Spring has officially sprung here in the northern hemisphere and that means time to adjust our diet! But what are the best foods to eat for spring? We got you covered.
For at least the past 4,000 years, Ayurveda has been preaching that we should eat with the following guidelines:
· Locally (and this assumes organic wherever possible, in our humble opinion)
· For any imbalance that is presenting itself
We know most of y’all reading this are ‘broads of a certain age’, and you’ll find this topic is a bit more general. In other words—everyone can benefit. Let’s see what some of the best foods for spring are, and how to make good choices for what to put on your plate.
Foods for Spring and a Healthy Biome
Over the past 10 to 15 years, as more studies and research are being done on the human gut microbiome, science is validating the Ayurvedic wisdom that seasonal eating is key to keeping our biome healthy.
Certain microbes dominate during certain times of year. For example, during the summer when more complex carbohydrates and produce are naturally available, there is a surge in carbohydrate-digesting bacteria in our gut. Likewise, other distinct strains of bacteria increase in the winter when fats are more readily available and our consumption of healthy fats increases.
Consider the humble tomato. A fruit (or is it a vegetable?? Lol) that is easily grown in most states and bursting with flavor in the summer season.
Take pause before eating those candy-apple-red tomatoes from the produce section in the middle of December. It’s an ecological nightmare! The water consumption, overuse of plastic and pesticides, as well as the fuel cost and carbon footprint of importing. We will do our internal biome—as well as the external environment—an enormous service if we’d learn to grow more of our own foods.
The best way to get your microbiome back on track (aside from growing your own)?
Support your local farmer’s market.
Is Ayurveda the Original Ancestral Diet?
The paleo/ancestral diet trends are all the talk right now, so let’s take a quick look at whether, and how, our ancestors shifted their diets with the seasons.
Spring was typically a time of famine, which sounds kind of extreme, but it was—dare we say IS—a time when there isn’t an overabundance of foods naturally available to us. This is one of the two times during the year in which we Live-Your-Age-Babes are drawn to participating in an Ayurvedic cleanse. This involves eating a simple mono-diet of kitchari for several days at a time, giving the GI system a break. In other words, think of it as an Ayurvedic spring cleaning.
Feasting for Fall, Fasting for Spring
With minimal natural abundance, perhaps Ma Nature is sending us a signal that it’s time to release winter’s weight and lighten the eff up. She’s not providing us with an enormous variety of foods right now, so if we’re striving to sync our bodies to the rhythms of nature, then we’d leave the feasting for the months of harvest and bounty, which are late summer and fall, and the fasting for the months of spring. (We hesitate to use the term fasting for fear of triggering anyone into disordered eating, but if you’ve listened to the pod, you’ll get our drift!)
So WTH am I Supposed to Eat for Spring?
In Ayurvedic terminology, spring is synonymous with kapha season. For example, the earth and water elements that dominate kapha dosha result in qualities that are heavy, dense, thick, cold, damp … think snowpack or mud. This is the time of year to favor light, dry, warm foods that are well spiced and relatively easy to digest.
Let’s break it down by the six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, astringent
Modern science is catching up to what Ayurveda has been preaching for years—that what we taste has a direct impact on how we feel. In fact, “Nutritional Psychology” is a burgeoning field in the US. Take a look at this article from Harvard Health!
For spring, we are seeking the tastes that will tighten, absorb excess fluids, and stoke our internal pilot light. We are looking for bitter, astringent, and pungent, respectively. These three tastes hold the flavors and qualities that bring balance to kapha, and therefore kapha time of year.
Let’s identify where you can bring these three tastes into your meals.
The bitter taste is light and dry. We know of ‘bitters’ being an ingredient or product that supports digestion. It also absorbs moisture (great for reducing excess mucous) and cleanses the palette. Bitter shows up in dandelion greens, olives, black tea, dark-dark-dark chocolate, artichokes, and a variety of lettuces. The most beautiful kales and chards are showing up right now.
Astringent also has the qualities of being light and dry which is precisely what we are looking for to counter kapha’s heavy, wet nature. Astringency absorbs fluids. Think about the difference between a lemon drop and a walnut, or the tannins of wine. Your cheeks draw in and pucker, but your mouth dries up. As opposed to a sourball which floods your mouth with saliva.
Astringent shows up on your plate as legumes and beans, unripe bananas (versus a ripe banana which is much, much sweeter), in addition to pomegranates, broccoli, Brussel’s sprouts. And green tea.
The pungent taste is hot, light, and spicy. (Have you picked up on the common denominator yet? Each of these tastes carries the quality of being light.) The pungent taste stimulates digestion, encourages sweating, opens your senses, and liquefies secretions. From the Ayurvedic perspective, this heat is said to clear the channels of the body. Consider your body’s response to a mouthful of wasabi—wowza! It clears the respiratory channels and nasal passages for sure. You’ll find the pungent taste in your hot, aromatic spices, like garlic, onion, ginger, cloves, cayenne, and turmeric. And in radishes and mustard greens.
What to Reduce…
We always suggest eliminating or at least significantly reducing dairy during the spring. Think back to living in sync with nature. For those who are living close to the earth—farmers and ranchers in particular—spring is calving season. Let’s leave the milk for the baby cows. Ditch the dairy for a month or two and see how your head clears. And your skin. And your congestion.
Additionally, avoid foods that are overly sour and salty. And definitely lighten up on heavy, sweet foods. Most meats and desserts usually fall into this category. Lay off your meat consumption for a bit, and substitute with legumes and beans if you’re concerned about getting enough protein. And say goodbye to daily desserts for a couple months.
It’s okay to have an occasional sweet treat, but the holidays are over. Time to give your body a break.
In conclusion, begin hanging around your local farmer’s market. Focus on the fruits, vegetables, and grains that are naturally available to you in your region, and let the tastes that are on your plate be a guide for finding the right fruits, veggies, and grains.
When in doubt, we suggest heeding the words of Michael Pollen:
Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much.
Bon appetite, babes!
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