Seasonal eating

Autumnal produce. photo: charles smith / flickr

As we enter fall, we say goodbye to fresh berries, watermelons, and heirloom tomatoes only to say hello to pumpkins, sweet potatoes, and pomegranates. In our modern times, we have access to just about any kind of food at any time of the year. Paradoxically, this access is a disadvantage to our health and the environment.

The good news is that with the increase in local farmers’ markets, the White House kitchen garden, and books like the Omnivore’s Dilemma, people are increasingly returning to the way we once ate.


In San Francisco, we have incredible access to local produce at farmers’ markets or by utilizing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) for home delivery ( This access offers you enhanced nutrition, because there is a shorter time between harvest and consumption. From a global perspective, the carbon footprint is lower and small businesses are supported.

By allowing our diet to change with the seasons, we create a natural diversity in our nutrition that supports us for the time of year. A 2001 study in Japan found a three-fold difference in the vitamin C content of spinach harvested in the summer versus the winter. Climate changes the resources given to the plant and in turn affects the nutrient content of food.


We are exposed to different health concerns depending on the time of year. As well, weather changes can affect both micronutrient and macronutrient needs.

A good example of macronutrient (protein, fat, carbohydrate) support is the increase in higher carbohydrate foods as we enter fall and winter. Food is a common source of creating heat within our bodies, so foods that are higher in carbohydrates and starches generally create more heat. This is often why people may gain more fat during these seasons. The extra insulation keeps us a little warmer.

A good example of micronutrient (vitamins, minerals) support is the increase of dark leafy greens during spring. Many people suffer seasonal allergies during this time, and the nutrients in Swiss chard, spinach, romaine lettuce, parsley, dandelion greens, basil, cilantro, and nettles can support the liver in naturally detoxifying allergens.


How we prepare our foods also shifts with the seasons. During the winter months, there is a tendency to prepare warmer foods like soups and stews. In the spring and summer, people consume more raw foods like salads.

Juicing cleanses have become increasingly popular. The ideal time to do a juice cleanse is from spring through early fall. Because the weather is typically warmer, your body does not have to rely on the digestion of food to create internal heat. This can make a cleanse more comfortable and healthful. In San Francisco, I’ll typically do my juice cleanses during our warmer months — fall or early spring. If I feel the need to detoxify other times of the year, I will tailor the cleanse to fit the season or weather patterns:


  • Fruits: apples, pomegranates
  • Vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, peppers
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Ginger Winter
  • Fruits: pears, persimmons, dried fruit
  • Root vegetables: parsnips, turnips, beets, carrots, garlic, onion
  • Winter squash
  • Fish, chicken, beef, lamb, venison
  • Nuts


  • Greens: Swiss chard, spinach, romaine lettuce, fresh parsley, basil, nettles
  • Root vegetables: beets
  • Cucumbers


  • Fruits: berries, apples, plums, melons, nectarines
  • Vegetables: summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, corn
  • Heirloom tomatoes
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs (Yes, eggs have seasons, too)


Spicy Pumpkin Hummus

(Serves 12)

  • 14 ounces cooked garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1½ cups pumpkin puree
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the garbanzo beans in a food processor and process until finely chopped. With the motor running, add garlic through the tube and process until very fine. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Taste for seasoning, adding additional salt, pepper, and lemon juice, if desired.

Serve with sweet potato chips.

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Thalia Farshchian is a naturopathic doctor at Discover Health. Her background includes both conventional and alternative modalities, and her practice is primarily focused on weight management, hormone imbalances, and gastrointestinal conditions. E-mail: [email protected]