Niagara Gazette

September 24, 2013

NATURAL HEALTH: Reap the benefits of eating seasonal foods

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Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Do you ever crave certain foods seasonally? If so, understand that this is a healthy signal from your body and if acted upon will help to nourish and protect you. 

This excludes cravings for cookies at Christmas, pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving and hot dogs on the Fourth of July, as I know some of you were thinking in this direction.

For centuries, Ayurvedic — a form of alternative medicine practice in India — practitioners as well as ancient Chinese herbal doctors have followed a diet of the seasons. Although logistical factors make this very dependent on where you live, your body does adjust to your climate and does tend to desire what it needs nutritionally based on the time of the year it is. 

If you don’t tend to crave fruits or vegetables in season — consider yourself broken. This will catch up with you eventually in the form of digestive disorders and degenerative diseases. Eat what is harvested locally in the present season, align yourself with nature and keep your body healthy.

In today’s world, you can virtually have any food at any time. Beneficial? Not necessarily. 

Ultimately, you are likely to pay a higher price for far inferior nutritional content when it is out of season. The longer the produce sits since harvesting and is in transportation, the more nutritionally depleted it becomes. 

Other countries have different regulations when it comes to the use of pesticides, so this is also something to consider. With the availability of foods year-round, many of us get stuck in a rut, eating the same foods over and over again. Eating seasonally brings us back to our roots, back to a simpler time when we ate what we had, and what we had came from a local farm. Eating local crops in season has a variety of benefits for your health, as well as perks for your local community, the economy and the environment.

Here are some guidelines to follow in order to achieve optimal nutrition in every season:

• Green leafy vegetables such as Swiss chard, spinach, romaine and parsley are typical in early spring. Asparagus is also in season. These leafy greens help to flush the body (especially the liver) of the winter “sludge” that has accumulated. Greens also help to alkalize the body. A diet high in alkaline foods helps a body to avoid cancer, autoimmune disease and osteoporosis, to name a few.

• Light, cooling foods benefit the body during the hot summer months. Raw fruits and vegetables provide the body with living enzymes, oxygen, potent vitamins and fiber. Cucumbers, tomato, berries, cherries, summer squash, basil, mint and so many more are in abundance and should be taken full advantage of. These highly nutritious, low-calorie foods will heal and cool the body.

• Autumn brings a bountiful harvest of heavier warming foods. Carrots, apples, sweet potatoes, onions, cabbage and winter squash are soothing to the soul when there is a chill in the air. Peppercorn, ginger and mustard seed are warming spices that the body appreciates this time of the year.

• The body tends to crave warm foods in the winter months. Foods that take longer to grow are generally more warming foods. All of the animal foods (poultry, beef, lamb and fish) fall into this category, as do root vegetables. Nuts are warming, as well.

My personal preference would be to eat bountifully through the holidays and sleep it off till spring. Bears have the life!

To find out what’s harvested seasonally in your area, go to www.localharvest.org. This will also lead you to growers in your area that adhere to strict guidelines when growing your food.

Whatever you do, don’t fall into the rut of the same foods year round. Reap the nutritional benefits by enjoying a variety of locally grown foods in the nutritional. Be creative, try new things.

Catherine Stack is a doctor of naturopathy and a certified nurse midwife. Her practice is located at Journey II Health in Niagara Falls. Contact her at 298-8603, or at her website at www.journeyiihealth.com.