We spend a lot of time cultivating our look for the outside eye but this spring I want to suggest something more radical - a makeover from the inside out. Why not give your body a spring cleaning? As the new season moves in, let's move the old (and sometimes bad) habits out and make a change that will have a positive effect on ourselves, our bodies, our families, our community and our environment. Let's eat seasonally!
For centuries, Ayurvedic practitioners as well as ancient Chinese herbal doctors have followed a diet of the seasons. Although the number and type of season may vary, the idea remains the same. Eat what is harvested in the present season, align yourself with nature and keep your body healthy. Spring is a time of renewal, the flowers and trees start to bloom and life, once again, enters into our environments. There is not a better time of year to incorporate some seasonal eating into your life than the spring.
In today's world industrialization has made it possible to have all foods at all times of the year. We never want for any kind of food - and if we can't make it then we can order it in. 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.
This spring, begin your journey to seasonal eating by incorporating some of the great produce available into your diet. Green leafy vegetables, like arugala, chard, dandelion and kale are a great way to add some spring into your diet. All four can be served as salad, steamed or even sautéed to give you glorious greens that are full of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs. You can compliment these greens with some sweet spring vegetables like beets, onions and parsnips. These root vegetables taste great cut into pieces, tossed with olive oil and roasted in the oven at 400 degrees until crispy. Another great way to bring spring into your diet is with seasonings. The crisp fresh taste of cilantro added into any dish will let the eater know that spring has arrived. If that doesn't work for you, just add some parsley to your salads and dishes for a milder taste that works to cleanse your liver and kidneys while you enjoy it!
Eating a seasonal diet means eating mostly fruits, vegetables and whole grains with the occasional local, organic piece of meat or cheese. When we eat a mostly vegetarian diet our bodies get a chance to relax. Digesting vegetables is markedly different from digesting meat and dairy. The former takes a lot less time and energy than the latter. Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals the body needs to function at its optimal levels and to protect itself from disease. By choosing to eat seasonally, we are making a choice to be healthier human beings.
You can start eating seasonally by visiting your local farmer's market. As vegetables are shipped from around the world to our local supermarkets, they loose nutrients along the way. Eating produce that is grown and harvested in our local communities gives us food with a higher nutrient content than foods that are imported from other parts of the world. By visiting farmer's markets and choosing to purchase locally grown and harvested food, we get more nutrients and a wide variety of delicious foods.
Fruits and vegetables grown on small farms are not sprayed with pesticides and chemicals, as foods grown on factory farms are. Organic farmers do not use any pesticides or chemicals in growing their crops, making the crops taste, smell and feel different. The pesticides and chemicals used on larger farms can leave a residue on the produce and can also be found within the fruit or vegetable, making it toxic. These toxins can build up in our bodies causing health issues from headaches to cancers. By choosing to eat local and organic foods you are choosing to eat poison free food, protecting your body from premature aging and potential disease.
Small farmers are connected to the land they work. They grow many different types of fruits and vegetables through each season and provide variety in the types of produce they supply. Small farms rotate their crops frequently which will replenish the soil with nutrients and grow more nutrient dense foods. The rotation of crops also aids in the continued health of the soil itself, therefore contributing to a sustainable environment and the overall health of the world.
The best way to incorporate seasonal eating into your life is to join a community supported agriculture group (CSA). These local groups purchase a portion of a small farm's produce before the season begins. By becoming a member and paying a fee you get fresh produce right off the farm delivered to a local pick up spot once a week! The variety of fruits and vegetables you get depends on where you live and what the farm grows. An added bonus is not knowing what you will receive and simply getting an opportunity to try something new. The only guarantee with becoming part of a CSA is that you will have a steady supply of fresh, nutrient dense produce from late spring until early winter. You also get the opportunity to meet other people in your community who have the same interest in creating a happier and healthier planet and lifestyle through supporting local farmers and organic farming.
Eating a seasonal diet means different things, depending
on which part of the world you live in. By adding seasonal foods to
your plate, you ensure that you are getting essential vitamins and minerals
including important antioxidants that protect the body from disease.
Wherever you are in the world, there are a number of resources out there
to help you make the transition to eating a more wholesome and balanced
diet. You can check your local farmer's market to see what is in season
or look for a "locally grown" sign above the produce in your
local supermarket. Check the Internet to see if your town or one near
by has a local CSA. If not, see how you can start one! Be open to new
foods and experiment in your kitchen. Eating is always in season! So
see what happens when you make yourself over from the inside out with
a healthy and balanced seasonal diet.
Rachel Leslie is a certified holistic health counselor
and founder of A Cup of Life, Holistic Health Counseling. She is also
a partner in Green Parties CT, an organic catering company located in
Fairfield County, Connecticut. Rachel lives in Stamford, Connecticut
with her husband and son. For more information: www.acupoflife.com.