“Whoever wishes to investigate medicine should proceed thus: In the first place, consider the seasons of the year and what effect each of them produces” – Hippocrates
Many of us consider eating locally and seasonally for various reasons. Eating local in-season foods reduces our reliance on imported foods trucked or flown in from afar. This requires less embodied energy and use of fossil fuels to transport, offers us fresher food harvested closer to the time it reaches us, and supports local farms, families, and economies.
Few people may also appreciate the wisdom that nature offers our bodies in consuming seasonal offerings. More ancient and traditional systems of medicine offer plenty of wisdom about eating seasonal foods and how it can actually support our bodies’ functioning as the seasons progress and transition. It has been my experience both personally and clinically that eating the “right” seasonal foods at certain times of year – and especially in the transition between seasons – can make a very significant difference in preventing illness.
To better understand how these seasonal changes might affect our body just as it does the rest of the natural world, Chinese Medicine offers a comparison of the human body and a tree. In the winter, the tree’s energy and resources are in storage, mainly in the root systems. The springtime brings energy and resources back up the trunk and offers the abundance of foliage, and fruit in the summer months. As autumn comes, the energy begins to retreat again as fruit and leaves fall, and plants prepare for winter.
Chinese medicine offers us some of the following recommendations to help stay healthy with the seasons:
WINTER – a time to retreat, reflect, and protect energy reserves
- Avoid lots of fruit juice or raw cold fruits- they are not in abundance this time of year and are harder to digest in the winter
- Avoid cold, raw foods (such as salads, frozen drinks, raw foods) as they are considered to stress the immune system
- Aim to eat warming foods with a healthy portion of protein
- Think what may have been available seasonally before the convenience of supermarkets:
- dried beans, meats, walnuts
- root vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, pumpkin, beets, parsnips
- dried cereals like buckwheat, oats, quinoa
SPRING – a time of new beginnings and growth, cleansing/detoxification, and change
- Consume lots of pungent and sulphur-rich foods to assist the liver in detoxification
- onions, leeks
- mustard greens
- Use fresh greens and herbs to assist in detoxification and liver support
- Green lettuces, sprouts, dandelion, chicory, cilantro, peppermint, spinach, asparagus
- Local honey to support the immune system and offer seasonal exposure to the pollens ahead
SUMMER- a time of energy and vigour
- Consume plenty of hydrating, light, fresh and cooling foods
- cucumbers, watermelon, bean sprouts, duck, fish, greens
- Eat the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables in gardens and orchards
- berries, sweet fruits, tomatoes, garden veg
- fresh juices, colourful salads
- Aim for fewer dairy products and meats this time of year
AUTUMN – a time of harvest, reaping the seeds we have sown, preparing for the coming season of rest
- Consume lots of sulphur rich vegetables
- Garlic, onions
- Avoid eating lots of cold raw fruit, and include more vegetables available in the harvest and grains
- warm coloured vegetables – sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, beets, carrots
- wild rice, corn, mushrooms
- nuts and seeds drop from trees
- warming spices like cinnamon, cardamon, cloves, cumin, ginger
SEASONAL TRANSITIONS (2 weeks between seasons) – When we are most prone to getting the seasonal colds and flus!
- Avoid sugar as much as possible, especially refined cane sugar
- Decrease cow dairy/milk products
- Avoiding alcohol
- Consume warm, well cooked foods such as soups or stews
Are you interested in learning more about seasonal eating and detoxification?
We discuss it during our Holistic Weight Loss Program, which you can read more about here. Registration for our Spring 2018 session closes on March 24th.
What’s your favourite seasonal food? Let us know in the comments below!
Looking for some Spring Cleansing Recipes? Check out our FREE One-Day Spring Cleansing Menu Plan!