French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once famously said, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are.” This quote couldn’t be truer. What we eat truly makes up how we exist on this planet.
This spring season, you can make sure to do good on this habit by eating food items that will benefit your body greatly. There are two important factors concerning the therapeutic and the nutritional power of food. First is the freshness of the food, which refers to how nutritionally dense the food item is. The second thing is how free the food is from contamination. In today’s day, the latter is a privilege to enjoy.
The most important and easy habit to practice for enjoying food’s therapeutic value is to consume seasonal foods. It means eating local, freshly cooked food. Fresh does not necessarily mean raw food, but it must include a combination of raw food and cooked food. This is important for our gut health and the gut microorganisms’ diversity. People tend to buy into this trend that nutrition comes packaged in bottles. But this is far from the truth. Nutrition comes from nature, which beautifully interconnects food.
For example, let’s take the Indian dish of khichdi. The dish contains legumes like dal as well as rice, ghee, spices, and vegetables. Indians usually consume this dish with curd (yogurt). The nutrients in this dish complement each other. This recipe is a complete food that makes a chain of amino acids. Dal has lysine in it, and they lack methionine and cysteine, while rice contains methionine and cysteine and lacks lysine. This combination makes it a complete amino acid chain, which makes a complete protein. If one takes ghee with khichdi, it helps absorb vitamin A, vitamin E, and vitamin D, which are fat-soluble vitamins. If one adds vegetables to the dish, it adds fiber content and mineral content. Lastly, when we eat this dish with curd, the curd acts as a probiotic and helps in the digestion and removal of the nasty microorganisms from one’s gut.
As a dietitian, I believe that traditional diets are the healthiest ones to practice, be it the ayurvedic diet or the Mediterranean diet. People tend to get attracted to foreign diets rather than valuing what is readily available in their locality. Ayurveda believes in life (‘prana’), and that life energy can be derived from fresh food. This means there is a direct proportion between the freshness of the food and the amount of life energy one can obtain from it. Mediterranean diet believes that we should have something local for nutrition. Combining these two principles, it is safe to assume that eating local fresh food is extremely beneficial for our health.
Now we all know spring is a season of beginnings. It comprises of renewal, budding of plants, chirping of birds, and just fresher energy. At the same time, spring is also a season of fever, allergies, congestion, and falling sick easily. This is because our body’s doshas are changing from vata in winters to kaptha in spring. Since the days are becoming warmer, our diet should reflect a change, too. We should move from eating rich dishes like stew and meat to more dry, pungent, and astringent foods, which are easier to digest for spring.
Many individuals practice a change in their diet due to the way traditions dictate it for us. In North India, people practice the Navratri fast during the month of March and April as that’s the time when our body is preparing for the summer season. It’s a natural detox that individuals practice. They stop eating heavy grains and move towards amaranth
and kuttu, eating lighter foods. In Europe, too, people observe the lent period, which is more a discipline than a diet, as people don’t eat meat nor drink alcohol.
So what food items must one include in their diet during the spring season? It should be a balance of millets like kodu, barnyard, foxtail millet, and sorghum. Amongst legumes, I would recommend red lentils, split green grams, which are easy to digest. I will also advise to have more bitter foods like neem, methi, radish leaves, and carrot leaves as well as chili. Amongst pungent food, we should include garlic, ginger, and turmeric in our diet. For people residing in the Mediterranean region, I would recommend including nettle, asparagus as well as ginger in your diet. Consuming these food items will help release the extra bile and extra fat and prepare our body to face the summer season.
My message to you for this blog is to eat seasonal, eat fresh, and eat local!