The phrase, "Winter is coming!" brings dread for some, as well as excitement for others. The cues from nature that we receive are brilliant at helping us to adjust, and it is important to pay attention to them. Food has a lot to do with these cues in order to function optimally and keep us healthy. In this day and age of easily accessible food from all over the world, year round, we can forget how important it is to eat seasonally, locally, and mindfully for our health. Here are some gentle guidelines:
Our bodies have adapted brilliantly to the cues from nature for getting all that we can from the nutrients in our food.
- For instance, spring and summer fruits and vegetables are high in sodium and low in potassium. When we eat an abundance of these foods, the sodium-to-potassium ratio sends a signal to our bodies that we must be in Spring/Summer where sunlight levels are highest, therefore, there is plentiful access to vitamin D so the body doesn't have to store as much.
- Conversely, root vegetables are higher in potassium and lower in sodium, and that higher potassium-to-sodium ratio in our diets tells our bodies that we are in Autumn/Winter when sunlight levels are lowest, and therefore it needs to store vitamin D.
- The best way to explain this concept is to compare apples and bananas, which contain similar amounts of vitamin C (otherwise I would have used the aphorism "comparing apples and oranges," but oranges have about ten times the amount of vitamin C found in apples or bananas). Now let's consider the two individuals - one from Canada, and one from the Tropics. Even though the available vitamin C content is similar in both fruits, the person from Canada will biologically absorb more vitamin C from the apple, whereas the person from the Tropics will more easily absorb the vitamin C from the banana. Bodies naturally adapt to get the most nutritional value from local foods.
- Eating locally is also good for the environment as the production and shipping costs of bringing in food from far away is drastically reduced. Local food is fresher, and nutritionally better as most tropical food is picked green and left to ripen in containers transported thousands of miles to their destination.
- Sure, it's nice to have a banana once in a while or some strawberries from California in the winter months, but consider these as treats. In York Region, we are surrounded by great agricultural richness, and Farmer's Markets are plentiful. Autumn is harvest time, and traditionally the time to make "preserves" for the long, cold, dark winter months when the smell of fresh apple pie baking on a blustery day fills the Soul as well as the stomach.
- There is a difference between good food, and food that is good for you. Making better choices at the grocery store and in meal preparation goes a long way in improving your health and vitality. Working with a naturopathic doctor to investigate food intolerances and ways of eating is an excellent way of optimizing your nutrition.
- Fad diets come and go but learning to choose the foods that work best with you and your constitution and ways to eat them are the cornerstone of optimal wellness. "You are what you eat," is more than just a catchy slogan. It is the truth.
- Having nearly twenty years of experience as a naturopathic doctor has made this point clear to me time and again. I've even seen it said, that every bite of food you put into your mouth is either medicine or poison. I like to take a more moderate approach in helping to empower my patients to consistently make better choices, armed with a whole lot of information.
- Another important consideration in eating consciously is eating mindfully. Because when we take the time to truly enjoy our food, savouring each bite and flavour, the truth is we become satiated faster and tend not to overeat. Chewing our food starts the whole digestion process in the mouth, making food easier to digest and nutrients more easily absorbed. But the truth is, digestion really begins with our eyes and noses - the sight and smells of yummy food starts the whole digestion process by getting our digestive system ramped up and excited for the nutrition we're about to ingest!
- Being thankful for the food we eat, taking a moment to acknowledge the numerous lives and labours that have combined to bring this food to our table so that we may be nourished is important, even if we only acknowledge it privately before tucking into a great meal. Although, I've yet to see a cook/chef balk at being thanked for preparing a meal.
To book an appointment with Dr. Denis Marier, ND, MA to talk about how you can be making more personalized and better nutritional choices and ways of eating, call the clinic at 905.940.272 or email me at email@example.com.