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Why should we eat seasonally?

by (598)
Updated about 4 hours ago
Created March 23, 2014 at 7:31 PM

Eating seasonally makes perfect sense and goes along with other paleo doctrine but I naturally question all things. I've been tentatively eating seasonally too, but not taking it too seriously.

CW says that the human diet in temperate seasonal areas has been vastly improved by year-round availability of fresh fruits and veggies. Maybe they're on to something this time. It's always been this way in tropical regions...

This crossed my mind when I thought "should I water my plants... nah, it's been cold the past couple days." Plants do best when we give them more water when it's hot and less water when it's cold: precisely the opposite of what they'd receive in nature. It's a gross oversimplification and we are definitely not plants, but why shouldn't people eat more fruit when it's cold out and less when it's hot? Or just eat it all year regardless...

As usual, I'll point out here that I'm not concerned with weight loss, only optimal health.

I can think of one non-physiological justification for eating seasonally. It only applies if you're eating locally though. Local fresh fruits and veggies are only available in-season...

Personally, I'll buy the amazing Mexican asparagus over the thin-stocked local stuff I've seen this year. I'll happily buy mangoes from the Philippines over those grown near by... And all these come all year around.

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10194 · March 25, 2014 at 9:27 PM

Good catch raydawg. I'd say the same about eating a lot of meat in the spring, when animals are slow moving and have tasty lambs to catch. IMO that's how we wiped out the mammoths - eating their calves - not by bombing them with boulders.

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1227 · March 25, 2014 at 5:01 PM

I would not eat raw broccoli. Raw turnips, beets, carrots, daikon, arugula, lettuce, any small green, all sprouts, they are all fine. But broccoli is too heavy raw. Yes, it is all in moderation. we are forced to keep a varied vegetable diet to spread the toxins.

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1005 · March 25, 2014 at 4:11 PM

Also relevant, http://nutrition.highwire.org/content/128/1/50.full

"Perhaps the most surprising observation from this study was the trend of the Mt. Everest climbers to self-select a greater proportion of energy from the higher fat foods."

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1005 · March 25, 2014 at 3:58 PM

Also, as you have control over your diet, you have control over the the temperature of your environment (to some degree.) If you're going low carb, it makes sense to me to lower the temp.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22642829

"With respect to feasibility, cold drinks, cooling packs and cooling vests can be regarded as best-practice methods."

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1005 · March 25, 2014 at 3:51 PM

As far as I can tell, he's just making it up as he goes, haha.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3365185/

Protein generally stays somewhat fixed, where carbs and fats compete against each other for the majority of energy. Under colder environments, fat oxidation genetics are better expressed; in warmer settings, the carb burning genetics seem better expressed. It looks like even the gut bacteria change around. So, maybe the summer would be better suited for smoothies and fruits while the winter is better suited for bulletproof coffee / IF / a lower carb cycle.

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598 · March 25, 2014 at 3:27 PM

That's interesting. I find that raw foods (other than fruit) almost always upset my gut. I guess I have a delicate gut. I can't handle more than a couple ounces of raw broccoli without dire side effects ranging from gas/bloating to several days of constipation and pain. I can eat about 5x as much if it's cooked until soft and slathered with butter and salt. Pretty much all veggies do the same to me. Can't handle more than half a carrot raw but can eat several cooked.

Raw fish is amazing though. And I do find that I feel better if I eat SOME raw veggies daily. Gotta be in moderation.

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598 · March 25, 2014 at 3:22 PM

And that's a sensable gist. Did he cite any sources or studies that really matter? I know that's a long shot. I saw something near the beginning about invertabrates and possibly rats living longer in the cold but I'm still wondering how all this applies to carbs in winter vs. summer... Sorry I just can't get through it for myself but I am curious what he has to say.

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1005 · March 25, 2014 at 1:52 AM

It's tricky to find any articles / blogs from anyone other than kruse with much experience on the cold-adaptation + cold-adapted diet combo, especially in pursuit of performance and health (and not overweight people trying a new gimmick to effortlessly burn fat, or as a short experiment, where the adaption might actually take a year or so.) I agree about his writing style. There's a lack of info in this area.

