Eat Clean With The Seasons
Farmer’s Markets are my happy place. There is nothing nicer than rising early on a Saturday morning, throwing on a wide skirt and big hat, and driving to the market with tote bags in tow. While I always find delicious treasures in my local market, the start of the autumn season transforms the local gathering. Harvest season brings such an overflowing abundance of produce, herbs, honey, maple syrup, meats, baked goods, fresh cut flowers and crafts. Towers of multicolored pumpkins, a rainbow of tomatoes, piles of beans, potatoes, and sweet onions. I can spend an entire morning flitting from table-to-table shopping and visiting. Most vendors are happy to share recipes with me, and are tickled to talk about the fruits of their labor.
In this season of harvest and abundance, it is easy to “Eat Clean.”
The idea of eating clean is simple: eat real food.
Overall, more than two-thirds of U.S. adults in the United States are overweight or have obesity, leading to cardiovascular disease (mainly heart disease and stroke), type 2 diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders like osteoarthritis, and some cancers (endometrial, breast and colon), according to the World Health Organization. Auto-immune diseases affect 1 in every 10 people, 22.8% of U.S. adults have experienced mental illness, and 51.8% of US adults have at least 1 chronic condition, and 27.2% have multiple chronic conditions. There are tons of remedies from mother nature that can improve and ease these conditions, but HERBAL MEDICINE WON’T WORK IF YOU EAT GARBAGE AND SIT ON YOUR BUTT!
Our overall health cannot be improved by only dripping a few drops of tincture under the tongue or brewing a cup of tea each day without eating healthy foods and moving your body. There are many types of diets, many of which seem pretty wild and daunting, and almost all are impractical and rarely can be maintained. I offer an old school alternative: eat real food with the seasons and created or grown as close to your home as possible.
Eat real butter, not margarine. Whole grain loaves, not bland white bread. Freshly baked cookies, not preservative filled store snacks. Walk past the aisles of brightly packaged processed foods, out of the superstore, and to your local shops. Following the seasons is simple, you must only pay attention to the natural world around you. An easy way to help discover these treasures is to support your local gardeners, farmers, beekeepers and butcher shops. By eating local goods, you support an individual. A real person with a real family, not a corporation. Instead of grabbing a shiny, waxy perfect apple from the supermarket you could visit the orchard down the road, meet the growers, ask questions, share recipes, and bring home an apple you know is safe to eat. They always taste better too.
Mother nature gives us the gift of what we need when we need it. For instance, after a cold winter spent indoors feasting on rich holiday foods and fat filled fuel to keep warm, the first plants to emerge from the ground work as a cleansing tonic to our bodies. Plants like dandelion, cleavers, burdock, and stinging nettle arrive as our bodies crave fresh green things and supply us with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients we've been lacking. They clear out the cobwebs so to speak. This pattern continues throughout the entire turning of the wheel of the year. As temperatures warm, we are given cooling mints, fresh strawberries and blueberries, sweet peas, and cucumbers. Before being forced back indoors for the winter, we are gifted treasures to stave off viruses and illnesses like plump little elderberries and bright rose hips and crisp apples.
Trees, plants and animals are exposed to the same environmental toxins we are. The toxins are found in the soil, water, and air. Again, mother nature is clever and she helps plants develop a resistance to our nonsense so they can continue to thrive and grow healthy. When we and the animals take in these plants, we also absorb the healing properties that they have developed. Consuming foods grown in the area where you live allows you to take advantage of the earned resistance specific to what is ailing your area. This is mother nature’s plant magic. If you are able, plant your own garden for your family.
While the concept of clean eating is simple, there are a few issues that worry folks when considering the change in diet. Many believe organic and local foods are too expensive to consider, and that may be true when price comparing in the supermarket. To help families eat better, most hometown farm markets now accept WIC and food assistance cards. Local markets also are more inclined to barter, haggle, bundle and trade. I love trading my remedies for eggs, veggies, and honey.
Some people don’t have extra time to spare to freeze, can, and dry produce for later use. A few inquiries at the market will lead you to those who make their living doing preserving work for others, or to good reference books and sites to learn the art yourself.
For some people, creating meals from scratch is daunting. It seems like the many ready-made options at the superstore are faster and take less effort and energy, which is an appealing thought for working families. The problem is many easy and fast options are full of ingredients that cause health issues and low energy. The extra time it takes to create a clean meal is repaid in healthy energy and a body that feels good. When we feel good, we can do more!
What to do with the fresh ingredients when you get them home? This is my favorite part! I ask for ideas and recipes from the farmer who grew it and I pull out my old recipe books. I call my mama, the queen of culinary herbs, and spend time with her discussing ideas and techniques to try. It’s one of my family’s favorite ways to connect with each other. I will purposely buy a parsnip, heirloom speckled beans, or bag of apricots just to have a reason to laugh with mama and try something brand new for dinner.
I encourage everyone to give clean eating a try. Food is medicine, at least it should be. When you remove toxins from your diet and take advantage of the many herbs and spices to improve your health, you can only feel better. It's not as radical as the cotton ball diet, but it’ll give you what you body needs. As for exercise, you can start by grabbing a wild hat and tote bag and go strolling through your own local farmer’s market and orchards this weekend. Make some positive changes and help us to help you!