EATING BY THE SEASONS FOR OPTIMUM HEALTH

Are you tuned in to the connectedness of the seasons?

Do you ever stop and think about how these cycles influence your health and the available food?

If I’ve piqued your interest, then today’s post is for you.

In this post, we’ll dive into:

  • The special relationship between the seasons, plants, and humans
  • How seasonal variations impact the body and increase certain health risks
  • Foods that help you fight seasonal health risks

And if you want to get cookin’ in the kitchen with any of the foods you learn about today, check out The Build-a-Meal Planner.

THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE SEASONS, PLANTS, AND ANIMALS

Let’s talk about a cycle you’re already familiar with – the seasons.

Spring births new flowers and fruits after a long winter’s rest.

Those new flowers and fruits flourish heartily in the summer.

And the plants begin to relax under the cool fall air…

just before releasing into their own winter-Shavasana.

In each season, plants must fight new battles – cold, hot, wet, and dry.

And their defenses against the changing conditions (producing water-yielding fruits in summer and cold-hearty fruits in the fall), as well as the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients they provide are quite beneficial to us as humans.

The similarity between ourselves and plants in terms of needed defenses exists because we evolved alongside plants – we evolved in many of the same conditions that they did.

So overtime we adapted just as plants did – having certain defenses and nutritional requirements that must be met with the changing conditions of the seasons.

And while our bodies are excellent adaptors, we still benefit from borrowing what we need from our plant friends – plus we sort of have to eat to survive.

Our ancestors ate what was available in the spring in the season of spring.

They ate what was available in the summer in the season of summer (and so on).

So with this in mind, the solution to providing our body with more of what it needs as conditions change is quite simple – seasonal eating.

 

HOW SEASONAL VARIATIONS IMPACT THE BODY AND INCREASE CERTAIN HEALTH RISKS

So how does our body change with each season?

Fall & Winter

Believe it or not, scientists didn’t begin to answer the question of how seasonal variation impacts our body on a genetic level until recent years.

And an article published in Nature, one of the most reputable scientific journals, outlined the results of a study that examined changes in DNA of white blood cells and fat cells.

These scientists found that changes in seasons (and diminishing light in Fall and Winter) may impact the body in the following ways:

  • Our immune response ramps up in fall and winter (in the Northern Hemisphere) and pro-inflammatory markers are seen in higher abundance.
  • The most notable of those pro-inflammatory markers are C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and monocytes.
  • While useful for fighting off bacteria and viruses we might be exposed to indoors in the winter, these pro-inflammatory markers create excess inflammation in the body.
  • This may be why we see an increased risk of cardiovascular-related deaths in the winter months, and these changes also increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and neuropsychiatric symptoms.

Spring

Presumably, as the days become longer and light increases, pro-inflammatory markers and their associated risks decrease.

However, one exception to the reduced risks might be for heart attacks

Because as folks become more inclined to be outside, those with poor cardiac function remain at greater risk of experiencing a heart attack.

In Spring, we also see an increase in:

  • manic episodes from fewer hours of sleep
  • the diagnoses or relapse of multiple sclerosis, breast cancer, and prostate cancer
  • and seasonal allergies

Summer

In summer, although we see an uptick in the fat-burning and water-loving hormones in our bloodstream and we would expect to see far less pro-inflammatory makers, the changing humidity and rising heat may put as at risk for:

  • oilier skin and acne
  • dehydration
  • and water weight-gain

The good news is that Mother Nature has our back, and she provides plenty of what we need in each season.

 

FOODS THAT HELP YOU FIGHT SEASONAL HEALTH RISKS

Fall & Winter

In fall and winter, to boost your immune system and fight off inflammation (the underlying cause of nearly all disease) increase the amount of Vitamin C and antioxidants you eat with broccoli, kale, Brussel sprouts, and carrots.

In addition, the fiber and alpha-lipoic acid in Brussel sprouts can help you balance your blood sugar level (an important consideration for diabetic patients who experience increased risk during winter months).

Likewise, with their carotenoid antioxidants, carrots help fight chronic diseases (such as those with an increased risk during winter).

Spring

In spring, support your heart health by lowering your cholesterol with fava beans and increasing your beta carotene, potassium, fiber, and vitamin C content with apricots.

If you experience poor sleep, relax your muscles, and improve your sleep quality by increasing the amount of magnesium you’re eating with arugula and other leafy greens. 

To ward off cancer, increase the amount of sulforaphane (the cancer-fighting compound) released from the broccoli you’re eating by pairing it with daikon radishes.

And to reduce seasonal allergies, give yourself a boost from the natural antihistamines, as well as vitamin C, and thiamin in green onions and green peas.

Summer

In summer, clear up your acne and oily skin and improve your hydration by increasing the amount of nitric oxide you’re eating with watermelon.

And, to do away with the water weight-gain you experience, eat natural diuretics such as celery and fennel.

So with all of this in mind, what seasonal fruits and vegetables will you be stocking up on? Let me know in the comments below!

And if you want to get cookin’ in the kitchen with any of the foods you learn about today, check out The Build-a-Meal Planner.

 

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