This article was originally published on ProHealth in September 2013.
Fall happens to be my favorite season of the year. Spring is lovely, summer is joyous. And, of course, winter is the season of calm and peace.
Fall to me, is the season of anticipation. I love the crisp feeling of the air tinged with a bit of chill. Throwing on a sweater in the evening is a welcomed change of pace. It’s probably my Midwestern upbringing, but fall makes me think of pumpkins, zucchini, squash, apples, trick or treating and marching band practice. Okay, maybe that last part is just me.
Fall is the season to embrace a slower pace – a time to relax, reflect, and restore. For those with fibromyalgia and other chronic health challenges, fall may be the season to organize and implement your yearly self-care plans. It’s a time to review the year prior as well as anticipate and design your desired year ahead.
And what’s the first item to review at the top of your self-care list? Food!
When it comes to self-care, eating foods that nourish, support, and fuel your body with nutrient-dense, fiber-rich, whole and natural foods is a primary step. Do you find yourself craving foods that make you feel warm and cozy this time of year?
Increased cravings for fall foods made from harvest fruits and vegetables may seem like a simple reminder of your upbringing. But actually, these cravings are much more primal.
The body naturally craves foods that come to
their peak of ripeness in that season.
It’s easy to understand that seasonal eating is better for the environment. When foods are purchased locally, the carbon footprint has less impact from transportation, fuel, air pollution, etc. Of course, eating seasonally is better for the budget, too. Foods that are in season are typically more abundant and on sale. And, eating locally grown produce supports the surrounding agricultural community and economy.
But here’s the interesting part about the physical benefits of eating foods that are in season. We are geared, naturally, to crave foods that prepare us for the seasons to come. The study of ancient ayurvedic practices explains that foods have warming or cooling properties meant to work with the body to keep it in balance. Here are a few fundamental tips on eating seasonally:
In SUMMER, we enjoy crops such as cucumbers, tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, snow peas, summer squash, berries, grapes, peaches, plums, watermelon, etc. Warmer weather naturally suppresses appetite, so summer vegetables and fruits taste light yet contain nutrients that provide an abundance of energy and vitality. These foods are naturally cooling to the body.
In FALL, we enjoy the harvest of multiple varieties of squash, zucchini, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, whole grains, apples, and nuts. These foods help us retain our warmth and prepare us for the cold weather ahead. We usually prepare them in soups, stews, or roasted rather than the fresh, raw foods of summer.
In WINTER, we continue with the fall foods and include others to help us store healthy proteins and fats. Foods rich in Omega 3’s (salmon, sardines, mackerel, flax seeds, walnuts, etc.) are important as well as healthy fats such as avocados, and fermented foods (cabbage, etc.).
In SPRING, we enjoy lighter foods such as tender young greens – collards, spinach, shoots, micro sprouts, and a wide variety of lettuces. These foods provide a natural detoxification effect for the body as the seasons change. Consuming salads with spring greens naturally eliminates unnecessary weight and toxins that may have been stored in the colder months.
So what fall foods appeal to you?
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Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Who's Got the Pumpkin?
Pumpkin usually comes to mind for most. Pumpkin and I share a checkered past. You could say I’ve had a love-hate-love relationship with it. Thankfully, pumpkin is back into my good graces.
About 13 years ago, our family rescued an adorable sheltie pup who happened to be morbidly obese. She could barely move and it was devastating to see her disabled by her poor health. The rescue shelter gave us a strict puppy food plan to follow and we were more than a little bit surprised at the ingredients. The diet? It was pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling), cooked green beans, and a tiny bit of kibble.
I soon learned that the pumpkin puree provided an abundance of antioxidants and vital nutrients, the green beans added needed fiber, and the kibble, included a bit of crunch.
It wasn’t long before our 46 pound walrus of a dog turned into a svelte and healthy 21 pound pup. Her health transformation was astonishing and well worth my temporary aversion to pumpkin.
Pumpkin isn’t just for pets, of course. Besides pumpkin soups, it can be cooked and added to stews, chili, and a variety of foods for added nutritional punch. Why not try out this Pumpkin Turkey Chili recipe to warm up the kids before trick-or-treating? Even the pumpkin seeds (often called pepitas) can be made into a Tasty Pepita Treat for the whole family.
How to Find Seasonal Foods
Finding locally grown foods is easier now than ever. Search websites such as the Sustainable Table to find seasonal foods in your area.
Make your shopping experience simple with the help of your phone or tablet. There’s no shortage of healthy food apps to download. Try these free options or choose some of the paid apps as well: InSeason, EatLocal, and Locavore.
In all that you do, enjoy the anticipation of this restorative season. What healthy plans can you envision for the year ahead? Putting your mealtime plans into action in the months ahead will assure you of a vibrant future.
Sue Ingebretson (www.RebuildingWellness.com) is an author, speaker, certified holistic health care practitioner and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. She is also a Patient Advocate/Fibromyalgia Expert for the Alliance Health website and a Fibromyalgia editor for the ProHealth website community.
Her #1 Amazon best-selling chronic illness book, FibroWHYalgia, details her own journey from chronic illness to chronic wellness. She is also the creator of the FibroFrog™– a therapeutic stress-relieving tool which provides powerful healing benefits with fun and whimsy.