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In This Article
Welcome to December!
By December, we are following the winter food rules to balance vata. The three tastes that balance vata we want to favor are:
Also, favor heavier, warm, and oily foods, as they will antidote vata and the cold and dry of winter.
This month, we want to focus on increasing soluble fiber. Hunter-gatherers ate about 100 grams of fiber per day, and most folks today only get about 15-20. In winter, the kind of fiber available is the soluble or slimy kind. In the same way soil microbes change from season to season, so does the type of fiber we should be eating.
Soluble Fiber-Rich Foods
- Oat Bran
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans and lentils
- Pears and other fruits
- Flax and chia seeds
- If you are not sensitive, whole grains
This time of year, I recommend adding 1-2 Tbs ground flax or chia seeds into your daily diet. This should fulfill your soluble fiber needs, balance vata, and provide better bowel movements.
Eat Small Amounts of Fermented Foods
Fermentation has been a way to preserve foods for long barren winters for thousands of years. The fermentation process uses lactic acid, which is heating and which, for some body types, can become too much. That said, ’tis the season for eating them, but always in smaller, condiment-sized 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 intake of healthy fats and proteins. For our ancestors, veggies were somewhat scarce in winter, so humans survived by hunting more and eventually storing nuts, seeds, grains, and tubers. Doing so naturally increased their intake of healthy proteins and good 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 mostly from 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 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 of preparing 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 two million years ago, our bodies acquired a gene, called amylase, which actually surges in our bodies in fall/winter, and decreases in 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 -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 and food in general was scarce in late winter and early spring.
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 US recommended daily allowance for protein is 10-35% and 20-35% of the diet as fat, according to Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman’s book The Story of the Human Body.
This research suggests that the actual paleo diet was not dissimilar to what the USDA currently recommends. 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 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 Healthy Fats, 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 endure long winters. An extreme example of this is the Inuit diet, which is so high-fat that they 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 percent of their diet at times!
Most of the ketogenesis that our ancestors did experience was not from a 70-80 percent diet of fat, but from food scarcity during the austere months of late winter and early spring.
Download my free Weight Balancing eBook, in which I describe the original Ayurvedic calorie restriction and intermittent fasting regimens that balancs excess kapha in late winter and early spring, aka ketogenesis.
As we move into December, add more healthy fats!
A teaspoon of coconut oil and ghee a day, or raw goat, sheep, and grass-fed cow cheeses are great options. That said, these extra fats cannot be eaten in conjunction with sugars. 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 as fat.
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 or raw. Organic Valley Cream or Kalona milk are great choices. Cheese, yogurt, and cultured dairy products are easier to digest, as during culturing, casein is broken down and lactose converts to lactic acid.
Ayurveda suggests avoiding excess hard cheeses, as they are harder to digest. We prefer 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 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 two to three times per week.
Abhyanga: Your Skin Will Thank You!
Last, but not least, make sure to do your daily warm oil massage this winter. Oil on the skin feeds good microbes, as well as calms sensory nerves, which does wonders to calm vata, aka your nervous system.’
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 flavors and enjoy!
6 Ways to Boost Immunity this Winter: There are many Ayurvedic practices that can help you stay healthy throughout the cold months of winter. 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 top six favorite tips for avoiding bugs and feeling your best all winter long.
Soluble vs Insolube Fiber for Each Season: In nature, certain fibers predominate in different seasons to deliver specific 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: perfect for 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 fall, when cultures would celebrate the harvest with big feasts like Thanksgiving or Octoberfest. Here’s your guide to how to use fermentation as a seasonal boost.
Treat Yourself! 5 Reasons for Self-Massage (Abhyanga): Oil calms the nervous system. On your skin, there are at least 1,000 sensory neurons per 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.
By Emma Frisch
By Eugenia Bone
Prebiotic Foods that Balance Vata
Chicory Root | Harvested Fall: Balances Vata
Chicory root, known for its coffee-like flavor, is commonly used as a coffee substitute. 47% of chicory root is inulin, a powerful prebiotic. Inulin is known to support healthy digestion, elimination, and microbiome.3 Because it supports proliferation of beneficial bacteria and these bacteria make gas, be prepared to experience slight bloating when you start consuming chicory. With prebiotic foods, start with a small dose and build up slowly based on your tolerance as your gut bugs change.
Yacon Root | Harvested Fall: Balances Vata
Yacon roots are very similar to sweet potatoes and are rich in fiber. They grow in the Andean region of South America. Yacon roots are an abundant source of fructooligosaccharides (FOS) and inulin.4 Studies have found yacon root supports healthy regulation of the immune response, glucose balance, mineral absorption, and lipid metabolism. As a result, glycemic levels, body weight, and colon challenges can be reduced.4
Flaxseed | Fall Harvest: Balances Vata
Flaxseed are 20-40% soluble fiber from mucilage gums and 60-80% insoluble fiber from cellulose and lignin. Fiber-rich flaxseed also contain powerful antioxidant compounds that promote healthy gut bacteria, regular bowel movements, and healthy weight loss.5
To see all prebiotic recommendations, read Nourish Your Microbiome: Seasonal Prebiotics for Your Ayurvedic Body Type.
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Introduce yourself to your new community! Let us and your fellow 3-seasoners 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.