What does “seasonality” with health mean?
It is a simple yet challenging idea based on the natural principles of the world. Things are DIFFERENT in different seasons. The weather is different. Activity levels are different. Food varieties are different. Traditionally, humans have likely eaten different foods in different climates. They have lived in different ways. Do we? Let’s look at a few points here.
Supermarkets have allowed the buying up of most types of food year-round. Produce is still somewhat seasonal, but often not local or fresh. Processed foods are always around due to their shelf-life. If we are eating processed foods; we eat more of them. Why is this a problem? This may mean more pasteurized dairy, cheese, canned soups, french fries, and hamburgers in the winter and more sugar-based foods in the summer. What is really going on? Our bodies naturally want a bit more protein and fat in the winter. We like our food a bit warmer. It helps keep us WARM =) But if that means unhealthy fat; we are in trouble. So what are we supposed to do about all this?
We hear a lot of information about what to eat but few people discuss WHEN to eat it! I love eating a good amount of fresh fruit in the hot summer where I live but I will be damned if I’m eating that way when running around Alaska. It just doesn’t make sense. Nature is not one-sided. It is balanced within itself. Yin and Yang. Hot and Cold. This is why cultures living in the cold north often eat far more meat and fat products while people living in the tropics fare best on lighter stuff such as fruits. People living in temperate climates often do best on a mixture depending on the season. So let’s go over the basic seasons and see what we can figure out. I’m not sure if this has been discussed but I view spring and summer as the 2 yang seasons and fall and winter to be yin. Obviously summer is the most yang with winter being the most yin.
SPRING: This is the season of cleansing and renewed life. It is the season of the liver. What types of foods are around? Personally, I feel that this season is one to eat somewhat light during. Juices, blended drinks, greens, herbs, lemons, dandelion, etc. Staying away from heavy foods and bad fats is going to be a key here as well. Everything is coming back to life in the spring. I think it is probably my favorite season. Everything is “shaking off the dust” from the winter. They are cleansing but not yet fully soaking in the summer sun. Use herbs and hot beverages to stay warm.
SUMMER: The YANG season. This is the season of activity. This is when we are usually busiest. Playing outside, out doing projects on our homes or outings with the family. Everybody seems to be hustling and bustling about. This is perfectly normal. We do not use up our energy staying warm during the summer. So we have hopefully somewhat cleansed our systems in the spring and are now ready to eat. But eat what? Well again this is the season of the bounty. Lot’s of things are growing. Usually this includes primarily fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruit is a very good option for the summer. Lot’s of life energy, easy to digest, cooling on the system. Vegetables are also good. It’s all about counterbalancing what you are feeling in your body. This will differ from person to person.
FALL: Preparation season. This is the season of getting things together. Collecting the best foods for the winter, slowing down activities, figuring out family relationships and living situations, etc. We are basically getting ready for winter. We know that we will not really care to be doing any drastic moving in the winter. This again is perfectly normal. So what types of food do we focus on? This is the “stashing” season. We are in gathering mode and stock-up mode. Foods to stock up on are often those that will tide us over through the cold season. ROOT VEGETABLES are amazing during this time of year. We get so stuck with our “American Potato” here that we forget how much nature has in the form of roots. Things like Parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, etc. Also squash is amazing. Winter squash comes in many varieties. These may include acorn, butternut, buttercup, and many more. Starting to stock up on high-quality fats is another good idea here.
WINTER: Dreaded winter. It is the season of rest and recuperation (hopefully). This is a tough season to stay healthy in our modern world. Realistically, we are not meant to run around as much as we do. Focusing on warming foods and warming activities is the best choice here. Root vegetables are a great way to stay warm. Animal foods are often welcome. The focus is on quality here. It is easy to eat more “junk animal foods” in the winter. Things like burgers, pizzas, tacos, chicken wings, etc. These are all heavy and warming yet very clogging to the body. Roasts and crock-pot meals are much more welcome. Keep steady supplies of raw fats around. Things like raw butter, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts (if they agree with you), and perhaps a little raw dairy. The trick is to eat things warm. Use warming spices like ginger, garlic, pepper, mustard, cinnamon, etc.
Those are the basics. Don’t be afraid to mix things up and eat natural foods how your body wants them. The body is very wise. Don’t get sucked into any diet “dogmas.” Living off of raw salads and fruit may not be the best idea in a cold winter. Living off of hot meat and potatoes probably won’t feel right while vacationing in the tropics. Nature is not the same in different seasons so why should we expect our diets and lifestyles to stay constant? Seasonality is a great topic that is very interesting to learn from. Let’s let nature be the guide more. She often has a lot of wisdom to teach to those ready to learn =)