Welcome to December!
By December, we are following the winter rules in regards to eating. The three tastes we want to favor are:
Also, favor heavier, warm and oily foods, as they will antidote the cold and dry of winter.
Add Soluble Fiber to Your Meals
This month, we want to focus on increasing the amount of soluble fiber we eat. Hunter-gatherers ate about 100 grams of fiber per day, and most folks today only get about 15-20 grams per day. In the winter, the kind of fiber available is the soluble or slimy kind. In the same way the microbes in the soil are changing from season to season, so is the type of fiber we should be eating. To best support your winter soluble fiber intake, favor these foods:
- Oat Bran
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and lentils
- Pears and fruits
- Flax and chia seeds
This time of year, I recommend adding 1-2 tablespoons of ground flax or chia seeds into your daily diet. This should fulfill your soluble fiber needs and provide better bowel movements.
Eat Small Amounts of Fermented Foods
Fermented foods have been a way to preserve foods for the long barren winters for thousands of years. So ’tis the season for eating them, but always in smaller, condiment size portions. A 20 ounce bottle of kombucha is quite excessive. Consider these important foods, but don’t over do it.
Increase Protein, But Don’t Overdo It
Winter is also the time of year to increase the intake of healthy fats and proteins. For our ancestors, veggies were somewhat scarce in the winter, so humans survived by hunting more. Doing so naturally increased their intake of proteins and fat. Research on today’s centenarian cultures (places where people are living over the age of 100) shows that only about 10% of their diet is animal protein. My recommendation is to eat more protein in the form of nuts, seeds and whole grains. If you are a meat eater, try to get your protein from mostly fish as the longest-lived centenarians eat most of their 10% animal protein as fish. Best choice: sardines and salmon. This may be a challenge for many of you, but make it a long-term goal and simply reduce your meat consumption slowly over time. Remember, your goal is to eat only 10% of your diet from animal sources.
Throughout the fall, we have been enjoying the harvest from a long summer growing season. By summer’s end, and into fall, we are harvesting more fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, beans, and starchy root vegetables, like potatoes, beets and carrots. All of these high-starch foods are nature’s way to prepare us with a “feast” before the “famine” that will come in the spring. To help us digest these heavier and harder-to-digest starchy foods, some 2 million years ago, our bodies acquired a gene, called amylase, which actually surges in our bodies in the fall/winter, and decreases in the warmer months. This phenomenon seems to suggest that humans have genetically adapted to eat these foods when they are harvested.
Grains are still on the menu in December, but in the spring, they will not be, so enjoy them now!
The trend, as we dive deeper into winter, is to transition from a more starchy diet (which helped us store some insulation and fatty fuel reserves) to a higher fat and higher protein diet. Protein, however, wasn’t always easy to come by for our ancestors. Killing a woolly mammoth was not an easy task, and while it provided dried meats for months, there were also times when hunting was unsuccessful.
The most recent findings suggest that the hunter-gatherer protein intake ranged from only 15-30% and they only consumed 20-35% of their diet as fat. The U.S. recommended daily allowance for protein is 10-35% and 20-35% of the diet as fat, according to Harvard professor Danial Lieberman’s book, The Story of the Human Body.
This research suggests that the actual paleo diet was not dissimilar to what the USDA is currently recommending. Hopefully, the takeaway here is to be careful when using extreme diets for any extended period of time.
Winter is the season of a bit more protein and fat and, as the starches run out, late winter may become even higher in fat and protein. However, it is hard to find traditional cultures who thrived on a ketogenic diet (70-80% fat in their diet).
Add Good & Healthy Fats to Your Meals, Hold the Sugar
As we evolved, we learned to store and ferment foods. A higher fat intake helped provide the energy and insulation needed to ensure long winters. An extreme example of this is the Inuit diet, which is such a high-fat diet that the Inuit people acquired a gene to resist going into ketosis for extended periods of time. This was an evolutionary result of eating so much fat—as much as 70-80% of their diet at times!