The jist is there seems to be a natural flow of being able to tolerate a little more carb in the summer and a little more fat in the winter, common sense, I suppose.

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1227 · March 25, 2014 at 1:22 AM

Probably not, vit.C in isolation, considering my gut is producing 100 times the amount in acetic acid every day. But there is something about fresh, raw foods that makes me feel better. I can not quantify it but it is better. Raw meat for sure, but definitely also raw vegetables.

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1005 · March 25, 2014 at 1:16 AM

I've been doing cold showers and HIIT training in a cold pool and morning sprints in a tshirt / shorts at 40-50 degrees or so on a ketogenic diet with lots of ghee. I'm radiating heat like a furnace at a sub 15% body fat percentage or so, with no plans to lose any weight. Running on carbs, I generally liked it hot (I live in the desert) but often felt cold. I find the metabolic shift fascinating. I've actually scheduled my maintenance guys to come out and check my air conditioner to see if we can get it more efficient so it comes on less often to keep it cold in here.

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10194 · March 24, 2014 at 5:50 PM

You used to be able to U-pick strawberries in Anaheim, and you probably still can on the way out to Pomona. Palm Desert is a great place to get fresh, and dried, dates. I like the old LA farmer's market too, but more for the old Gilmore gas station than the produce.

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598 · March 24, 2014 at 5:45 PM

I started to read that but when I realized how long it was and that I'd have to cope with his abrasive (to me at least) writing style and the ethereal, spiritual, "lookie how enlightened I am" tone of delivery for so long to complete it, I said "NVM" and moved on...

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598 · March 24, 2014 at 3:47 PM

Thoughts like this remind me how much I'd like to live in a different community. My little apartment in the glitzy suburbs of Southern California is where I dwell out of necessity though. I moved here for work and can't wait to move away when life allows.

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598 · March 24, 2014 at 3:45 PM

Alright the freshness thing is sensible but I have to wonder if less-fresh produce from abroad is still better than its lack due to the local growing climate. Is vitamin C really that important in mineral absorbtion?

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10194 · March 24, 2014 at 3:09 PM

I like monads, but mainly because I like railroads...I'm just completing my 3 month macro cold study. I've spent 3 hours a day outside for the last three months, at temperatures averaging 10-20F. I've kept my central body warm, taking the brunt of the cold on my legs (usually cold burned), face, lungs and arms. I've eaten isocalorically 2100-2300 kcal/day, averaging 700-800 kcal/day exercise over and above RMR. My waistline and scale weight have stayed constant. Conclusion for this N=1 is that being cold is null effect on body comp.

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10194 · March 24, 2014 at 12:33 PM

I haven't read one of these for a while, thanks. Considering that mammalian behavior predates yin and yang, and that both Amerinds and Inuits are descended from more ancient grain-eating cultures, I'm not willing to suspend belief entirely and accept this homily. I wonder when the Quilt will realize that the key to life's seasonal puzzle is hibernation instead of ice baths. Caves exist for the benefit of bears and humans. Why not follow the bear instead of the walrus? Googoogajoob...

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17136 · March 25, 2014 at 5:29 PM

In a word, fructose. Fructose signals our bodies to pack on stores for the winter. Fructose is available in large amounts only at the end of summer, when ripe fruits are abundant. So we pack on the fat to be able to survive the lean times.

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10194 · March 25, 2014 at 9:27 PM

Good catch raydawg. I'd say the same about eating a lot of meat in the spring, when animals are slow moving and have tasty lambs to catch. IMO that's how we wiped out the mammoths - eating their calves - not by bombing them with boulders.

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1005 · March 24, 2014 at 7:39 AM

You might find this interesting:

http://jackkruse.com/cold-thermogenesis-6-the-ancient-pathway/

"In my view, Mother Nature always is right, no matter what the modern research says. Most of the research never took this pathway into consideration. The textbooks were written in the 1950′s and the cold adapted pathways of mammals are still not studied even today. Since modern scientists do not know mammals have two major biochemical pathways in which they seasonally operate their data is at best incomplete. Moreover, the research is useless when it is based upon a flawed assumption. (see the cholesterol data as a great example)

What is the major flaw in the modern literature? No one realizes mammals have two metabolic pathways that they live within normally on our planet by evolutionary design. In fact, this is how all mammals evolved 67 million years ago. One pathway dominates spring and summer, and the other dominates fall and winter. It is the mammalian version of Yin and Yang. Moreover, both function in unison on a continuum to make biochemistry work for us over a wide variation of environments we are adapted to. The metabolic pathways governing cold are the bastard child of the modern world, and it has lead to major health care issues for modern man.

