What exactly is meant by EAT FOR THE SEASON?
Have you ever thought, why you don’t crave a hot cup of soup when you’re lounging by the pool on a scorching summer day? Or when the mercury starts falling, why don’t you find yourself itching for an icy cold lemonade? There is a reason your palate, or should I say body, finds it unappetizing. Because your body is naturally in sync with different seasons in a year and it maintains equilibrium through the food you eat.
Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science of life, teaches us that our bodies do not exist in exception to the natural world. It also teaches us that we are one with it and dependent on nature for our health and well-being.
Now that we are transitioning into harvest season, it is time to re-evaluate our diets & eat for the season. We should switch from nutrient-rich summer meals to a new seasonal menu that incorporates vitamins and nutrients, crucial for our bodies in cooler weather.
WHY EATING FOR THE SEASON IS IMPORTANT?
- Firstly, during the summer we spend plenty of time outside as we have more daylight hours as compared to winter months. As we are more active, we perspire more and lose electrolytes through perspiration. Thus making it vital to replace essential electrolytes.
- Summer produce such as watermelon, berries, cucumbers, peaches, melon, and corn, are rich sources of carbohydrates. They are designed by nature to keep us hydrated & provide with essential electrolytes.
- Summertime also means brighter sun and more direct sunlight that allows our bodies to convert sunlight into vitamin D. So, when there is less daylight, it is important for us to eat foods that supplement this deficiency and keep us warm.
- You have probably observed, that as the weather turns cooler and the days grow shorter, we crave fewer fresh fruits and crisp salads. Instead, our bodies crave for warm meals like soups & stews, etc. We in fact, require more food since our bodies need extra energy to regulate optimum body temperature.
Our bodies are expertly designed to focus on thermoregulation or maintaining a healthy body temperature. This quintessential function is achieved through the food we consume.
- Secondly, we get less fresh air in the fall because the days are shorter and colder. We also tend to spend more time indoors. It often puts us in closer contact with other people, especially in poorly ventilated spaces with folks who may be carrying germs. This explains why we should take extra precautions to avoid being ill by increasing our intake of immune-boosting foods.
- Luckily for us, winter’s citrus crop brings large doses of vitamin C. It is one of nature’s most effective defenses against the bacteria and viruses that thrive throughout the winter months.
- More time spent indoors can lead to increased exposure to air pollutants. It can cause inflammation, lung disease, heart disease, cancers, and other ailments. Thus, we need more nutrition in the cooler months to protect ourselves.
- This is because, according to the EPA, indoor air pollution levels are typically two to five times higher than outdoor levels.
TIPS ON HOW TO EAT FOR THE SEASON:
- Prioritize vitamin-D rich foods: Doctors and Nutritionists lay emphasis on getting adequate vitamin D as your body cannot absorb calcium without it. Lack of vitamin D can lead to weak bones (osteoporosis), cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune disease, infection and more. We can get vitamin-D from foods like fatty fish, eggs, liver, fortified dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals. We should get our vitamin D levels checked and incorporate more of it through supplements and foods.
- Use Anti-inflammatory foods: Because a variety of allergens can cause sniffles and sneezes in the fall, it is critical to consume anti-inflammatory foods. Produce like apples, grapes, berries, cherries, etc. are rich in quercetin. These seasonal foods help inhibit the release of histamines, the very substance that cause allergic reactions.
- Take Omega-3 fatty acids: Your skin looks like elephant skin? You can easily stave off winter skin issues by eating food like mackerel, salmon, herring, sardines, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Omega-3 fatty acids have been demonstrated to lower blood pressure, lower triglycerides, slow artery plaque formation. It also lessens the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Omega-3 fatty acid-rich foods can help soften dry skin, reduce inflammation. It helps regulate the skin’s oil production, improve hydration, and soothes skin irritation.
- Boost your immune system with vitamin-C: As a powerful antioxidant vitamin-C scavenges free radicals and prevents them from harming cells and inflammation, making the body healthier and more resilient in general. Oranges, grapefruits, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts are all high in vitamin C.
- Incorporate plant-based protein and fiber into your comfort meal: With the holiday season fast approaching, we end up eating more meat-heavy, fat-rich dishes that provide us warmth. Although delicious and comforting, this disruption in our healthy eating plan can cause digestive discomfort and constipation.
We should focus on including plant-based protein and fiber into holiday meals and snacks to avoid stomach distress. A balanced diet will help keep energy levels steady and keep your gut microbiome in check. Tweak the holiday meal plan to include healthy options. It helps you maintain a constant energy level and a well-balanced gut microbiome. Addition of comforting soups, stews and veggies will help you eat a protein & plant based fiber rich meal.
- Remember to stay hydrated, even if it is icy outside: The perception that we do not sweat in winters & we don’t need to drink a lot of water, is completely false!!! Under colder conditions the fluid loss is due to decreased humidity, greater urine losses, and less evident signs of dehydration. So sip away your favorite herbal tea, the more the merrier. Other foods that can keep you hydrated are water (of course), fruit, vegetables, and yogurt.
- Check to see if you’re getting enough vitamin K: One of the lesser talked about vitamin is vitamin-K. Vitamin K aids in the regulation of calcium transport and distribution in the body. We should take Vitamin K supplement along with vitamin-D supplement, as they work together to support our heart and bone health. Vitamin K1 is found in plant-sourced foods, especially dark, leafy green vegetables. Foods that have vitamin K2 in them are Nattō (from Japanese cuisine is sticky, earthy in flavor, and is filled with gut-friendly fiber) and animal sourced foods. Read this for more info on vitamin K.
Without a doubt, change in the weather directly influences “How we Eat”. Fall brings a lot of great seasonal foods and produce. It is a perfect time to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet and make some important recipe adjustments to your meal plans.
Need interesting fall season recipes:
- Pumpkin – Pumpkin swirl cheesecake bars
- Beets – Roasted beets in sour cream salad
- Sweet Potato – Maple glazed sweet potatoes
- Spaghetti Squash – Caprese Spaghetti Squash
- Kale – Creamy kale Greek yogurt dip
- Pears – Red wine poached pears
- Okra – Stir fried okra (bhindi masala)
- Parsnips – Golden pan roasted parsnips
- Cranberries – Cranberry orange sauce
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