If you have either gone strawberry picking under the calming summer sun and ended up with a basket bursting with fiery red strawberries, or went pumpkin picking in Autumn, only to go home and make the most delicious and heartwarming pumpkin soup, then you have experienced what seasonal eating is all about.
As seasonal eating is becoming more of a resilient trend, for many, however, it has been replaced with a quick trip to the supermarket and a lighter wallet on the way home, being accompanied with the rustling and crinkling sound of a trunk full of grocery bags and a variety of produce. What the majority of us aren't aware of, is how far those products have traveled in order for us to take them home.
With every season comes an exciting new array of foods, each with their own seasonal health benefits. Have you ever wondered why a cinnamon plum tart just seems to hit the right spot during the Autumn season, when everything is drowning in colours of deep red, orange and yellow? Or why you’re in the mood for a succulent oven roasted chicken with root vegetables in the icy months of Winter? It all ties back to eating seasonally. It is something nature has intended since the beginning of time.
Ritucharya is the Indian practice of ‘eating seasonally’. This custom helps break down what one should eat, according to the season, in order to maintain health and prevent disease. Ritucharya, although focusing on foods from the Indian subcontinent, pertains to everyone, no matter where you live.
John Douillard, a natural health, Ayurveda and sports medicine practitioner, announced that eating according to the seasons helps your body maintain, detoxify, and strengthen itself and its organs. This is because our bodies are interrelatedly linked to seasonal changes, and therefore, if we aren’t eating the ‘right’ foods at the ‘right’ time, our body can experience an imbalance in the form of a sickness. Douillards continues by stating that “Preparing foods seasonally is linked to the changing of our digestive strength, which takes place each season...” (Ragland, 2019). This is why eating foods that are ‘in-season’ is so vital!
You’ve understood by now that seasonal eating is better for your health, but you are probably wondering, how exactly? It’s simple! Foods harvested and consumed during their optimal season are more nutritionally dense. That is why they exist throughout that period of time during the year. An abundance of studies prove that eating seasonally has the most benefits for your health.
One study conveyed that broccoli exerts twice the amount of its Vitamin C content than out of season broccoli. Hence, food that is exported from abroad undergoes a lot of treatment, packaging and travel from the moment it is unstemmed, leading to immediate natural decomposition. This results in a loss of nutrients and freshness. Another study was done by researchers at the Research Center of Cancer of Hawaii, concluding that their mangoes contained 117% more Vitamin C than the amount found in their imported mangoes! What is the lesson you should take out of this, dear reader? Have fun with the wide complexity of fresh produce that becomes available to us each season!
What if you found out that each season comes with a designated colour you could base all your food off of? Below is a visual representation of each season and the colour of food it is associated with to make you enjoy seasonal eating to its fullest.
Colour: Green | Organs: Gallbladder and liver.
Seasonal produce: Eat fresh, lightly prepared greens. Spinach, chard, parsley, romaine lettuce, collard greens, kale, sprouts, seaweed, celery, chives, carrots, asparagus, broccoli, radishes, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, grapefruit, black beans, chicken, turkey, shrimp, chicken, eggs. (Ragland, 2019)
Colour: Red | Organs: Heart and small intestine. Late summer: Spleen and stomach.
Seasonal produce: Eat more raw foods and fresh fruit. Watermelon, apricots, peaches, cantaloupe, cucumber, bok choy, oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, corn, spinach, watercress, summer squash, mint, dill, cilantro, fish. (Ragland, 2019)
Colour: White | Organs: Lungs and large intestine.
Seasonal produce: Cut back on raw foods; eat more slow-cooked foods and soups. Sweet potatoes, onions, cabbage, mustard greens, garlic, leeks, bananas, plums, limes, lemons, apples, ginger, pears, eggs, yogurt, cheese, navy beans, soybeans, pork, walnuts, almonds, cinnamon, cardamom. (Ragland, 2019)
Colour: Black | Organs: Kidneys and bladder.
Seasonal produce: Slow-cook soups, broths and stews. Black beans, kidney beans, squash, potatoes, root vegetables, winter greens, carrots, celery, endive, escarole, cabbage, mushrooms, apples, pears, lamb, chicken, walnuts, seeds, roasted nuts, quinoa, oats, rye, barley, millet. (Ragland, 2019)
Just the same way that we change clothes according to the season, our dietary intake should also vary according to the season. Have fun and go explore all the fresh seasonal produce awaiting you which you didn’t even know existed. View your local farmer’s supermarket as a playground and eat, eat, EAT!