I recently read a book called “Change your schedule, change your life” by Ayurvedic doctor Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar and it hooked me into the topic of chronobiology. The book addresses how our circadian rhythms adjust to light and temperature which affect our sleep, mood, immunity levels, weight and a host of other things. When the seasons change, our bodies’ biological processes change as well.
It’s exciting to see more research being done to help us understand our circadian rhythms. The 2017 Nobel Prize was awarded to research that discovered a gene dictating the functioning of our biological clock. Science is starting to support what ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda and what I’d argue mothers have been suggesting for better health all along! (e.g. it’s cold so drink soup, avoid the draft, wear a scarf!)
What ancient wisdom and the latest science is telling us is that living in flow with the seasons is beneficial to our health. Disrupted rhythms are linked to immune deficiency, obesity, diabetes and others.
So, what does this mean on a practical level? It means that you don’t need to eat the same foods and do the same exercise all year long. In fact you shouldn’t. It means not drinking cold green smoothies in the winter; raw salads and strenuous exercise should be saved for the summer months. There’s a season for it all.
Common sense and awareness
Each season is associated with certain attributes. The fall is characterized by wind, cool temperatures, roughness and dryness. A general rule of thumb is to engage in activity and eat foods that are opposite to the characteristics of the season.
For example, when it’s cold and dry outside, your body needs warm and moist foods. Foods like stews and soups support the work your body is engaged in to raise your body temperature, healthy fats keep your system lubricated to counteract dryness. Support your body in what it’s doing already rather than going against it.
Think about the fall and winter as a restorative time so that when spring and summer come around, you’re ready to burst with life.
So here are some habit and diet shifts you can make this fall to be your healthiest self. I love this idea because it lets me fully embrace the present season, temperature and mood. And I thrive on variety! How about you?
EAT COOKED ROOT VEGETABLES
- Foods that come from the ground have a “grounding” quality to them. This idea is from TCM’s principles around the energetics of food. The harvest of this season promotes the energy you need to keep your body in balance during this windy and erratic season. Incorporate cooked vegetables like beets, carrots, winter squashes by simply roasting them. I love roasting in big batches with some olive oil and sea salt. You can also blend the roasted veggies with some bone broth, or any stock to make a simple soup.
- Foods that are moist, oily (healthy fats), warm and mushy in consistency are nourishing for our bodies during this time. Healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, ghee, nuts and seeds are beneficial to counteract the drying nature of this season. Include almonds and pumpkin seeds daily in your snacks, or sneak coconut oil into your coffee.
SPICES TO WARM THINGS UP
- Incorporate warming and medicinal spices like cumin, turmeric and cayenne. Add them to your roasted veggies for additional flavor and warming effect to raise your internal temperature. That’s why it’s the season for cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg – pumpkin spice! Try this warming turmeric roasted carrot recipe from my thanksgiving menu last year.
- Warm cozy beverages with warming spices like a golden milk latte (pictures above) or maca Mexican hot chocolate are perfect to bring into your daily routine.
- It’s important to stay active all year, but for colder months, exercise that is strengthening and restorative are appropriate and nourishing. Try yoga, Pilates or weights instead of focusing on cardio.
Are you ready to try these suggestions? Let me know which you will try!
I’ll be posting more focusing on seasonal foods and routines, so stay tuned!