us that means fall. For others it’s spring. Where you are matters and we’ll take that into consideration.
Eating with the seasons is a basic tenant of Ayurveda. What is Ayurveda?
Ayurveda is one of the oldest practices of medicine and science of life. It is the traditional Hindu system of medicine practiced in India for thousands of years. The term translates into ayur = life, and veda = knowledge or science. Ayurveda is based on mind-body as the core of healing. We’ve discussed before how the mind and the body are connected when we talked about how the gut and the brain communicate. But ayurveda is even more holistic in its roots than just the gut-brain connection.
I mean, it would be difficult to argue that the mind and the body are not connected, right? It just wouldn’t make sense; and this is a main principle of ayurveda; that the mind and body are inextricably connected. The other is that the mind is key to transforming health. I’ve talked about mindfulness, mindful eating and self-care as being very important to health in addition to what we eat and gut health. Ayurveda sees all of these as linked. Imbalance in any part of the system can create imbalance elsewhere in the body.
Think about it for a minute. When you’re stressed out it can lead to a cascade of both mental and physical events. Or being depressed setting off a series of chemical responses that affect appetite, increased sensitivity to pain, decrease in immune system response, etc. This goes both ways. The health of our gut affects our mental state, and what we eat affects the health of our gut.
There are many arms, so to speak, in ayurveda. One of these arms looks at eating for balance. If you are at all familiar with ayurveda you’ve probably heard about doshas, our constitution. There are three doshas, comprised of different combinations of the five elements: air, water, fire, earth and ether. I’m going to refrain from going down the rabbit hole on this one and stay on task.
I mention doshas because there are prescribed ways of eating to balance the doshas. For example, eating cooked food is recommended for bringing the doshas back into balance when the body has leaned to far in one direction; specifically that of heat, cold, dryness and dampness. Yes, this sounds a lot like Traditional Chinese Medicine, if you are familiar with that as well.
Both systems see a connection between the season and the body. Do you tend to eat differently throughout the year? If you live somewhere that experiences dramatic seasonal changes, you may, and this is no accident. When we listen to our bodies, we feed them according to what they need. Here’s the breakdown on balancing the inside against the outside climate.
|Fall/Winter||Nuts and healthy oils;
Cooked or steamed vegetables, especially root vegetables and winter squash;
Warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, anise, turmeric and pepper;
Meat, fish and eggs;
Room temperature or warm dairy (if tolerated);
Whole grains like amaranth, non-GMO oats, quinoa and brown rice;
Sweet, sour and heavy fruits in moderation like bananas, figs, dates, grapes, citrus, pears, persimmon and cooked apples. Cooked pears are delicious too.
|Spring||Move to lighter foods that are spicy, bitter, astringent, dry and warm like greens, cruciferous vegetables, and mushrooms;
Fruits that are less sweet like citrus and berries;
Lean meats like chicken, turkey and freshwater fish;
Herbal teas and honey for sweetener;
Raw dairy is recommended at this time of year;
|Summer||Cruciferous vegetables and greens, raw is good through October;
Summer squash, asparagus, celery, cucumbers and radishes;
Sweet and bitter fruits, including berries (though less sweet, they're in season), apples, apricots, melon, cherries, peaches and pears, pineapple, plums, pomegranate, mango and guava (all in moderation);
Stick with leaner meats until winter;
Adzuki, fava, garbanzo (think hummus), mung and tofu;
Cilantro and coriander are great herbs/spices;
Less dairy, still raw recommended;
Barley and rice for whole grains.
If you are wondering why you don’t see avocados in the list, it’s because it falls under healthy fats more than anything. It’s a fruit, but nowhere near the carbohydrate load of most other fruits. I eat them year-round. Some other great foods for healthy fats are flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds. These are critical add-ons for vegans and vegetarians due to their omega-3 content. Almonds are the highest nut source of vitamin E, and citrus and apples give you a good boost of vitamin C. Cruciferous vegetables are loaded with vitamins K and C.
Herbal teas and green tea are good all year. I drink them hot in fall, winter and spring; and ice them in the summer. Teas like hibiscus, chamomile, dandelion, chicory and mint have awesome health-promoting properties and are good year-round. Cinnamon, ginger and clove (think chai and pumpkin spice) are good boosts for the immune system in the colder months. And while we’re talking spices and herbs, don’t forget how beneficial they are to health. You can read more about them here.
Although not food related, don’t forget your neti pot for warding off allergens and bacteria. You may not think allergens are an issue in the winter, but they are. In colder climates we are cooped up indoors with very little fresh air. The allergens get trapped inside with us. Your diffuser is so much more important in helping to keep the air clean with oils like tea tree, clove, cinnamon and cardamom. Citrus oils blend in with these, especially orange which seems to be a perfect match, and provide an added boost. Diffusers and humidifiers are great tools for combating the dry winter air.
And as always don’t forget to hydrate with clean, filtered water. No matter the season, our bodies are always losing water; either through sweating in the warmer months, or because of the dryness of the winter months.
Well, I’m off to enjoy a cool but sunny weekend; getting fresh air for as long as I can before I just hunker down in front of a fire for the deep freeze.
Yours in wellness,