Integrative Nutrition Blog

Eating with the Seasons: Winter

February 28, 2018

Image via Shutterstock.

Eating seasonally can help the economy, the environment, and your health.

It’s easy to eat seasonally in the summer when farmers’ markets are filled with gorgeous greens and beautiful berries. But a lot of people forget about eating seasonally in the winter, perhaps because there tends to be less variety available. 

Many ancient and holistic medical traditions, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, view seasonal eating as the cornerstone to good health, both physically and emotionally. Foods from particular seasons can help the body meet season-specific challenges, such as winter colds and flus.

Today we can eat tropical fruits in the middle of January quite easily thanks to large supermarkets and mass agricultural transport, but before this was the norm, we ate food as nature produced it.

Eating seasonally means that you get the best-tasting, healthiest food available. The nutrient density of fruits and vegetables begins to decline as soon as they’re harvested, so buying locally and in season means you’re getting fruits and vegetables that haven't had time to lose their flavor or health benefits by sitting in a shipping container for a trip across the ocean.

Top winter produce includes:

  • Cabbage
  • Beets
  • Winter squash
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Parsnips
  • Celeriac

It’s believed that the energetics of food can also have an impact on us, both physically and mentally. The roots of any plant are its anchor and foundation – they are the essential parts that support and nourish the plant. Many feel that root vegetables lend these properties to us when we eat them, making us feel grounded and rooted.

Eating seasonally also has environmental benefits. When you buy what’s in season, you buy food at the peak of its supply and that costs less to farmers and distribution companies to harvest and get to your grocery store. It may seem like common sense, but it’s something many of us ignore while shopping.

It’s so easy to get stuck in a cooking rut during the colder, darker months. If you feel like you’re eating the same few meals on rotation, here are some steps you can take to see you through the winter:

  • Go to your local farmers’ markets or grocery store and pick an intimidating ingredient. You may just discover a new pantry or refrigerator staple.
  • Treat yourself to a new cookbook and host a dinner party or check out Pinterest for some winter recipes and organize a potluck.
  • Take a cooking class – a good instructor can teach you new techniques and open your eyes to produce and flavor pairings you’ve never imagined. 

Cooking methods should also be taken into account during each season. Cooked food is easier to digest, so the energy that would have been used for digestion can now be available for other functions, like warming the body.

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