By Derek Beres
From Completely You
For most of human existence, we ate seasonally. What was available in summer had to be eaten then and only then. Slowly, we learned that foods could be foraged and stored, though that still kept us to a limited menu. Innovative techniques such as pickling helped us preserve our dinner. But it was refrigeration that forever altered how and when we eat … and not always for the better.
When I lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., I realized how odd it was that I could eat pineapple in February. Not only was it not in season, it was grown nowhere near where I lived. While this isn't a big revelation to most of us, it is really only during the last century that we even had the opportunity to eat foods from across the nation, much less from other countries. And while I enjoy and appreciate eating dates from Morocco and bananas from Mexico, there is something to be said about eating with the seasons. The following four foods are perfect for preparing your body to transition into spring and keeping seasonal colds at bay.
Spring Superfood No. 1: Lemon
You probably know that these citrus fruits boast a big dose of vitamin C. But you might not know that the flavonoids, antioxidants and other phytonutrients in lemons help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke rheumatoid arthritis and some cancers. Plus, lemons boost your immune system and can drastically increase the chance that you won't fall ill this spring.
Drinking a glass of warm water with lemon first thing in the morning prepares your digestive system for the day's work of breaking down your food properly. It's how I start my days. Read more about why I love lemon water.
Spring Superfood No. 2: Dandelion Greens
Bitter greens are crucial to making seasonal transitions, especially this delicious variety. A natural liver-cleanser, this blood purifier helps keep the liver functioning smoothly, which is important considering that the organ filters toxins and metabolic waste out of our systems. Eat the greens in a salad or saute them with olive oil and garlic. If you don't like the greens themselves, try dandelion tea. The bitterness might be a little intense, but luckily for us honey is next on the list.
Spring Superfood No. 3: Honey
I'm talking raw, local honey, if possible. When honey is pasteurized and processed, many of the important phytonutrients are killed in the process. In addition, eating honey that's local to your area means you're ingesting local pollen, which I believe helps calm allergies. Some recent studies deny this benefit. But year after year, I have found local honey to be helpful in calming my sneezing and itchiness.
Honey also has antibacterial and antiviral properties -- just one more a reason why it has long been revered as an almost mythological substance. And if you do happen to get sick, look no further than honey for the ideal cough suppressant. (Read more about how it works.)
Spring Superfood No. 4: Ginger
Early spring is the best time to add a strong dose of fresh ginger into your diet. Brew up some fresh ginger tea by steeping some slices in hot water, or add some diced ginger to a saute. (Check out my recipe for sauteed kale and ginger.) Either way, ginger is diaphoretic. It induces heat, which is a great way to warm your body internally and help you acclimate as outdoor temperatures rise. It also aids digestion. But the greatest benefit of this root just might be in the gingerols it contains, anti-inflammatory compounds that will help fend off spring colds and other ills.
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