Welcome to September!
During these end-of-summer months, more carbohydrates become available in the form of fruits, starchy grains, and root veggies. When you eat sweeter summer foods, your pancreas responds with a rise in insulin, the hormone that prompts your cells to absorb blood sugar into the muscles for energy or storage.
As summer carb-loading peaks in September, our ancestors who naturally made such major shifts in diet seasonally would become naturally insulin resistant in the fall—meaning your cells cannot consume one more calorie of sugar.
Excess sugar from summer carbs, as a result of September’s insulin resistance, begins to store as fat.5 This storage of fat provides energy reserves required for the winter famine. The body naturally boosts production a digestive enzyme specifically designed to break down starch, called amylase, every fall.
So this is the season for starchy foods—but we must limit intake of high-fat animal protein. Our ancestors knew that if they over-hunted in the fall, when a plant based diet was plentiful, they would risk starvation in winter, when hunting was more critical.
Our ancestors protected themselves from the famine of winter by preserving vegetables—fermenting or salting them. Doing this makes those foods heating in nature. Remember: salt melts ice!
We RecommendFermented Foods and Ayurveda
While fermented foods are great to eat more of during winter, September is a time of feasting on foods that are alkaline, not acidic, in nature.
Look for foods that cool the body, such as apples, pomegranates, watermelons, and all end-of-season root veggies, grains, and other colorful veggies exploding out of your garden and local CSA (community-supported agriculture) farms.
Sodium + Potassium
Be mindful of your salt intake this month, as come winter, there will be a higher intake of sodium. High sodium levels are linked to a host of health concerns, including high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, muscle aches, tiredness, and more.
Our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate very little sodium, less than 1,000 mg per day. The average American eats more than 3,000 mg per day.
Our bodies evolved to hold onto as much sodium as possible, so when we overeat it in the form of salt, we pay a price—often referred to as holding onto water, otherwise known as lymphatic congestion.
Our ancestors also ate more than 11,000 mg of potassium per day, while we eat, on average, 1,300 mg per day. The recommended daily intake is 4,700 mg per day.
Because we evolved eating a ton of potassium-rich foods, we developed the ability to excrete it in urine. The balance between sodium and potassium is critical. September—as all of summer—is a time to boost potassium and decrease sodium in the diet.
This month, eat more end-of-summer foods rich in potassium and low in sodium.
High-Potassium, Low-Sodium Foods
- Leafy Green Vegetables
As summer winds down and we move into fall, aim to eat four times more potassium than sodium.
The right ratio of potassium to sodium activates the potassium-sodium pump, which delivers hundreds of thousands of volts of electricity that drive our energy.
This is why these are called electrolytes—because they literally make electricity!
Eating too much sodium salt from processed or packaged foods, and too little potassium from not eating enough fresh, whole, seasonal foods will turn off the energy-making potassium-sodium pump, leaving you depleted, exhausted, and with a congested lymphatic system.
September is the season to energize and cool the body with cooling, energy-rich, high-potassium, low-sodium fruits and veggies.
The boost in potassium this time of year is no mistake for mammals. This is the time of year we need energy most—for mating!
September is mating month for most mammals. This allows for babies to be born in early spring, giving them ample time to grow and gain some fat to endure the next fall and winter.
To support higher end-of-summer energy, melatonin levels are naturally high in winter and low in summer. In nature, high sex hormones in winter (when melatonin levels are high) result in babies born in fall, who are not ready to endure a brutal winter. This is why high levels of melatonin have well-documented birth control properties.1-7
In these end-of-summer days, blood sugar, insulin levels, and cortisol (stress hormones) are surging as mammals prepare to fight for the right to reproduce.
Sex hormones also surge, boosting serotonin, which pumps, amps, and sensitizes mammals, readying them for mating rituals—which can often be bloody. Serotonin thickens blood for better clotting and constricts blood vessels, so if the mammal is injured during the rut, the body is literally ready for a fight.1-7
As serotonin rises, dopamine (the reward hormone) falls. Serotonin falls after mating, and then dopamine rises. Like a perfect symphony, winter then comes and everyone goes to sleep. The days quickly become shorter and the nights longer. Melatonin levels surge, and the thought of sex is replaced with the desire to sleep.1-7
When the sun sets, we humans have the tendency to turn on the lights and keep them on for an average of six hours after sunset! That is six hours less melatonin and more cortisol than we need.
Remember, as cortisol rises because we are awake, so do carb cravings, blood sugars, insulin, and sex hormones, all at the wrong time of year.
In the natural world, we would be gorging on carbs, getting ready to mate, store fat, reserve fuel, and shift from being summer/fall carb-burners to winter/spring fat-burners.
The September Shift
This September, give yourself permission to eat fruit, veggies, and grains—as long as you’re willing to minimize these during winter and spring.
September is the beginning of a major shift, as we go from carbohydrate-feasting to using fat as the preferred fuel. Eating seasonally allows the body a break from only burning one type of fuel year round. It all starts now . . . so get ready and enjoy the last month of summer!
Reiter, R. Melatonin. Bantam Books, NY. 1996. p.163,169.
Wiley, T.S., Lights Out: Sleep, Sugar, and Survival. Atria Books, 2000.
Seasonal Grocery List
When we adjust our diet and lifestyle to match the season, health-promoting digestive microbes dramatically change. Summer microbes support balanced immunity, digestion, mood, energy, blood sugar, weight, sleep, and much more.
Summer is also associated with the qualities of pitta, which are hot, light, and dry. To stay balanced, focus on foods and activities that are cool, moist, heavy, and oily. Experiment with the flavors and enjoy!
September Seasonal Posts
Long days of summer provide more daylight hours to eat ourselves into balance . . . or out of balance. Understanding the importance of summer fare and following certain summer digestive guidelines are key for a healthy fall and winter. In this article, I will list my top preventive tips as well as my favorite summer foods. Let’s reap the benefits that summer was originally meant to bring us!
September is the month that fruits and vegetables are the most bountiful. Farmers are harvesting all of the goodies from the crops and delivering them to the locations where they are used or sold, preparing for the down season and for the cold air that is slowly creeping in. If we ate only from the seasonal harvest (as our ancient ancestors and most mammals still do), we would be loading up on these fruits and veggies . . . with a purpose!
More and more parents are asking, “What can I do preventatively now to keep my family healthy this year?” Over the years, I have streamlined five basic lifestyle tips based on the five-thousand-year-old, time-tested medical system of Ayurveda. These are all outlined in my book, Perfect Health for Kids, and I have summarized them in this article.
September 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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through September 30.
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Introduce yourself to your 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.