(NaturalNews) The seasons form a natural backdrop for eating. The cyclical elements of nature are not meant to be ignored as we choose how we want to nourish our bodies throughout the varying climates of the year. While strawberries will likely be available at your local supermarket even in the dead of winter, it is important to rotate your diet in accordance with nature's laws.
The foods that appear in winter are naturally warming and built to keep us well-nourished. In summer, however, our bodies need less to sustain them and cooling, cleansing foods are more abundant. Ignoring this natural order means we sacrifice many of the benefits mother nature intended for us. Choosing seasonal fare facilitates the natural healing processes of our bodies by stimulating cleansing. That's right - that means you can detox your body without needing to fast on liquids or take costly supplements.
Seasonal foods are also intrinsically tied to the special days, memories and seasons of our lives: sweet, juicy watermelon alongside fireflies and fireworks; crisp, warm apple cider on cool autumn evenings; rich and hearty soups that ease the chill of winter; fragrant young vegetables and fresh abundant greens that accompany spring's first warm days.
As a consumer, choosing foods that are not in season means you forfeit the flavor, nutritional goodness and the economical and environmental benefits of seasonal foods.
Guide to eating seasonally
To enjoy the full nourishment of food, you should make your menu one that revolves around seasonal dishes. Seasonal menus can vary in different parts of the world and even in different regions of one country. However, here are some general principles you can follow in order to ensure optimal nourishment in every season.
Seasonal foods for spring
In spring, it's important to focus on tender, leafy vegetables that represent the fresh new growth of the season. After a long winter of eating heavier foods, it's refreshing to cleanse and lighten our systems as the blossoms and buds of spring emerge in this season of renewal.
The greening that occurs in springtime should be represented by an abundance of greens on your plate, including arugula, chard, spinach, Romaine lettuce, fresh parsley and basil. Other beneficial spring foods that cleanse the body and prepare it for the warmer months of summer include asparagus, citrus fruits like lemon and grapefruit, artichokes, leeks, mung beans, bok choy and broccoli. Healthy whole grains like amaranth, quinoa, wheat and millet should also be included. Sprouted foods - from grains to beans and nuts - are especially beneficial.
Seasonal foods for summer
In the heat of summer, use traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as a model and stick with light, cooling foods, especially the abundance of fresh fruit that is now available. This includes fruits like all edible and local wild berries, mango, papaya, pineapple and watermelon; vegetables like summer squash, tomato, watercress, cucumber, bell peppers and corn; and herbs like lemongrass and fennel.
Eating more raw foods during this time keeps our bodies from becoming overheated. Avoid heavy foods like animal proteins and choose tofu, seafood and tempeh instead. Avoid overeating in general, and steer clear of dense, hard to digest foods like chocolate, coffee and sweets.
Seasonal foods for autumn
Autumn is a time of transition, introspection and abundance. In these cooler days, our bodies begin storing extra nourishment for the cold, sparse days of winter. Normally at this time we feel the intuitive urge to enjoy the rich, compact foods of fall.
Focus your dishes around the more warming, autumn harvest foods, including carrot, garlic, onion, wild mushrooms, pumpkin, winter squash varieties, sweet potato and dark leafy greens. Fruits such as fresh figs, persimmon, apples, plum and mulberry are beneficial. Also emphasize the more warming spices and seasonings including ginger, peppercorns and cinnamon. Heartier foods are now more acceptable to consume more regularly, including grains such as brown rice, oats and barley; fish, poultry, venison and eggs; and healthy dairy products like goat cheese and plain organic yogurt.
Seasonal foods for winter
In winter, turn even more exclusively toward heavier and hearty warming foods. Bear in mind that foods which take longer to grow are generally more warming than foods that grow quickly. Animal foods fall into the warming category, including fish, chicken, beef, lamb, bison, organ meats and venison; try to stick to organic animal proteins to avoid unhealthy additives and hormones. Root vegetables are also very warming, including carrot, parsnips, potato, onions and garlic. Organic dairy products also fit in here (especially raw dairy), as do grains like buckwheat and nuts such as walnuts and pecans.
According to TCM, the kidneys and bladder are the organs associated with winter, and these organs are benefited by beans like kidney beans and black-eyes peas. And good news -- winter is a great time to indulge your love of dark chocolate, as cocoa is a warming spice. Avoid fruit if possible in the wintertime.
Our ancestors ate seasonal food because they didn't have much choice. We, on the other hand, can make the informed and educated choice of opting to eat only those foods that are grown seasonally. Coordinating our diets with the cycles of the seasons naturally cleanses us and builds health for the body.