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Nature's menu rotates for a reason

By: Casey Seidenberg The Washington Post
October 10, 2017 Updated: October 10, 2017 at 4:15 am
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High Angle View of Various Comforting and Savory Gourmet Soups Served in Bread Bowls and Handled Dishes and Topped with Variety of Garnishes on Table Surface with Gray Tablecloth

My family is a seasonal cliché.

Last spring, we went on a cleaning frenzy and scrubbed out our garage, closets and pantry, giving away outgrown items and using up every can of beans and box of pasta we could. During the summer, we moved on to eating corn, tomatoes and watermelon almost every night, often staying up to watch the later sunset. And now that it is fall, we are gathered around college football games eating bowl after bowl of chili with scoop after scoop of guacamole on top.

These seasonal rituals have scientific reasons for these seasonal platitudes, and it is no surprise that nature provides us with the foods our bodies need each season.

In spring, people want to feel lighter after the heaviness of winter, sweaters and so much time indoors, so getting rid of unwanted items and reducing clutter is a no-brainer. The spring harvest brings us bitter greens such as arugula to detoxify our liver from the fats and heavier foods we ate all winter, also making us feel lighter.

In summer, we are more active, spend more time outdoors, and enjoy an extra hour or two of daylight, so our bodies require the added energy we get from the natural carbohydrates and sugars found in summer fruits and vegetables such as corn, peas, peaches, cantaloupe and strawberries. We also need more water when the temperatures rise, so liquid-rich foods such as watermelon and cucumbers sustain us.

As we begin to feel the crisp, cool air of fall and winter, our bodies crave fewer raw salads and more cooked, warming foods such as soups, stews, meats and avocados. The fall harvest begins with an abundance of apples, which are high in fiber and pectin to help cleanse the intestines and support digestion, specifically the digestion of fat.

This makes sense, as a winter diet contains foods higher in fats and protein such as meats and nuts. The cold winter air and wind dries out the earth, and our bodies can become dry, too, a sensation we feel in our throats and sinuses. To counteract the drying effects, we draw on nature's high-protein, high-fat diet in warm, heavy, oily foods that replenish our depleted moisture reserves. Bananas, avocados, beets, winter squash, nuts, meat, deep-sea fish and olive oil all help keep our bodies warm, moist and nourished. If we continue to eat only cooling foods, such as cucumbers, strawberries and melons, our sinuses can become unhealthily dry and more susceptible to colds and flus.

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