Eating for Seasonal Balance
Eating in accordance with the seasons has been done for centuries. When we synchronize our circadian rhythms with nature, we feel healthier and more balanced. In addition, planning a seasonal diet can ease the challenging transition from winter to spring.
After months of cooler weather and heavier foods, the body can build up impurities, excess mucus, and toxins. Metabolic toxins are a natural part of our physiology. The key to health is how we keep them in balance. If they become excessive, they can accumulate, affecting the organ systems. Eating according to the season can prevent this accumulation.
For most of the winter, even in warm climates, your body is in hibernation mode when it stores fat for warmth—this is one of the human's innate survival mechanisms. However, when the days get longer and brighter, your body starts to shed the winter insulation. As a result, the fat released into the bloodstream makes thicker blood. In early spring, the body warms up, the liver filters the winter blood, and the stagnation begins to move. Clinically, the symptoms present as stiff muscles, arterial plaque buildup, mucus & hay fever. These symptoms signify the body's transition and make it an ideal time for lighter meals, cleansing, and rejuvenation.
When the weather is still cooler in early spring (March - April), it helps to consume warm meals for lunch and dinner until it turns hotter (May-June). During this transition, eliminate heavy meat proteins such as beef and pork. Lighter vegetarian one-pot meals can replace stews and meat dishes. Try vegetable chilis and lentil soup which are suitable for this period. They are higher in protein and grounding energy during March and April's windy, turbulent storms. Eat lighter foods for breakfast, drink fresh-squeezed juice, or detoxifying tea (see recipes). These regimens can help cleanse the body and rejuvenate the liver as the body starts to shed winter weight. In addition, a more spartan diet relieves the organs from a load of heavy digestion.
The spring diet should incorporate lightly cooked vegetable and rice combinations, leafy green salads, and lighter proteins such as tofu, poultry, and fish when May arrives. In addition, diuretic foods like asparagus, celery, and cabbage help shed excess water weight and reduce puffiness. Warming mustard and tarragon also stoke your digestive fire and boost your metabolism. Finally, turmeric, a powerful blood mover, re-invigorates the blood, restores circulation, cleanses the liver, and re-ignites the metabolism. By incorporating curry dishes into your spring menu, you receive all the benefits of turmeric and other therapeutic spices in the mix. (See my recipe for homemade curry powder.)
Spring is also an excellent time to incorporate the pungent (e.g., ginger), sour (e.g., lemon and dandelion), and bitter (e.g., apple cider vinegar) tastes. These tastes are the best to balance and stimulate sluggish metabolism. Pungency stimulates digestion while bitter foods cleanse the liver and encourage healthy elimination. Try fresh herbal tea to flush out all the toxic residue from winter.
My favorite is homemade fresh lemon, ginger, and honey detox tea that I was introduced to at the Ananda Spa in the Himalayas. It was delivered daily outside our door as a refreshing replacement for morning coffee. It transports my memory back to the beauty of the foothills every time I brew it, which is more energizing than any amount of caffeine!
Lemon, Ginger Honey Detox Tea:
Boil 8-10 oz of water with fresh ginger root slices (about 1-1.5 inches of fresh ginger root) let simmer for 2-5 minutes on low.
Add 1 TB of local honey.
Squeeze juice of 1 small organic lemon.
Stir and serve.