How Locally Grown Food Can Improve Your Health After 60
In today’s world, we can get almost any food at any time of year. While this can broaden our choices, in some ways it is not an ideal way to eat.
Two time-tested approaches to natural healing have their origins in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Indian Ayurvedic Medicine. In both cases, great emphasis is placed on eating seasonally. Here are just a few of the reasons why:
- Eating seasonally means you are eating food that was grown locally.
- Locally grown food is fresher than something shipped from another part of the world.
- You support your local farmers when you eat local food.
- Food that is in season has qualities that support your staying cool or staying warm, whichever you need.
- Bacteria in the soil change with the seasons, providing you with a variety of beneficial intestinal flora.
Your Body’s Seasonal Needs
If you haven’t thought about this before, my guess is that intuitively you may have made food choices based upon the season anyhow. For instance, you may love watermelon and cantaloupe in July but shy away from these watery cooling foods in January. Or you may relish a hot lentil stew in January but say, “No, thanks” in July.
The easiest way to get in the rhythm of eating seasonally is by eating local foods. Local foods grow in season. I live in Northeast United States. In Spring, our first local foods are peas, spinach, radish, beans, herbs, chard and kale.
As the weather warms up, we see strawberries and rapidly growing summer squashes – and more green beans. Later in summer, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, corn, blueberries, melons and raspberries are abundant.
In the meantime, potatoes, beets, carrots, onions, butternut and winter squash, pumpkin and turnip grow under or near the ground, waiting to be harvested in autumn, along with apples and pears.
If you look at these foods seasonally, you will find connections between the qualities of the food and the needs of your body. Spring foods are astringent in nature and help to clear out winter congestion, helping you to avoid spring allergies.
Summer foods are full of water, exactly what you need to stay hydrated. The denser foods that are ready in late autumn are perfect for keeping you warm. The colors of food in Spring and Autumn even match the colors of leaves and grass in each of these seasons.
Help Your Local Farmer
As noted, eating locally keeps your local farm in place. Buying locally and supporting your farmers makes them less likely to sell the land off to a developer. In my very limited experience of tending a plot in a community garden, I have tremendous respect for the hard work of farmers to bring food to our tables.
Some farms open up a part of their acreage where families can buy a share of the crop, paying a fee that allows them to a shared allocation of food throughout the growing season – and sometimes through the winter.
Use Seasonal Foods to Support You
Seasonal Cleanses are age-old practices that dig deep into the habit of eating in season. Typically, they are divided into three seasons – winter, spring and autumn.
Experiencing a cleanse gives you a concentrated focus on the foods that are most beneficial to you during one of the seasons. They often exclude certain foods like sugar and other inflammatory foods.
About the Microbiome
Dr. John Douillard explains the importance of eating seasonally in an elegant way. He describes how the microbiome, or bacteria in the soil, changes through the seasons, forming a synergy with plants that grow at certain times of the year.
Since the soil microbiome changes, the plants that we eat in each season give us a constant variety of bacteria, all vital for a healthy digestive system.
We can circle back to the first post I wrote for Sixty and Me called “Oops, Gas and Other Tummy Troubles” and put the puzzle pieces together. Eating foods in season equals more balanced digestive flora, and hence less gas and bloating which makes for happier tummies.
When you visit your grocery store, seek out the produce areas labelled “locally grown.” Buy there first. Your body, and your farmer, will thank you.
Seeing that Sixty and Me is an international site, I’d love if you’d share what your community is like when it comes to fresh food. Is it local and abundant? Have you ever lived in an area designated as a food desert? How do you access seasonal foods? Please join the discussion below!
Peg Doyle is a healthy eating and lifelong wellness expert, recording artist, motivational speaker and author. She is passionate about the impact of quality food and a balanced lifestyle on women’s health. Her mission is to make healthy eating easy and appealing, using nourishment as a powerful tool for preventing the so-called diseases of aging. You can visit her website here.