In This Article
Calorie Restriction is Natural Each Spring
Every spring, our ancestors would be challenged to feed their families as Mother Nature delivers us from an abundance of food in the fall to an austere diet of greens, plump roots, and a scarcity of berries in the spring.
Our gut microbes change from a predominance of carbohydrate-consuming bugs in the fall to fat-consuming bugs each spring. This suggests if we changed our diet seasonally, not only would we naturally go into calorie restriction each spring, but the more austere spring harvest would demand a shift in diet and gut microbes.1 This is just one of the ways we stay in circadian rhythm (now Noble Prize-winning science).2
According to Ayurveda, spring is kapha (earth-water) season which is a rainy, muddy time of year. Nature’s antidote to kapha season is a kapha reducing diet that helps us all fight off congestion, boost energy, accelerate weight loss, and lighten the mood.
Spring Diet Tips
- Reduce carbohydrates: reduce or avoid grains (beans are okay)
- Avoid most fruits, except berries, less sweet citrus, and tart apples
- Reduce or eliminate dairy
- Healthy oils, like olive oil, ghee, and coconut oil are okay
- All vegetables, tubers (a little starch is okay), nuts, seeds, and light meats (poultry and fish), are also fine for spring.
Get the details in my free monthly seasonal eating guide, The 3-Season Diet Challenge.
Benefits of Calorie Restriction
A new study has discovered exactly how calorie restriction works on a cellular level to reduce inflammation, delay onset of age-related conditions, and lengthen our lives.3,4 Calorie restriction has shown in numerous animal studies and a handful of human studies to reduce risk of many common age-related health concerns.3,5,6
One study evaluated 168,708 cells of rats who ate a calorie-restricted diet or a normal diet for the human equivalent of 30 years. The calorie-restricted diet had 30% less calories than normal.
On the normal diet, rats’ immune systems showed significant aging. With calorie restriction, there were no signs of age-related immune compromise!
Calorie-restricted rats also had significantly less age-related inflammation than the normally fed rats. Age-related transcription factors, considered the genetic master switches, were positively altered in calorie-restricted rats and not in normally fed rats.3
We recommend "Kapha Dosha - Ayurvedic Constitution": https://lifespa.com/kapha-ayurvedic-constitution/
Calorie Restriction, Autophagy + Hacking the Aging Process
The 2016 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Japan’s Dr. Yoshinori Ohsumi for his discoveries of the underlying mechanisms of a physiological process called autophagy.
Autophagy is a natural process by which the body degrades and recycles damaged cells, proteins, and toxins. Autophagy comes from two Greek words: auto meaning self and phagy meaning to eat.7
Dr. Ohsumi was able to identify genes that regulate autophagy and linked disturbances of autophagy to a host of degenerative diseases. In each of his studies, he used mild starvation to trigger autophagy. Short term starvation or calorie restriction has long been identified as a trigger for breakdown and clean-up of toxic cells and debris.1
Studies actually show cells live longer and mitochondria make more energy in times of starvation, fasting, or calorie restriction, compared to when eating regularly.8,9 Other studies suggest regular fasting or calorie restriction (without starvation) naturally hack the aging process in numerous ways.
Calorie restriction has been shown to boost levels of nitric oxide, a Nobel prize-winning molecule that delivers essential rejuvenation and detoxification to the body. Calorie restriction has been shown to boost antioxidant and detoxification activity by activating Nrf2 pathways, and also to have anti-inflammation effects.8
We recommend "How to Eat Less and Thrive Without Hunger": https://lifespa.com/eat-less-thrive-without-hunger/
Calorie Restriction for Longevity
Back in 1935, the first paper on calorie restriction was published. It suggested lifespans could be extended and diseases could be avoided by restricting calories without hunger or starvation.11
In the most comprehensive study on calorie restriction to date, which spanned 20 years, the results were nothing short of amazing. The study divided rhesus monkeys into two groups. One group ate naturally, without restraint, and the other group ate a diet 30% less in calories.
After 20 years, 30% of the unrestricted diet group had died from age-related illness, while only 13% of the calorie-restricted group had. This translates into an almost three-fold reduction of risk in age-related diseases.
Calorie-restricted monkeys had half the incidence of heart disease as the controls. Not one monkey in the calorie-restricted group acquired diabetes, while 40% of monkeys who ate as much as they wanted became diabetic or pre-diabetic.7,9,
In one study, a group of humans reduced caloric intake by only 20% for two to six years. Blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and weight all significantly improved.11
Looking at the research, it is hard to find any other intervention that has such compelling benefits on health and longevity as eating just 20-30% less food.
If you need to manage weight, download my free Ayurvedic Weight Balancing eBook.
5 thoughts on “Spring Diet Tips: Ayurvedic Calorie Restriction”
Isn’t it conceivable that microbes would still favour a mostly carbohydrate diet in the spring as opposed to “fat consuming” microbes? – extra fat can cause kapha excess (dampness) while also burdening the liver and overall digestion. I can see why starches would be less digested during spring, but I would assume the body would be more adapt to consuming simple (‘simpler’) sugars/carbs (leading into a greater effect during summer), since spring time brings new shoots, leafs, sprouts etc which can be foraged for the diet and contain no fat, but do have carbohydrate (for survival). Fats would also be present in spring (hunting animals etc), but fats in too great of a quantity can burden the Liver in the spring – can it not? Thoughts?
Yes some fats are OK in the spring as Dr. John mentioned in the article. By carbs he meant complex carbs not the carbs in veggies.
Literally the gut microbes changes to support the seasonal shift. Here is another article Dr. John wrote on the subject:
Thank you for addressing these topics in Ayurveda.
My challenge has been that the food naturally and indigenously available in each season will vary upon each region and micro-region. For example, Florida had their Spring in February. The plants and food Native Americans ate there is much different than where I live in Minnesota where we still have snow in the shade and below-freezing temperatures at night until mid-May. The Dakota and Ojibwa traditionally survived here at this time on pemmican – a mixture of dried meat, animal fat, dried berries and sometimes with dried wild rice, a seed. The tubers available to them would have been sunchokes, which if they harvested in November or before the ground froze, may be what they subsisted on while waiting for more plants and game in the Spring to mature.
We can adopt the philosophy of Ayurveda anywhere we live, but eating and using herbs that grow locally and seasonally seems to need a more regional examination. In order for us to truly live in harmony with Nature, Western practitioners of Ayurveda have much research to do in their local environments as well as supporting the work being done by Native American chefs and their communities to restore their indigenous food systems.
Thank you again for bringing attention to eating seasonally.
How do seasonal changes relate to the (daily) circadian rhythm? The referenced study does not address this.
Great question. They are two different sets of rhythms, circadian are the daily cycles and Infradian are seasonal.
They are chords that make a song and blend in numerous ways. Too many to elaborate here. Maybe I will write about it.