Winter is here and brings with it shorter days, colder temperatures and, in many climates, less sunshine. It also seems to bring a fair number of holidays that are all about food. Rich, warming, heavier food to be exact. This falls right in line with the concept of seasonal eating; when the temperatures go down our bodies may require more energy (food) to help maintain core temperature. The shorter days can also lead to less energy emotionally; some people even struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a mood disorder based in reduced exposure to sunshine. For optimal health we should be eating seasonally; we should enjoy, in moderation, those nourishing, warming foods in order to nourish ourselves, grounding and restoring our system as we rebuild for the coming spring.
Yet because of the palate of heavy, rich foods, because of over-indulgences in our diet, many people are tempted to engage in a detox as part of their New Year's Resolution. The media often further supports this by publishing diets that feature juices or fasting. Unfortunately these are cleansing strategies that can cool the body, further depleting it rather than allowing it to rest and prepare for the following season.
The following tips will help you to nourish now and be prepared to detox later, in the spring, when our bodies are more in tune to a cleansing protocol.
- Reduce or avoid sugar as much as possible. Sugar reduces the immune system just when we need to ward off colds and flu. It also stresses the adrenal glands, impacts insulin levels, and can cause problems with our gut. American Heart Association guidelines call for just six teaspoons per day of added sugars for women and nine teaspoons per day for men.
- Add boosting herbs and spices to your diet. Turmeric, ginger, garlic, chili, and cinnamon are all warming to the system, make our food taste delicious, and have been shown to boost the immune system.
- Eat seasonally enjoying root vegetables as part of your diet. A great source of fiber and carbohydrates, many of them are very high in beta-carotene which the body converts to vitamin A. Most root vegetables are also mineral rich and provide potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
- Enjoy healthy fats inside and out. Avocados, ghee, coconut oil, and olive oil are good choices for eating and cooking. Coconut oil is also beneficial as a skin moisturizer to help prevent winter dryness.
- Make soups, especially bone broths from the bones of free-range or pastured meats. Bone broths are mineral rich, high in collagen, are warming, and also add hydration. Winter can be a prime time for dehydration as we forget that even though we may not be sweating we still need to stay well hydrated.
- Make time for mindfulness. Winter is a great time for reflection either through guided meditation, journaling, or some sort of mindfulness practice. Don't hurry and rush your way through every day in order to collapse into a restless sleep, waking up only to start all over. Take breaks throughout the day to slow down and recharge.
Don't depleting your body through the process of winter detoxification. Rather than starting a stringent and harsh diet, support your health and your body by making some simple changes that support overall health.
Mira Dessy is a Certified Nutrition Educator and the author of The Pantry Principle. She speaks frequently to laypeople and nutrition professionals on how to navigate the grocery store’s mammoth packaged food stock, to decipher confusing food labels, and to choose healthy foods. She can be found online at http://grainsandmore.com.