As we move into December, adding more good and healthy fats to the diet is the call as winter forges on.
Eating good fats, like a teaspoon of coconut oil and ghee a day, or raw goat, sheep and grass-fed cow cheeses are great options to support the body with healthy fats. That said, these extra fats cannot be eaten in conjunction with sugars in the diet. Both sugar and fat are sources of fuel for the body, and if we overeat these sources of fuel together, the body will burn the sugar quickly to solve the energy needs and then store the excess fuel (the dietary fat) in your fat cells as fat.
Eat HIGH QUALITY Wheat & Dairy
Wheat and dairy are on the menu in December, but be sure they are of the best quality. When choosing wheat, look for sprouted Ezekiel bread, sourdough bread, or a clean artisanal bread. Read the ingredients and avoid any bread with cooked oils or preservatives. The ingredients should be very simple, like this: Wheat, water, salt, sourdough culture.
Dairy should be organic, vat-pasteurized and non-homogenized. Organic Valley Cream or Kalona milk are great choices. Cheese, yogurt and cultured dairy products are easier to digest, as during culturing, the casein is broken down and the lactose converts to lactic acid.
Ayurveda suggests avoiding excess hard cheeses as they are harder to digest and prefers soft cheeses along with other sources of fermented or cultured dairy, such as ghee, buttermilk, and yogurt.
Remember, if you are a meat eater, the oldest lived folks on the planet limit their meat consumption to only 10%. This should be a long-term goal for all of us. It is healthier, can solve the current global water shortage problem, and could feed a fast-growing world population.
My recommendation is to swap out your meat for clean fish like sardines or salmon and consume them 2–3 times per week.
Try Abhyanga – Your Skin Will Thank You!
Last, but not least – make sure to do your daily warm oil massage this winter. The oil on the skin feeds your good skin microbes, as well as calms sensory nerves on the skin which does wonders to calm your vata – your nervous system.’
Seasonal Grocery Lists
When we adjust our diet and lifestyle to match the season, health-promoting digestive microbes dramatically change. During December, eat more foods off of the Winter Grocery List. Experiment with the flavors and enjoy!
December Seasonal Posts
6 Ways to Boost Immunity this Winter: There are many Ayurvedic practices that can help you stay healthy throughout the winter months. The best part? Several of these quick and easy techniques can be done in the shower, so they don’t make a big mess. Here are my 6 best tips for avoiding bugs and feeling your best this winter.
Soluble vs. Insolube Fiber for Each Season: In nature, certain fibers predominate in different seasons to deliver specific and timely health benefits. This winter, make sure you board the right fiber train to boost digestive function and support immunity. There is soluble fiber, which expands and becomes slimy in water, like oatmeal and psyllium – think winter!
Eating Fermented Foods Seasonally: We know that fermentation was used by traditional cultures as a way of preserving fruits, veggies and dairy products. An abundance of fruits and veggies were harvested in the fall when cultures would celebrate the harvest with big feasts like Thanksgiving or Octoberfest.
Treat Yourself! 5 Reasons for Self-Massage (Abhyanga): Oil Calms the Nervous System: On your skin, there are at least 1000 sensory neurons per every square centimeter. When you massage just your arm with oil, you are calming more than a million sensory neurons. According to Ayurveda, oil calms vata or the nervous system.
December Seasonal Recipes:
These fantastic recipes are gifted to us by the lovely Emma Frisch: cook, blogger, freelance food writer, and former farmer. She is Co-Founder and Director of Culinary Experience at Firelight Camps and was a top finalist on Food Network Star, Season 10. Emma’s recipes fall right in place with the rest of our diet and seasonal eating recommendations.
All photos and recipes by Emma Frisch.
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Introduce yourself to your new community! Let us and your fellow challengers know why you’re looking forward to the next year of living and eating with the seasons. Post inspiration, photos, recipe ideas, and more to social using hashtag #3SeasonDiet.