Eating with the Seasons: Summer Edition
Your grocery store may have strawberries in October. But if you live north of the equator, chances are that these strawberries are not local, and they are not seasonal.
When you decide to eat with the seasons, you make a conscious choice to only pick those foods that the season naturally produces. Fruits and vegetables are at their peak, both in flavor and in availability. This may mean sweet gourds in the fall, hearty greens in the winter, and berries in the summer.
Fresh summer berries have a naturally cooling and cleansing effect. Even better, they will support the body with antioxidants to protect against free radical damage.
As it turns out, the human body—like the natural world around it—naturally changes with the seasons. You may not notice these changes at first. But with summer in full swing, you may find that:
- It is harder to fall asleep or stay asleep.
- You feel mentally restless or irritable.
- You feel dizzy more often, and your blood pressure is higher than normal.
- Signs of irritable bowel or gut distress show up more often.
- You experience more frequent urinary tract infections.
- A day out in the sun triggers a herpes breakout or a flare-up of acne.
Chinese medicine tells us that we can prevent disease before it begins by using seasonal foods to balance the body.
According to Leona West, a certified nutritionist, herbalist, and functional medicine practitioner, summer is the perfect time to cleanse.
Cooling Foods for Summertime Heat
Leona explains that, “The body is naturally more fortified during the summer, so we can focus on cooling and cleansing foods. It’s the time to eat less and focus on brighter and moisture-rich foods.”
Cooling foods bring water to the body. They guide heat out of the body. And they flood the body with antioxidants that help to prevent free radical damage.
Maybe it is no mistake that summer is notorious for ripe, juicy fruits—exactly what the body needs as temperatures begin to soar.
Leona explains that this is, “Our opportunity to not only cleanse, but nourish with all these antioxidant and nutrient-dense foods that come out during the summer. It helps to strengthen our immune system as we roll into the fall and winter.”
Fortunately, many of these summer fruits are allowed on Stage 1 of the Body Ecology Diet.
Fruits to look out for this summer season include:
- Berries, like strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries
- Granny Smith apples
When it comes to vegetables that are at their peak during summer, Leona emphasizes the cleansing value of vegetables.
She suggests that we pay special attention to:
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower
- Cucumber and summer squash
- Fresh salad greens
If you like incorporating fresh herbs in your salads or blended smoothies, Leona recommends using peppermint, spearmint, or cilantro.
The Dirty Dozen
You can buy local. You can buy organic. And you can buy seasonal. But what does each label mean? And—when it comes to your health and the health of your family—what should you really focus on?
Many seasonal summertime fruits and vegetables are also on a list called the Dirty Dozen. The Dirty Dozen is a list compiled by the Environmental Working Group. It includes 12 fruits and vegetables that have been tested to have the most pesticide residues.
The Dirty Dozen are:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Hot peppers
- Nectarines, imported
- Sweet bell peppers
The list has since been expanded to include kale, collard greens, and summer squash in the Dirty Dozen Plus.
Leona explains that when it comes to the Dirty Dozen, “You really want to emphasize organic fruits. This is the time to get them organic, they are available and the price is reasonable.”
And the best time to take advantage of farmer’s markets—which sell local, seasonal, and organic produce—is during the summer.
The Power of Sun Teas
If you enjoy herbal teas, Leona encourages homemade sun teas. “Sun teas are such a great thing to make during the summer, because you don’t want to heat up the house. You can make a really nutritionally dense tea. A really great sun tea is a nettle mint combination.”
For example, Leona explains that using nettle during the summertime is “a great way for a lot of people to mediate allergies. It has a neutral to cooling effect.”
The sun tea she recommends for her patients that have summer allergies consists of nettle, chrysanthemum, and mint.
Sun Tea Recipe:
- Add 1 tablespoon of each herb to cheesecloth. If using fresh mint, add a handful to the cheesecloth or metal tea ball.
- Tie cheesecloth and place into a 2-quart clear glass container filled with water.
- Set your brew out in the sun for at least 2 hours. Better yet, set the tea out in the morning and bring it back indoors at sunset.
Leona West is certified as a Nutritionist, Herbalist, Fitness Trainer, and Birth Doula practicing at the Santa Monica Wellness Group in California.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
When you eat with the seasons, you can enjoy naturally produced fruits and vegetables in peak flavor and availability. Just like the natural world, the human body changes with the seasons. You may feel more restless or dizzy in the summer; you may also experience frequent urinary tract infections or irritable bowel flare-ups.
According to Chinese medicine, you can support your health by eating seasonally to balance the body. Cooling foods are a perfect remedy for summertime temperatures to move heat out of the body. The body can cleanse and rejuvenate to strengthen the immune system for fall and winter seasons.
Recommended summer fruits and vegetables include berries, cherries, cucumbers, summer squash, and fresh salad greens. Fresh herbs like spearmint, cilantro, and peppermint can be incorporated into summer dishes. Summer is also the perfect time to make homemade herbal sun tea for a potent dose of nutrients; nettle, mint, and chrysanthemum sun tea can be used to combat summer allergies.