Do you crave certain foods at different times of the year? We’re not talking about cravings for cookies at Christmas, pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, and hot dogs on the Fourth of July, but the seasonal signals from your body that, if acted on, can help nourish and protect you.
For centuries, Ayurvedic practitioners and ancient Chinese herbal doctors have followed a diet of the seasons. Although logistics make location a primary factor, the body adjusts to the surrounding climate and tends to desire what it needs nutritionally based on the time of the year. If you don’t naturally crave fruits or vegetables in season, try incorporating local, in-season offerings into your diet and see if you suddenly find yourself wanting more of them.
In today’s world, you can virtually have any food at any time. Beneficial? Not necessarily. Out-of-season options often carry a higher price for far inferior nutritional content. The longer produce sits since harvesting and transportation, the more nutritionally depleted it becomes. (Worth considering is the fact that other countries have different regulations when it comes to the use of pesticides.) Due to year-round availability, many of us get stuck in a rut, repeatedly eating the same foods. Seasonal eating can bring us back to a simpler time when we ate what we had, and what we had came from a local farm. Eating local, in-season crops has a variety of health benefits, as well as perks for the local community, economy, and environment.
Here are some guidelines to help you achieve optimal nutrition in every season:
Light, cooling food benefits the body during hot summer months. Raw fruits and vegetables provide living enzymes, oxygen, potent vitamins, and fiber. Nutritious, low-calorie options like cucumbers, tomatoes, berries, cherries, summer squash, basil, mint, and more are in abundance and should be taken full advantage of. Did you know that cilantro is an amazing heavy metal detoxifier?
Autumn brings a bountiful harvest of heavier warming food. Carrots, apples, sweet potatoes, onions, cabbage, and winter squash soothe the body and soul when there is a chill in the air. Beets are nutrient-dense and help improve circulation, which may help keep blood pressure in check. Peppercorn, ginger, and mustard seed are warming spices that the body appreciates.
The body tends to crave warm food in the winter months. Food that takes longer to grow is generally more warming. All animal food (poultry, beef, lamb, and fish), root vegetables, and nuts fall into this category. Warm foods aid the digestive system by facilitating the passage of fluids.
Early spring is typically the time for vegetables such as Swiss chard, spinach, romaine, parsley, and asparagus. These leafy greens help to flush the body (especially the liver) of accumulated winter “sludge,” and alkalize the body. Alkaline foods help us avoid conditions like cancer, autoimmune disease, and osteoporosis, among others.
To find out what’s harvested seasonally in your area, visit localharvest.org. You can also find growers in your area that adhere to strict growing guidelines.
Whatever you do, don’t fall into the habit of a stagnant diet. Be creative; search out new recipes to help you try new things. Change your diet with the seasons and reap the nutritional benefits.
Catherine Stack is owner, facilitator, and Doctor of Naturopathy at Journey II Health. She specializes in colon health and bio-identical hormone replacement and is a practicing staff midwife at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital. Her books, Free Yourself from a CONSTIPATED Life and PUSH, Labor & Delivery from the Inside Out are available on amazon.com. Visit cathistack.com for more info.