If you fight Mother Nature’s rules for mammals, by eating outside normal circadian biology she will bite you in the “ass” every time. There is always a biologic toll to pay for this behavior. You need to be very aware of this biologic fact at all times. My point is clear. Modern man is not aware of this, and in fact, his thoughts, feelings, and beliefs have kept these facts, in his blind spot since the agricultural revolution. I think the American Indians were the last group of modern hominids who really understood these natural laws best. Let us look to the Arctic now for a prime example of how carbs can destroy a cold adapted group by creating a mismatch.

There is no safe starches in winter period because Mother Nature said so."

That article needs some serious spellcheck / proofing, but there are some interesting tidbits. It might matter more on the environment you're in rather than the season and the macros more than the food items.

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10194 · March 24, 2014 at 12:33 PM

I haven't read one of these for a while, thanks. Considering that mammalian behavior predates yin and yang, and that both Amerinds and Inuits are descended from more ancient grain-eating cultures, I'm not willing to suspend belief entirely and accept this homily. I wonder when the Quilt will realize that the key to life's seasonal puzzle is hibernation instead of ice baths. Caves exist for the benefit of bears and humans. Why not follow the bear instead of the walrus? Googoogajoob...

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598 · March 24, 2014 at 5:45 PM

I started to read that but when I realized how long it was and that I'd have to cope with his abrasive (to me at least) writing style and the ethereal, spiritual, "lookie how enlightened I am" tone of delivery for so long to complete it, I said "NVM" and moved on...

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1227 · March 23, 2014 at 9:34 PM

Eating seasonally is about maximal vitamin and phytochemical content. The later the ingestion, the worse the content. Your garden (picked 10 minutes ago) is already significantly better than the farmer market (picked yesterday). As the vitamin C in a fruit goes down, so goes your mineral absorption.

There are exceptions. A good avocado here in the North is probably as good as an avocado in California, because both have to wait a week from harvest. Same for pears. Then there are vegetables such as squash, apples and sweet potatoes that improve about one month after harvest.

Then there is, if you are of northern ancestry, a seasonal cycle which is baked in your genes. In spring I prefer greens, in Fall I eat a lot of high sugar vegetables and fruits.

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598 · March 24, 2014 at 3:45 PM

Alright the freshness thing is sensible but I have to wonder if less-fresh produce from abroad is still better than its lack due to the local growing climate. Is vitamin C really that important in mineral absorbtion?

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245 · March 23, 2014 at 8:52 PM

Eating seasonally is about supporting your local community - value call.

Helping to get variety in your diet - not needed if you're conciencious.

Getting the former two while saving money - food in-season is cheaper.

All comes down to your values, your wallet and you're ability to formulate a careful diet.

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598 · March 24, 2014 at 3:47 PM

Thoughts like this remind me how much I'd like to live in a different community. My little apartment in the glitzy suburbs of Southern California is where I dwell out of necessity though. I moved here for work and can't wait to move away when life allows.

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10194 · March 23, 2014 at 8:12 PM

There are lots of articles like the following

http://www.clevelandclinicwellness.com/food/SeasonalEating/Pages/introduction.aspx#

But I find slim to none nih-type meta studies on seasonal eating benefits.

So trying to extract the benefits from the above I see two clear ones: freshness and sense of well-being. Personally, I can see the benefits of catching in-season fresh seafood for the activity and sense of accomplishment that result. Even if I don't catch my own, I still control the freshness, cooking and/or preservation. The same goes for picking apples, plums, berries and nuts, something I've enjoyed doing since I was a kid.

None of this makes sense unless you live in close proximity of the food though. When the Saskatoon berry pick ends in Winnipeg you're stuck with bananas. You do what you can locally, as long as you can.

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