Fuel the Digestive Fire: Changing Our Diet to Match the SeasonsOct 29, 2021 09:32AM ● By Tamara Luck
As the seasons change, cravings for comfort foods, often synonymous with cozy cold weather, seem to rise. These changes in eating habits are perfectly normal, reflecting the different nutrient and energetic needs of each season. In the hot summer, our bodies require more water, asking for more hydrating foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables. As the weather cools down, our bodies require more warming and grounding properties, found in foods like root vegetables. Changing our diet to match the seasons helps to fuel the internal digestive fire during harsh New England winters.
This concept of warming digestive fire is described in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine. This digestive fire has been characterized as the fuel for the gastrointestinal tract and beyond, fueling the whole body. This digestive fire is naturally dampened in the winter months by the intense cold weather. A variety of foods and spices can be used to sustain internal warmth, balancing out our entire bodily systems, such as digestions, energy production and mood.
During the winter, ditch the raw salads and cold smoothies for warmer meals. Fully cooked meals, like soups and stews, are easier to digest, requiring less effort from the digestive organs to break food down, promoting regularity and decreasing gas and bloating. In cold weather, the body utilizes a significant amount of energy just to stay warm. Cooked meals will save the body energy by helping to warm it from the inside out.
One meal that is often overlooked as the seasons change is breakfast. During the colder months, prioritize eating cooked foods for a morning meal. For example, try cooked vegetables with eggs, oatmeal or lentil porridge for a warm and well-balanced breakfast. Other grounding foods include root vegetables, ghee and spices such as cinnamon, ginger and turmeric. Get creative in the kitchen by adding turmeric to rice or cinnamon to coffee for extra warming action.
As usual, mother nature knows best. These grounding foods are locally in season during the winter. Root vegetables, like potatoes, squash and pumpkins are abundant throughout the winter. Eating in-season produce not only balances the body’s energetics, but also provides more nutrient density than out-of-season produce.
These intuitive cravings for comforting foods do not need to be associated with winter weight gain. We can feed our digestive fire while still eating a nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet. Focus on incorporating whole foods and eliminating ready-to-eat processed foods. These whole foods can also be incorporated easily into comfort foods. For example, use chickpea pasta mixed with non-dairy milk, ghee and cooked butternut squash for a creamy, protein-packed version of macaroni and cheese. Or use organic bone broth for homemade chicken soup to avoid high amounts of sodium. Lastly, focus on drinking teas or sipping on warm water throughout the day instead of relying on sugary lattes.
Eating seasonally will not only greatly improve digestion, but also provide the necessary nutrients to keep the body balanced throughout the winter.
Tamara Luck, RDN, LDN, is an integrative and functional dietitian in Waltham, MA. She is currently accepting new patients at Johnson Compounding and Wellness for virtual nutrition appointments. Schedule a free, 15-minute introductory call at NaturalCompounder.com/Tamara.