Do you eat with the seasons?
We all know there are numerous reasons why we should eat with the seasons, but as we all lead such busy lives and rarely find time to cook fresh food, we probably don't as often as we may like.
Food is generally more local and therefore does not travel so far reducing the carbon footprint,
non seasonal food is often forced, thereby not obtaining the microbes required to reach its nutritious peak,
supports the local economy,
seasonal food is generally cheaper as we do not pay a premium for an item that has travelled many miles
to reconnect with nature and the seasonal cycles of fruit and vegetables
food is fresher, tastier and ultimately more nutritious
Why is eating with the seasons beneficial?
The natural cycle of fruit and vegetables supports our health, just as we wear thicker clothes in winter our dietary requirements change with the seasons. In winter we should be enjoying vitamin C rich foods, which as an antioxidant boosts our immune system to protect us from the colds and flu like symptoms that occur.(1)
As spring approaches we should avoid the starchy fruit and vegetables we have enjoyed in winter and add more vibrantly coloured food as it becomes available.
In summer we should include watermelon and cucumber for their high water content to help us maintain hydration in the heat, cool us down and boost fibre intake.
Eating seasonally enables our bodies to have access to a multitude of diverse bacteria which have huge health benefits.(2)
Seasonal food is fed by the soil, which in turn feeds our gut micro biome. Different plants require their own individual group of nutrients to survive, which for a healthy gut equates to as varied a diet as possible. As seasons change, the plants and the microbes in the soil change, both feeding off each other in a balanced reciprocal arrangement, providing nutrient rich soil and plants. (3)
Unfortunately, we have become out of touch with nature and the natural cycles of the seasons with regard to both fruit and vegetables and not least our own bodies. We rarely focus on the intense flavours and smell of an individual piece of food as we so often eat on the go, tasting nothing, just filling a hole to stop the hunger.
Processed food appears to have killed our taste buds due to their ridiculously high sugar levels and flavourings neither of which create a feeling of satiety. Blood sugar levels become imbalanced leading to us craving more sugar a couple of hours later, and so the cycle begins.Weight gain normally follows which often leads to one of the modern diseases developing that are now so prevalent in our society. (4)
We know the micro biome contains about 39 trillion bacteria and we have also studied the effect a western diet has on health. (5) For example different strains of bacteria appear to influence the ease with which some of us may lose weight and others may not. (6)
A 2014 study comparing the DNA of members of the Hadza tribe, from Kenya, with people from Bologna found huge differences between their biome diversity. The Hadza tribe had a much wider assortment, including some strains that were missing or very rare in the Europeans. Neither do the Hadza tribe suffer from any of our modern diseases.(7)
They also found that as the diet of the Hadza tribe changed from summer to winter, so did the structure of their biome.
The strains of bacteria found in the Hadza tribe are extremely rare in westernised diets, but may indicate what our biome looked like before the advent of man made food.
In a recent study in America, they found that microbes in the gut actually degraded their own mucosa as they fed on the carbohydrates in the gut wall rather than fibre, which was lacking from their diet. So if you are not eating enough fibre your gut bacteria will feed on you.(8).
Obviously much more research of micro biomes from around the world is required, but there is a case for eating as diverse a diet as possible, increasing fibre and reducing processed carbohydrates. To endeavour to enjoy optimal health, and a happy, diverse micro biome it may be best to stay in tune with nature.
1) Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI
2) Claire Georgiou, Reboot Naturopath, B.HSc ND
4) JENNIFER MARQUEZ June 16, 2015 https://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20929224,00.html