It’s a cold day here in New Hampshire. The garden is covered with a thick layer of snow. But still, if you step into a grocery store, you might find watermelon, avocado, and tomatoes on the shelves. So it is as if the season’s ebb and flow never occurs.
Only a little more than 100 years ago, people grew most of the food they ate or bought all their foods from the local farmers in the town square. The food that filled the stalls of the farmer’s market was a manifestation of what the farmer could grow at that time of the year. Most people ate a seasonal diet by default.
What is seasonal eating?
Seasonal eating is the practice of eating fruits and vegetables when they are in season.
Why does it matter?
- Seasonal eating has environmental benefits, especially if you combine it with shopping for food locally. (Even here in the cold North East you can find plenty of food in the winter)
- Food grown and harvested in season is much more nutrient-dense than food manipulated to grow out of season or shipped from far away. (Have you ever asked yourself how a tomato that was imported from Mexico and stood in a warehouse does not rot???)
- Seasonal eating is a way to connect to nature.
- Your body developed over six million years with the cycle of the season. During this time, your body adapted to the seasonal cycles by changing its digestion, absorption, energy levels, etc.
“We get certain vitamins and warmth from the sun, so when there is less daylight, it is important for us to eat foods that supplement this deficiency, as well as those that keep us warm, and equally, when there is an abundance of sunlight, it is important that we supplement our bodies with foods that protect us from the sun as well as keep us cool.”
How does seasonal eating work?
During the summer, you spend long days outdoors in the sun, which means your body’s temperature increases, and you sweat much more. Your body needs you to replenish the fluids to not get dehydrated. You reach for fresh food and vegetables that are cooling and hydrating. Watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, and cucumbers grow in warm climates not just because they need the sun’s warmth to ripen but also because they have developed ways to adapt to the extreme heat. They hydrate you and provide you with the secondary metabolite you need to protect yourself from the sun when you eat them.
When fall arrives, the days are shorter. As a result, your body gets less sun exposure, so your vitamin D levels are reduced. Your immune system needs all the support it can get to prepare for the potential cold or flu. Citrus fruits in season in the fall are loaded with vitamin C, supporting the immune system.
Another fruit that is in season in the fall is the apple. As we start to move indoors and engage with less physical activity, apples provide plenty of pectins to support gut motility and prevent constipation.
Nuts, seeds, and avocado are good fat sources during the fall. While the wind howls among the trees and temperatures begin to fall, the body looks for good energy sources to keep it warm. Avocado, nuts, and seeds provide healthy fats that are the most efficient source of energy ( fats give you 9 calories per gram while carbs and proteins provide only 4 calories per gram )
When winter arrives, your body is seeking warmth and comfort. Carbohydrates (sugar) cooked in stew and soups provide your body with the energy that it needs to keep you warm.
Meals high in carbohydrates increase serotonin and dopamine levels in the blood. These two hormones help regulate your mood and prevent depression and anxiety that are many times associated with the shorter days and absence of sunlight.
By spring, you are ready to wake up and start moving, just like the bears. Your body might feel a little stiff and heavy. That’s where spring greens like Dandelion, Cleavers, Chickweed, and Nettle pop up in the garden.
Spring greens help you shed the extra couple of pounds that you gained during the winter, but more importantly, they help you cleanse your body from toxins that accumulated during the winter (that’s what heavy meals and a sedentary lifestyle will do)
Seasonal eating allows you to practice mindful eating. Slow down and observe how it feels to eat a different diet each season. I find that I crave different foods in each season.
What about you?
In my membership program, The Inner Circle, I offer practical guidelines for living with alignment to the ebb and flow of the season.
Here are some of the things when you join The Inner Circle:
- What and how to eat in each season
- How to support your body well being in each season
- Herbal medicine making workshop
- DIY recipes for seasonal herbal remedies.