Blog

Insights, advice, myth-busting and meditations on true health, spirituality, and nutrition. 

JAMES H LYONS

Search

How To Eat Seasonally During Climate Change.

Updated: Oct 22, 2018



Seasonal eating makes sense -- the foods that are growing locally to you should reflect the nutrients and phytochemicals your body needs to thrive during the upcoming season. Summer is rich with fruits and veggies that help protect your skin against sun damage, and winter produce helps fuel your metabolic fire to keep you warm. Eating seasonally can help us align our energy levels to the demands of the season (e.g. for me, summer is an energetic, social, flash in the pan that needs lots of quick energy from fresh fruit and veggies). Selecting the right foods can help us to emotionally embrace the change of seasons, too -- we can forget about the winter blues and embrace the romance of warm stews, peach cobblers, and spicy hot chocolates.


Given the growing food access a lot of us now have, it should be easier than ever to benefit from seasonal eating, right? Sure, except for one little issue... climate change. Where I live, seasons aren't what they were ten years ago and they're going to be even more whacky ten years from now. I trust that the plants and free animals in this environment are adapting exactly as they should, and I have a lot of (possibly naive) trust that nature always finds a way to thrive. In theory, because I'm also in it, I'm part of that thriving. Buuut, I'm not completely part of that wild nature -- I'm also part of a food system of supermarkets, conventional farming, and hydroponics. I've got a lot of choice about what to eat, and not all of my options align with the weather. It be really tough trying to pick seasonal food when each day is unpredictable.




If you're looking to switch to a seasonal way of eating, here's how to do it during climate change*:


1. Focus on Heating vs Cooling Foods

The temperature of your food is one aspect of whether it will "heat" or "cool" your body - obviously on blistering hot 40ºC days a la Melbourne's new summer norm, you'll want to eat cool foods straight from the fridge. In New York's winters that extend way into spring, you'll opt for warm meals instead. According to many traditions such as European traditional naturopathy, Ayurvedic medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine, spices, herbs, and even the foods themselves have heating and cooling properties:


🔥 Warming Foods:

Complex carbohydrates (e.g. steel cut oats, brown rice)

Well-cooked vegetables (e.g. casseroles, soups, stews)

Ginger

Garlic

Cloves

Cumin

Marjoram

Sage

Thyme

Artichokes

Beets

Daikon

Horseradish

Onions

Parsley

Watercress

Oranges

Peaches

Plums

❄️ Cooling Foods:

Raw fruits & vegetables

Coriander seeds

Saffron

Melons

Broccoli

Cucumber

Cabbage

Okra

Potato

Sprouts

Spinach

Celery

Cauliflower

Carrot

Apples

Bananas

Coconut

Figs

Grapes



Note: This doesn't mean that all "cooling" vegetables are out during cold days -- just combine them with heating spices, cook them well and eat them warm.



2. Forget Seasons, Eat for Today

And maybe for yesterday. Got a sunburn from yesterday's scorcher, and there's a sudden cool change today? You might want something cool or neutral for breakfast, and work up to more warming foods throughout the day. Adapt quickly -- that's the name of the climate change game!



3. Seasonal Produce Subscription

This is a privileged option that not every one will have access to. If you're lucky enough to have someone else pick, package and deliver fresh fruits and veggies to your door, it can take the brain-strain out of selecting seasonal vegetables when the seasons are whacky. Organic, local and biodynamic farmers will supply the produce that is actually growing -- a little closer to that adapting with nature stuff I was talking about before. Plus, it keeps you out of the supermarket, the most not-nature place on the planet.



4. Ask Your Ancestors

If you know about your family tree, there might be some wisdom in that history. What kind of weather did your genetics pass through? Did your forbearers survive any major climate shifts or weather events? Did they immigrate from one climate to another, and how did their diets change? Where are your genetic "nurture points"? -- If your ancestors thrived in hot climates, maybe you'll need to nurture yourself through harsh winters with warming foods.



5. Eat Plants Not Animals

Here's the hot controversial ending: Eating a vegan diet is the best thing you can do for the environment and will slow down climate change [1] [2]. Plus, I believe that plants are able to adapt faster to changing climates than farmed animals, and will provide us with the nourishment we need to survive and thrive during this unpredictable time of change. But you already knew that! Eat more plants!



* Don't believe in climate change? That's cool, take this advice anyway for the transitional seasons of spring and autumn, and during the different seasons of your lifetime.





References:

[1] Aleksandrowicz, L., et al. (2016) The Impacts of Dietary Change on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Land Use, Water Use, and Health: A Systematic Review. PLoS One., 11:11, e0165797. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5094759/


[2] Scarborough, P., et al. (2014) Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK. Clim Chan., 125:2, 179 - 192. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4372775/