Are you in the Southern Hemisphere? See the July Guide here.
In This Article
Welcome to the New Year!
Let’s dive into the new year with the 3-Season-Diet Guide. You’ll not only optimize digestion, mood, and immunity, but also save money and, ideally, shop as locally as possible.
January is when the qualities of the vata dosha are stronger: light, dry, airy, and cold. Feeling dry? Achy? Can’t get enough water? Holiday-induced stress? These are signs of excess vata.
To stay balanced, focus on foods and activities that are warm, moist, heavy, and oily.
Eat balancing foods, such as soups, nuts, warm grains, and other high-fat and high-protein foods. When preparing meals or ordering at a restaurant, ask yourself, “How can I make this meal more warm, moist, heavy, or oily?” A little extra drizzle of olive oil on your salad and veggies is always a good idea during winter.
This month is our first step in aligning our desires with the foods nature has provided each season for thousands of years. New research suggests our gut microbes are meant to change seasonally with the foods we eat. Seasonal microbes optimize digestion, mood, and immunity—the way Mother Nature intended.
Winter’s seasonal microbes are found in high-quality dairy, fermented foods (such as sauerkraut), root vegetables, nuts, and seeds.
Getting Enough Fiber
Our hunter-gatherer, Paleolithic-era ancestors ate way more fiber than we do.1 Here’s a breakdown of their, and our, average daily fiber intake:
- Hunter-Gatherers: 100g
- Average American: 10–20g
- US Recommended Daily Allowance: 25–38g
Fiber is crucial, as it provides a ride for bile through the intestines and colon. Bile carries toxic cholesterol particles, environmental pollutants, and a variety of other fat-soluble toxins it picks up on its journey through the liver and intestines. Without adequate fiber, up to 94% of this toxic bile can be reabsorbed back to the liver and put back into circulation.2
The Best Fiber for Winter
Winter fiber is primarily soluble fiber, or slimy fiber, as I like to call it. Think soaked flax seeds, soaked chia seeds, oatmeal, and other grains that, when cooked, become gooey. Oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, okra, and Brussels sprouts are all good in January. See the Winter Grocery List below for more ideas. These foods are one of nature’s strategies to insulate the gut from the coldness and dryness of winter by soothing, warming, and lubricating the intestinal walls. When cold sets in, be sure to enjoy a warm bowl of oats and have a pot of lentils ready for dinner. Slimy soluble fiber does three very important things each winter:
- It insulates, balances, and lubricates the intestines from the coldness and dryness of winter.
- It escorts toxic bile to the toilet, forcing the liver to make fresh bile instead of reusing old stuff (which can be recycled up to 17 times, until the bile is finally excreted).3
- Most importantly, it provides a layer of slime that microbes will feed on. While winter microbes on your root veggies, fermented foods, and other organic foods love gobbling up naturally-occurring dietary fiber, the real reason for winter slime is to feed the massive microbial surge that takes place each spring.
Preparing for Spring
Many suggestions in your seasonal guides will be in anticipation of the seasonal cycle ahead.
Every spring, bugs in the soil start reproducing like crazy, and they swarm around root vegetables. In early spring, it was traditional for thousands of years to dig up the surface roots (rhizomes) of burdock, dandelion, ginger, turmeric, goldenseal, and so many more to break the spring famine. The spring bugs that swarm on these roots repopulate our guts with a new stable of beneficial spring microbes—starting the new year off with a base platform for a healthy and diverse gut microbiome.
Seasonal Grocery List
In addition to the video for this month’s guide, we would like to share two special interviews with Dr. John and Waylon Lewis of the popular and fantastic Elephant Journal.
3-Season Diet: How + Why to Eat Ayurvedically
3 Things Everyone Can Do to Stay Healthy this Winter
By Emma Frisch
- The Most Amazing (Gluten-Free) Bread
- Rutabaga Hummus
- Parsley-Garlic Spaghetti Squash
- Carrot, Coconut + Tarragon Soup
- Maple-Rosemary Roasted Nuts
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
Flaxseeds | Fall Harvest: Balances Vata
Flaxseeds are 20-40% soluble fiber from mucilage gums and 60-80% insoluble fiber from cellulose and lignin. Fiber-rich flaxseeds 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.
Balancing activities for January could include enjoying a steam sauna, a nice sweaty workout session, warm oil self-massage (abhyanga), hot yoga, or a hot bath. It’s also very important to balance vata by keeping your head covered and warm.
Organic Chyawanprash is a classic Ayurvedic superfood with a supporting cast of over 40 organic herbs. This rich and fruity paste is for anyone who needs support to avoid vata imbalances during seasonal changes and stressful life transitions. The base and key ingredient of this formula is Amalaki, or Indian Gooseberry, a powerful antioxidant fruit that is considered a superfood in India for its potent free radical-scavenging properties. Chyawanprash helps support the body’s natural ability to remove toxins or “ama” and boost “ojas” which, in Ayurveda, supports optimal vigor and vitality.
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. Grab your copy of the 3 Season Diet book today.
Related January Articles
The Power-Packed Research Behind Ginger: As a rhizome or surface root, ginger offers a wealth of nutritional benefits. While ginger’s deeper roots help sustain the plant, we mammals dig up this amazing herbal medicine and food. Ginger is spicy and pungent, and good for all seasons and body types. While ginger is grown in warmer climates, its properties make it very useful to warm the body each winter.
5 Required Foods for Winter Wellness: Winter is governed by air, and is cold and dry. Our skin gets dry, our sinuses begin to dry out, and even our joints dry out. If the dryness of winter is not mitigated by foods and activities that are warm, moist, heavy, and oily, the body will dry out. Dry skin may be just a minor inconvenience of winter, but when dryness infiltrates the intestinal and respiratory tracts, it can cause a chain reaction of imbalances.
Superfoods for Your Body Type: Winter Edition: Choosing the right foods to eat has become extremely complex, controversial, and confusing for most people. With promises coming from every angle of the food pyramid, from paleo to vegetarian to vegan to being gluten and dairy-free, making healthy food choices has become more confusing than ever!
Not signed up for the 3-Season-Diet Guide yet? Do so here.
1. Lieberman D. The Story of the Human Body. NY: Pantheon, 2013. p224
2. Guyton and Hall, Textbook of Medical Physiology. 12th Edition. Saunders, 2011.
3. Perlmutter, D. Grain Brain. New York: Little Brown, 2013.