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Monday, March 17, 2008

A Food for Every Season

A Food for Every Season
By Feen Diane, eDiets Contributor


Eating seems like such an easy task. We buy the food, cook it, chew it and bingo -- we're done. We don't have to study it, examine its origin or talk to its parents.

Or so you think.

The truth is that eating takes a bit more work than just filling your shopping cart. In order to ensure optimum health and nutrition,it is best to eat certain foods in the spring, summer, winter and fall. Like clothing, our food needs to be changed appropriately when the thermometer goes up or down.

"By eating seasonally, you get fresher and more flavorful food. When we are nourished by fresh, local and seasonal foods, our bodies become in tune with the rhythm of our climate and we become stronger, more resistant to disease and healthier overall," said Maureen Whitehouse, author of Soul-Full Eating: A (Delicious!) Path to Higher Consciousness.

And it isn't just Whitehouse who is adamant about making sure seasonal food is on your plate. "Each of us has the opportunity to heal ourselves every day by eating what is local and seasonal. It may not be as interesting as something from another place, but it's what your cells are asking for -- you will find yourself eating less and feeling more satisfied if you eat this way," said Bethany Dalton-Kash, health food expert and founder of We Organic.

If you're wondering what constitutes seasonal eating, use this barometer. Winter foods should have a warming effect on the body; they should be dense, hot dishes that take a long time to cook and eat, said Dr. Rovenia Brock (Dr. Ro), nutritionist, speaker and author of Dr. Ro's Ten Secrets to Livin' Healthy.

According to Dr. Ro, in winter we should consume vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, leeks, onions, cabbage, carrots, parsnip, potatoes, turnips, winter squash, beets, broccoli, kale, mushrooms, rhubarb, radishes and garlic. Other good winter foods are shrimp, lobster, halibut, turkey, pork, beef, chicken, stews, soups, casseroles, roasts, slow-cooked bean or grain dishes, and nuts.

If you listen to what your body craves at different times of the year, you will notice you are in sync with the seasons. In the spring you will naturally crave green leafy vegetables (they are the gold standard for health, anyway) romaine and red leaf lettuce, arugula, Swiss chard and spices such as parsley, cilantro, basil and thyme. For summer you will want cooling foods like melons, watermelon, mango, papaya, berries, peaches, plums, and vegetables such as corn, summer squash, broccoli and cauliflower.

There are a few other reasons to eat seasonally -- which is often an offshoot of eating locally. "The second a piece of produce is picked, its nutrient concentrations begin to diminish -- including vitamins and phytochemicals. Consuming fresh produce out of season translates into two or more weeks between field and produce shelves, which compromises its nutritional value," said Dr. Ann Kulze, author of Dr. Ann's 10-Step Diet: A Simple Plan for Permanent Weight Loss and Lifelong Vitality.

Nutritionist Stella Metsovas has a more historical way of presenting the importance of seasonal eating. "In ancient times people believed eating seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables ward off sickness and optimize health," she says.

So does Dalton-Kash. As someone who grew up on a farm and worked in organic food settings all her life, Dalton- Kash advises people with serious health problems to seek out stores that sell what is grown locally and seasonally. "It is so important to find out where the food you eat is grown. When you do this you are in sync with the cellular structure of the food because it had to overcome the same things you have to overcome. The result is that it can heal you," she said.
Nutritionist Molly Morgan also advises taking seasonal eating one step further by purchasing food from local farms or farmer's markets. This trend toward eating local food is becoming more popular every day. "It is better for the earth and the environment if people learn to eat locally and seasonally - and it also supports small farmers in your region," said Morgan.

Another reason to stick with locally grown seasonal food is that the number of miles your food travels affects its freshness, quality and taste. It makes sense: If a person takes a 40-mile trip, he looks and feels better than if he drove 1,500 miles to another time zone. The same goes for the food we eat. That's why celebrated chef Clay Conley, from Azul in the Mandarin Oriental only uses seasonal foods. "It's important as a chef to be serving products at their absolute peak flavor. There is nothing more satisfying than eating a ripe peach in summer, green vegetables in spring and white truffles in November."

Dalton-Kash agrees. "The only time in my life I had to take medication to get over an illness was when I violated the principles of health. Eating locally and seasonally is one of the most important principles of health."

If you're having a hard time finding locally grown food, there are resources to help you. Check out LocalHarvest.org, International Co-operative Alliance and SeasonalChef.com.

Diane Feen is a writer, columnist and fashion editor living in South Florida. Her articles have appeared in the New York Post, New York Daily News, Woman's Wear Daily, Boca Raton News, The Sun Sentinel, Boca Raton Observer, Dwyer Magazine, etc.

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