Spring is my favorite time of year! These first warm, sweet smells in the air lift my spirits like nothing else, especially after a cold, dark winter in the Berkshires. As a nutritionist, I’m also reminded of the abundance and healing power of nature: for, there is no other way to be more connected to the natural environment than to eat it!
With every change of season, those of us who try to eat local, whole food notice the changes in the food supply. The local produce that’s available this time of year in the Northeast is in stark contrast to the heavy, warming foods of winter. Nature has infinite wisdom, and when we eat locally, in tune with the seasons, our bodies benefit. This is the “diet” we can all follow. You don’t need a nutritionist to tell you this — just listen to your intuition, and you will find yourself craving the lighter, cooling, and cleansing foods of spring. Traditional medicine around the world is rooted in this idea that balance within comes from the balance we have with the world around us.
Because spring is about rebirth, this is the time of year when I renew my commitment to optimizing health through food and lifestyle. I am motivated not only to do some spring cleaning around my house, but also to look within and shake out the inner cobwebs. I take a break from my winter comforts of lattes and chocolate, and search out the new, fresh foods available like spring mixed greens, peas, cucumbers, and asparagus that delight my senses and literally cleanse my body. I increase my intake of plant foods, especially those from the cruciferous family like cauliflower, cabbage, and kale because of their known benefit in supporting detoxification through the liver. I make weekend visits to farmers markets and farm stands, which here in the Berkshires start popping up in May. I do an Internet search of the local “You –Pick Farms” and plan a visit to pick strawberries with my daughter. Anticipating the crops of the next season is what truly makes people excited about REAL food and creating the least amount of environmental impact.
Now that the bite in the winter air has left, I take advantage of the longer days and step up my exercise routine. I’m no longer dreading my dark morning runs, now I feel a rush of excitement to get out. Just being outside brings me peace of mind: it’s my best therapy. And there’s nothing like a good sweat from a meditative run or walk to complement the cleansing power of food!
So, if some of my spring fever has rubbed off onto you, I invite you to join me in dedicating an upcoming week or even a few days to jump-start your spring cleaning, from the inside out. Find a friend or family member to team up with for support and to make it more fun. The 4 steps below encompass a good spring cleaning!
Seek out and prepare more local, seasonal foods. Your options will vary depending on the region you live in. Ask around and do a little research. You will find there are many resources that support the local movement. Start at a local health food store or Coop. Also, refer to the resources and recipes I’ve listed below.
Make an effort to eat more meals that consists of WHOLE foods. Always remember two main points when determining if a food is whole. It has one ingredient: itself. And, very little if anything has been done to it since it was harvested.
Put some time aside to plan your exercise and outdoor activities. Aim for at least 30 minutes of daily movement! Here’s where the buddy system can be extra helpful, and I find writing in a journal or exercise log very useful in keeping me on track.
Commit to at least 15 minutes each day to cleansing and calming your mind. There is no one way or right way to do this. Explore what works for you. Whether you choose a formal meditation in the morning or evening, or perhaps take a few minutes at various times throughout the day to enjoy deep belly breaths and just be in the moment. I find this helpful to do before meals: I love to eat and taking some calming, deep breaths before I eat help me to slow down and remember to have an attitude of gratitude. I give thanks for the local food I have access to, for how it connects me to the world around me, and for the health it brings me.
Happy and Healthy Spring!
Spring Produce in the Northeast with Nutritional Highlights
Asparagus: great source of folate and potassium, high vitamin C and other antioxidants in the stalks
Spinach: very rich source of vitamin K, folate, and iron along with antioxidants vitamin C and E
Young leafy greens: good source of vitamin A and C
Arugula: part of the cruciferous family, high in phytonutrients that support detox via the liver
Cherries: good source of fiber and vitamin C, high in anthocyaninis – a phytochemical shown to reduce inflammation
Chives and Scallions: part of the allium family like onions: contain thio-sulfinite compounds — excellent for detox, blood vessel health, and circulation
Strawberries: excellent source of vitamin C, Potassium, and folate. Like most berries, they are a very rich source of antioxidants in the diet.
Bok Choy: very good source of vitamin A, C, K and B6, folate, and potassium. Part of the cruciferous family so therefore a good liver support
Cucumbers: anti- inflammatory properties along with good source of antioxidants. In Chinese medicine, cucumbers are very cooling to the body, great when the weather gets warmer.
Cabbage: part of the super cruciferous family with compounds like glucosinolates that support liver detoxification
Beets: have unique compounds shown to support a phase of detoxification in the liver that is critical for proper removal of toxins in the body.
Resources to support local foods:
Just Food: www.justfood.org – organization in New York City for local farms for city residents
The Locavore Way: Discover and Enjoy the Pleasures of Locally Grown Food by Amy Cotler