You may have heard a health professional or top chef recommend to eat seasonal produce or eat with the season. Unlike many diet trends, this is actually an useful habit as there are many reasons why it is beneficial.
Fruits and vegetables in-season will taste better and have more nutrients since they are fresh. They will also be less expensive. Buying produce out of season usually means the item has been shipped from far away, which reduces the quality and negatively impacts the environment.
In deer, for instance, they instinctively eat leaves in the summer and bark from trees in the winter. If they were to eat bark in the summer, they would actually die as the enzyme to digest it is only available in their system during the cold months.
It is important to realize how drastically our food supply and the availability of food has changed over the past 50-75 years. Our natural digestive rhythms and abilities have not changed in keeping with our external world.
So, what would we naturally eat in the summer? If you were paying attention to your hunger cues, you may have noticed during the spring that you were less hungry and wanted lighter meals than you did throughout the fall and winter. Many people mention wanting to go on a cleanse or change their diet as the weather warms up. This is actually a wise intuition. Whereas we crave heavy and fatty foods in the winter to provide extra insulation and warmth, our bodies look to lighten things up in the spring and summer. Our digestive strength is actually weaker this time of the year, so you may notice you get more reflux or a heavy feeling eating foods that would not bother you other times of the year.
Pay attention to your own body signals, but most people will tend to do well basing their diet off of fresh fruits and vegetables with some light grains and protein sources to balance it out. Think about eating foods that leave you feeling light and cool, like salads and fresh vegetable juice, more often. Heavy, fatty foods like meat, nuts and warm grains are usually what we crave and need more of in the winter.
Summer is a great time to eat seasonally because a large variety of fruits and vegetables are in season. Cucumbers, bell peppers, beets, zucchini, corn, garlic, radishes and carrots are a few great vegetable options. Cherries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, peaches, tomatoes, melons, lemons, limes, plums and nectarines are all great seasonal fruit choices.
Start paying attention to what your body--not your mind--is actually craving. If you’re craving ice cream in the summer, it is likely because you want something light and refreshing. Fresh fruit sorbets or frozen grapes could be a healthier alternative. Check out a local farmers market to find out what is in season in your area and try something new. Most of the farmers will provide great cooking ideas as well.