Welcome to October!
After the fall equinox on September 22, the earth’s tilt takes the northern hemisphere further away from the sun. As the sun’s energy towards us lessens, the body responds by increasing digestive fire.
Having a stronger digestion in winter allows us to consume harder-to-digest and denser foods, such as root vegetables, meats, grains, nuts, and seeds.
This is a major principle in Ayurveda—where the seasonal harvest antidotes the temperature of the season. For example, we harvest higher fat and denser, protein-rich foods in fall to be eaten in winter. These foods require a stronger digestive fire, which naturally occurs in winter when the sun is less intense.
While this may seem counterintuitive, it is another example of how nature is constantly balancing extremes. One would think that during winter, the whole body would become colder, but, in fact, during colder months, in order to digest more dense foods that provide needed insulation in the winter, digestive fire responds by becoming stronger. Likewise, in summer, less digestive fire is required since the seasonal foods have been somewhat predigested by the sun’s heat and energy when ripened on the vine.
In nature, we watch leaves turn red and fall as an example of nature’s natural detox cycle. In Ayurveda, it is said that accumulation of heat at the end of summer causes heat to rise in the trees, drying out the leaves. As the metabolism of the tree slows down in preparation for winter, the tree naturally sheds (or detoxifies) its leaves.
Humans are also preparing for winter provoked by the abundant fall harvest and lower temperatures, and need to detox. If we only ate seasonal perishables harvested in late summer and stored foods like nuts, seeds, grains, and roots for winter eating, we would trigger quite a natural cleansing response.
Ayurveda takes this concept a little further by understanding subtleties of the harvest. Apples dissipate heat, scrub intestinal villi, and act as a natural detoxifying diuretic; watermelons are diuretics, while pomegranates are liver and blood cleansers.
When studying nature’s harvest carefully, as Ayurveda does, it is quite clear that at the end of summer, the liver, gallbladder, and intestinal tract yearn for a good cleansing. The liver loves good oils like ghee, and also greens and bitter roots that are harvested this time of year.
If these natural laws are not followed, the heat of summer will dry out the body and, along with fall and winter’s dryness, delicate mucous membranes, where immune-boosting microbes live, will also dry out. Dried-out mucous membranes can kill our beneficial bugs and make way for a proliferation of bad cold and flu-causing critters.
This is one of my favorite months, a major transitional time from summer to winter. Our predominant fuel supply is transitioning from a higher-carb diet in summer and end of summer toward the beginning of a cool season diet with more proteins and fats.
Soon, fruits will be gone, while grains will endure for a while. Much of this shift depends on where you live. In the northern hemisphere, October lies between the two major growing seasons. Some parts of the country are quickly moving into winter weather, while some are holding onto summer. My suggestion is simply to stay tuned to climate changes in your area and adjust accordingly, day by day.
Tips for Warmer, Sunnier Days
- Eat from Summer Grocery List.
- Eat more cool, moist, heavy, and oily foods, such as salads, steamed vegetables, fruits, and coconut oil.
- Sip cool or room temperature water with cucumber slices or drink coconut water to keep cool and hydrated.
- Avoid coffee, chips and salsa, and spicy foods.
- Do your best to get 10-15 minutes of direct midday sunlight during these last sunny days of summer and early autumn. We all need a vitamin D supplement come winter, but there is nothing like filling your vitamin D tank now with nature’s very own supply!
Tips for Colder, Greyer Days
- Eat from Winter Grocery List.
- Eat warm, oily, and cooked foods, such as soups, stews, root veggies, steamed veggies, and have warm herbal teas.
- Eat more fat and protein. Add ghee, avocado, sesame oil, or olive oil to grains and soups.
- Avoid salads, smoothies, cold foods and beverages, crackers, chips, and salsa.
7 Ways to Stay Balanced this October
1. Eat More Seeds
Add more seeds to your diet in October. Seeds are a great way to deliver higher-fat, higher-protein, plant-based nutrients we need. Seeds are easy to digest, and since your digestive strength is just now starting to amp up for cold weather that starts creeping in this month, focus on just seeds and add nuts in during November and throughout winter.
To get started this month, start having 1 Tbsp ground flax and chia seeds each day. Add sunflower and pumpkin seeds to your salads and veggies whenever possible.
2. Raid the Garden, Farmer’s Market, or Grocery for Ripe End-of-Summer Veggies
It’s important to get as much fresh food as possible from the garden this time of year. Give yourself permission to eat lots and lots of ripe veggies and, yes, it’s okay to eat those fruits as well. Better a small healthy layer of insulating fat than the damage that a month of binging on barbecue and vacation food can do. Fill up on good stuff!
3. Increase Water Consumption
Try to drink 1/2 your ideal body weight in ounces of water per day. This time of year, accumulated heat will dehydrate us. As the brain often perceives thirst as hunger, we may be eating unnecessarily.
4. Boost Digestive Strength
Strengthening your digestion now will help you digest and process heavier foods this fall and winter. Try 1 capsule of both Warm Digest and Beet Cleanse about 15 minutes before meals with a full glass of water. This will help boost digestive strength.
5. Eat Apples, Pomegranate + Watermelon
Eat 2-4 apples per day until the end of October to cleanse your digestive system, pomegranate to flush lymph, and watermelon to cleanse your kidneys.
6. Try an Ayurvedic Detox
7. Bolster Immunity
When we adjust diet and lifestyle to match the season, health-promoting digestive microbes dramatically change. October is a transitional month between summer and winter. On warmer days of October, eat more foods off the Summer Grocery List. On colder, greyer days, eat more foods off the Winter Grocery List. Stay tuned to climate changes in your area and adjust accordingly. Experiment with flavors and enjoy!
7 Easy Hacks to Curb Winter Weight Gain: As summer winds down, a common question from many of my patients is, “How do I avoid those extra pounds every fall and winter?” Our ancestors seemed to have a different perspective . . . each fall, they would greatly increase fruit, grain, nut, and seed intake. Excess calories would accomplish winter insulation and energy storage as the famine of winter was just around the corner. Hacking this tendency in modern days is important for a few reasons.
How + When to Alkalize: With winter just around the corner, nature is sending a strong message to alkalize now, before it’s too late. In nature, as summer transitions into winter, every living creature is making a life-changing transformation in preparation. Birds and butterflies fly thousands of miles, whales cross oceans, and leaves spectacularly fall off trees. What do humans do? Most of us just pull out the sweaters, coats, and scarfs and eat the same foods we’ve been eating year-round for years. But if we look closely at nature’s harvest, it’s obvious that our diet was intended to dramatically change during this time of year.
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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