The Importance Of Seasonal Eating
Part Two of the New Nutrition Series
In the Introduction To The New Nutrition Series I explained why the ‘standard’ approach to nutrition is greatly to blame for an overweight, unhappy, and unhealthy world. I went on to give an overview of what new, (or true) nutrition is all about, stating five ways in which new nutrition wins out. Part One is where I delved into more detail on the first of those five points – namely how to transform your body by balancing your hormonal system.
Today I’ll further explore my second point, which is:
“That true traditional nutritional wisdom is based in part on seasonal eating, and that from an evolutionary point of view we wouldn’t have been able to eat fresh fruit, vegetables and grains all year round, so why do it now?”
If you’ve never come across this concept before then you’re probably thinking something like: “Seasonal Eating? What The? Does that mean I only get to eat at certain times of year?!”
Well, kinda …
Seasonal eating is just what it sounds. In fact, even if you thought you’d never heard of it before, it’s quite likely that you already follow the concept to an extent. After all, we all know to buy fruits and veg when they are in season. It’s cheaper, and they taste better. Common sense, right? You may even already realise that the in season foods are healthier. After all, the reason they taste so good is that they are chock full of nutrients.
So why don’t we take things any further than just choosing the fresher, more colourful fruits and vegetables? Have you ever really thought about what it means that fresh, carbohydrate based foods are far more readily available in Summer than in Winter?
Here’s a crazy idea. What if we were to truly start eating according to the foods that nature (as opposed to agriculture and supermarkets) provides for us all year round? Reality is, there was a time when the human race had no choice but to do this. And funnily enough, in those days no-one had even heard of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, eating disorders … Food was about fuel, and fuel was about hunting, foraging and gathering and eating what nature provided, not what you ‘just had to have’ at 3 in the afternoon.
Let me paint you an idea of you as a hunter-gatherer:
- In Summertime you’d be surrounded by plenty of fresh fruits, colorful veggies, and an abundance of whole grains. Meat, fat and fresh fish would also be available, and you’d certainly enjoy them most days, but with all the lush fresh produce around, you’d probably focus mainly on plant-based fuel.
- Come Autumn you’d notice that the land was not being quite so generous and that fresh carbohydrate supply was starting to dwindle. As a result you’d eat whatever was available, but the lack of abundant plant life would lead to a rumbly belly and force you to invest a little extra energy in hunting for tasty game meat, as well as the few nuts, seeds and berries that were starting to pop up.
- By the time Winter hit, your main source of carbohydrate would be the nuts, seeds and berries that were starting to become more plentiful. You’d be out hunting meat whenever you got a chance, but would accept the fact that most animals have gone into a hibernation of sorts by now, and that there’s just not much food around. This, coupled with the shorter days, and chilly nights, would mean you’d initiate your own hibernation period, sleeping up to 15 hours per day. As a result you really wouldn’t need that much food to keep you going. Besides, you’d have a nice layer of blubber to feed off – the natural and necessary result of your summer carb-fest.
- After a while the days would start to change. Morning would wake you a little sooner, and with dew on the grass and new life abounding, you’d notice a new spring in your step. Spring. The time of new life for man, plant and animal. Time to become a little more active, to sleep a bit less, and to invest greater activity into your foraging. Your food intake would naturally start to transition from predominantly protein/fat back to a slightly higher carb intake.
Hmmm, I’m almost starting to wish I did live on the land, how about you?! Especially if it meant 15 hours sleep a night during Winter, right? Unfortunately, most of us don’t really have that option. I know I’ve never really spent more than the occasional long weekend living on the land. And I can’t remember the last time during a normal work week that I slept longer than 7, max 8, hours. The truth is that for most of us even outdoorsy activities or camping trips mean we’re surrounded by bountiful tinned foods, sweet goodies, and a slab or two of alcohol. Not so seasonal, I’m thinking.
In our modern world, where it’s effectively ‘always Summer’, because supermarket shopping ensures the carbs never run out, it can be easy to forget that our bodies have evolved over hundreds of years, and thatour physiology has not changed much in that time. Now I’m not saying you have to get back to nature and start running around town with a loincloth and spear in hand (although that might be entertaining and certainly give me a heads up if you plan to do so!) But that’s not to say you can’t benefit from applying some of the eating habits of our ancestors.
But Is Seasonal Eating Really Worth The Hassle?
Short answer: yes. Absolutely. Your body is designed to store fat during Summer. This is in order to keep you alive during the leaner, colder months. Eating carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables and grains is appropriate at this time of year, and will ensure you receive important nutritional variety in your diet. But yes, it can also mean you gain weight. Regardless of whether you exercise (I’m guessing you don’t spend the entire day hunting and gathering – now that would be a good level of activity!)
Now I want you to stop for just a moment and consider what I’ve just shared with you.
Have you had the ‘lightbulb’ moment yet?
If eating plenty of fresh carbs helps your body plan for survival by storing fat more effectively, doesn’t it make sense that eating great quantities carbs all year round – tricking your body into believing it’s experiencing a perpetual Summer – would mean you’d be storing fat all year round? And unless you’re planning a six month jaunt to Alaska, where you’ll sleep the days away and then feast on fish and blubber to keep you warm while your body burns through that stored energy, then what on earth are you storing all that ‘insulation’ for?!
And, even more importantly, when are you going to give your body a chance to burn all that energy off? Believe me, 30 or 40 minutes of cardio here and there is not going to cut it! Let’s face facts. We don’t live on the land, most of us are lucky to squeeze in half an hour of exercise each day, and we’re not ‘forced’ by nature to eat only what’s available. So it IS going to take a bit of effort and willpower to match your eating habits to your true needs. But wouldn’t you say it’s worth it? Don’t you deserve to at least give it a go? To give yourself half a chance to feel and look your best?
You only have one life – living, looking and feeling ‘incredible’ is a daily choice made up of so many factors, and sometimes it can be incredibly tough. In my mind, seasonal eating is one of the most simple, and certainly the smartest ways to take advantage of the way your body is designed to operate. Are you willing to give it a go?
Remember – Life is Now. Press Play.
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