In nature, the shift from winter (the end of the annual cycle) to spring (the beginning of the annual cycle) is perhaps the most important transition of the year. At this time, the weather, harvests, and microbes are making dramatic changes. For example, winter microbes that are geared for keeping the body warm and digesting heavier foods are transitioning to microbes that will facilitate fat burning, natural weight loss, stable mood and renewed energy for the new year.
To make the most of this transition, start nature’s new year off on the right foot, ensure a connection to the powerful cycles of nature and glean the innumerable health benefits, consider the following ten winter-to-spring tips. Of course, for lots of us in the northern hemisphere, there are crazy weather patterns in the spring that can cause some confusion. Just do the best you can! Here are some helpful dietary tips to help navigate this transition:
1. Depending on where you live, spring can come anywhere from early March to the middle of May. But no matter where you live, spring’s arrival is typically sporadic. A week of warm spring air may be followed by a week of cold winter weather. As the days in early spring transition from winter to spring weather every few days, follow the natural desire and to eat warmer soups and stews, root veggies and heavier foods during the cold spells, and switch to spinach salads and lighter fare like veggie broth soups and cooked veggies during the days of spring weather.
2. The best way to create a grocery list for the winter-spring transition is to cross reference the Winter and Spring Grocery Lists. Any foods that are on both of those lists make great transitional foods. Do your best to eat more of those foods.
3. Cook all of your spring veggies, except sprouts and microgreens. In one study, spring foods like cabbage greens, green bell peppers, mustard greens, collard greens and kale were measured for their bile acid-binding capacity. While all of these foods have naturally high bile acid-binding capacity in their raw forms, there was a significantly higher quantity of bile acid-binding capacity after the foods were steamed. (4)
4. The first foods to be ready for harvest in the spring are the root veggies like ginger, turmeric, burdock, dandelion, goldenseal and Oregon grape, to name just a few. These make great transitional teas at this time. Not only do these root veggies boost immunity, (2,3,5) they also naturally scrub the intestinal tract from any accumulated mucus and toxins. The health of the intestinal mucosa is responsible for 80% of the body’s immunity and the robust diversity of the microbiology.
5. Spring is a gluten and grain-free season, as these foods are traditionally not harvested until fall, so reduce your portions of rice, grains, breads, and pastas. Organic, non-GMO corn is, however, on the Spring Grocery List. While corn is harvested in the fall, the original maize was harvested in Central America in the spring before the rainy season. Corn is a very dry grain, so it makes better sense for it to be eaten in the wet season of spring rather than the dry season of fall – nature had this all figured out until humans got involved.
6. Spring is also a dairy-free time of year. Cows are giving birth at this time, and all the milk is essential for feeding the calves. This is a good time to begin to reduce the intake of dairy.
7. Know your body type. If you are a kapha body type or are carrying any extra kapha or body weight, spring is the most important time of year to watch your diet. Eating strictly off the Spring Grocery List can reset digestion, stimulate fat burning and build stable energy for the year ahead.
8. The appetite naturally begins to wane during the months of spring. Unlike winter, where the hunger may have been incessant, spring boosts natural fat metabolism that decreases cravings, hunger, and appetite in order to reset fat burning, start detox and lose any extra weight carried over from winter. Challenge yourself to eat smaller portions this time of year.
9. The extent to which the sinuses get dry in the winter is the extent to which you will make extra mucus in the spring. Lots of folks simply cannot, or do not, antidote the dryness of winter well enough to ward off the drippy sinuses of spring. Keep up with your vitamin D, ashwagandha and turmeric to keep immunity strong throughout the year.
10. Remember, the spring harvest packs a 1-2-3 punch:
- The first harvestable foods in early spring are the bitter roots that help to boost liver function, scrub the intestinal villi, strengthen immunity and create a healthy environment for new, healthy spring microbes to proliferate.
- Next come the baby microgreens, which are loaded with nutrients compared to mature leaves. In one study comparing baby leaf red cabbage to mature leaves, the vitamin C content was 6 times higher and the vitamin K content was 69 times higher than the mature leaves. (1) These microgreens are also loaded with chlorophyll, which feeds intestinal microbes and supports the intestinal environment to flourish a new population of microbes tailor-made to help us navigate spring.
- Finally, berries and cherries come, which are the antioxidants and lymphatic movers of spring. While we think of most berries as fall-harvested, many of them were originally harvested in the spring and have been hybridized to be ripe in the fall. The Gut Associated Lymphatic Tissue (GALT) on the outside of the gut wall is cleansed each spring by the consumption of seasonal berries and cherries.
Scrubbing the villi with bitter roots, then rebuilding the microbiology with microgreens and then flushing the lymph with spring and early summer berries and cherries is the 1-2-3 punch the digestion, immunity, and microbes need to hit the ground running and thrive throughout the rest of the year.