Keeping in theme with local and seasonal eating is one of the most rewarding ways to connect to the season. And, it’s such a helpful tool to keep your body in balance as the holidays approach. This is also a practice you can feel good about globally because it eliminates the environmental damage caused by shipping food thousands of miles.
Autumn is a time to turn to foods that are warming and grounding such as carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut, acorn squash, onions and garlic. These foods build heat in the body, prepping you to stay warm throughout the winter. They also deliver powerful and easy-to-use nutrients to boost your immune system, calm your moods and balance out energy levels.
When winter is upon us, we’d all be wise to turn more exclusively toward warming foods and spices like nuts and seeds, ginger, black pepper or peppercorns and mustard seeds. Nature doesn’t make a mistake. Our digestion slows in the winter, which is why spices like ginger and pepper and paprika are so helpful to keep our metabolism running smoothly. In addition, these spices assist us in the production of hydrochloric acid, which aids in proper digestion of heavier foods that are higher in fat.
Many animal foods fall into the warming category. This includes fatty fish, chicken, turkey, beef, lamb and eggs. Use these items more like a condiment rather than the centerpiece of your meal, and make sure to buy free-range and organic animal products that are both hormone- and antibiotic-free. Choose lean cuts of beef and eat poultry primarily without the skin. Chicken provides niacin, a B vitamin needed for healthy skin, nerves and digestion. Just 3 ounces of beef provides 40% of the Recommended Daily Allowance of zinc, which keeps the immune system and the adrenal glands strong. Turkey helps to boost serotonin in the brain (our “feel good” chemical), and fatty fish contains omega-3 fatty acids needed to keep inflammation at bay and to initiate a healthy immune response.
Everything about the winter says, “slow,” yet our culture tends to speed up with all of the obligations and extra “to-dos” the holidays can bring. Decide to be counter-cultural this year in favor of connecting to something bigger. It gets dark earlier, our bodies naturally need more rest, we need to eat heavier and relax more.
Things take more time in the winter and nature confirms that. The longer a vegetable takes to grow, the more warming it is – and most winter veggies take longer to grow than their summer counterparts. For example, rainbow carrots, rich in vibrant reds and yellows, are seen this time of year and not so much in the summer. They take longer than the average orange carrot to grow and are both more warming and richer in antioxidants and beta-carotene. This simple observation is good advice.
Food is nature’s medicine. As winter moves in, embrace the season by slowing down and listening to your body. Ask it what kind of food it needs to stay in balance.