Healing With Spring Foods
Spring is a time of renewal, reset, and change. Many of us spring clean our homes during this season, but it is also necessary to cleanse our bodies. Spring allergies, chronic inflammation from winter eating, and lack of activity all put a strain on our health. Add gut issues that can result from heavier dense winter foods are all common at this time of the year. This season is an opportunity to refresh our habits and address underlying issues that we may be struggling with.
Functional medicine and functional nutrition both focus on “food is medicine” as an approach to food. When planning spring meal plans, it is important to think about lifestyle factors that may change during the season as well as symptoms that may occur during this time. Eating seasonally is recommended and be aware that any health challenges you face including seasonal allergies, thyroid issues, toxin overload, inflammation, hormonal imbalance, and resetting your gut may change which healing foods you should eat in the spring. Your functional medicine practitioner can help you decide on an individualized meal plan.
Eating in Spring
Spring is the time to give your body a break from the winter lifestyle you are emerging from. Foods are lighter, and many people begin to eat more seasonally as fresh produce is more accessible locally. Eating seasonally, choosing fresh whole foods, and avoiding processed foods is an excellent start to a spring meal plan. This is a wonderful time to begin eating more foods to detox and cleanse your body from toxins. A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, hydrating drinks, probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods, antioxidant-rich foods, and nutrient-dense foods is an excellent change for springtime.
Inflammation is due to our body trying to fight off foreign invaders – this is our immune system’s response. Some people only have inflammation flare-ups that occur occasionally or for a short period of time, otherwise known as acute inflammation. However, people with chronic health challenges, those who have been sick or injured, and other factors can contribute to ongoing chronic inflammation. Foods that contain quercetin and other antioxidants, flavonoids, enzymes, beta-cryptoxanthin, and other anti-inflammatory properties can be quite beneficial for reducing inflammation.
Anti-inflammatory spring foods
It seems like the holidays come and our good eating habits suddenly go out the window. Many of us make resolutions to eat healthier come the new year, but most people can’t stick to their plans and find that they are feeling bloated, stressed, and ready for positive change at the end of winter.
Overindulgence in processed foods, foods with pesticides, and alcohol can tax your liver, lower energy levels, cause brain fog, increase blood pressure, and cause gut microbiome imbalances. Detoxification is a great way to rid your body of all these harmful substances and help you feel cleansed, and reduce inflammation. Learn more about detoxification and functional medicine here.
Detox Spring Foods
- Bok choy
- Bitter greens
Getting enough water every day is crucial for overall health. Hydration helps alkalinize your body, increase metabolism, and reduce cravings. Your entire body, down to your cells, needs water to survive. Without enough water, our body cannot deliver nutrients to our cells or regulate our body temperature as well.
Dehydration can affect overall wellness in the body and symptoms include increased thirst, dry mouth, fatigue, headache, dry skin, dizziness, and decreased urine.
- Water – Plain filtered water should be the drink you reach most often during meals, after exercise, and throughout the day.
- Green tea – Green tea with lemon is detoxing and antioxidant-rich – drink warm or cold
- Lemon juice – Lemon juice in a glass of warm water is an excellent way to begin the day
- Replenish electrolytes – Add foods that replace the electrolytes you lose when you sweat – bananas, sweet potatoes, avocados, eggs, celery, greens, tomatoes
- Eat more fruit – Many fruits and vegetables are over 90% water including cucumbers, spinach, watermelon, grapefruits, and strawberries
As we welcome spring in our hearts, our bodies may not be as happy that spring is here. Pollen returns with the newly sprouting leaves on trees, and flowers are blooming. As you spring clean, you may notice that the dust mites, pollen, and other substances are irritating to you.
The spring (or fall) allergy approach in functional medicine involves addressing the root cause and reducing inflammatory triggers which can worsen and aggravate symptoms. When foreign invaders like pollen enter our body, this triggers inflammatory molecules to be produced. These inflammatory molecules include histamine, prostaglandins, and leukotriene. Not long after your immune system signals that it is time to respond to the invaders and you have allergy symptoms.
Foods that help with spring allergies
- Bee pollen
- Citrus fruits
Reset Your Gut
Your gut is a delicate balance of a diverse ecosystem of microorganisms, a combination of beneficial and harmful bacteria, and other gut microbiota. These bacteria help us digest our foods and synthesize certain antioxidants and vitamins. Some ways to reset your gut include adding fiber to your diet with whole-grain foods and beans, probiotics, and prebiotics to introduce more beneficial bacteria to your gut and reduce your stress levels as much as possible.
Spring reset foods:
- Prebiotic-rich foods – onions, oats, barley, and bananas
- Probiotic-rich foods – yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut
- Whole-grain foods – oats, brown rice, barley, and rye
- Fiber-rich foods – beans, legumes, and lentils
Nutrient-dense Spring Foods
When shopping at the supermarket or local farmers’ market – look to buy whole fresh foods that are nutrient-dense and nourishing. Avoid foods that are processed with artificial ingredients and flavors. Vegetables and nutrient-rich fruits (organic is possible), lean meats, and foods containing healthy fats are all excellent choices. Spring fruits and vegetables should appear in abundance – freshening up your meal plan and palate.
Nutrient-dense foods include
- Swiss chard
- Collard greens
- Young carrots
Foods rich in Vitamin B
Vitamin B is responsible for helping to convert food to energy, making new blood cells, supporting adrenal functions, and reducing stress. B vitamins are water-soluble and help your body with the methylation process, which reduces inflammation and helps the body detox. There are eight B vitamins, thiamine (B1), riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), folate (folic acid), and vitamin B12. Adding vitamin B foods to your diet can help boost energy and immunity.
- Leafy greens
- Brewer’s yeast
Foods rich in healthy fats
Healthy fats are essential to our diet because they are our primary energy source and are crucial for survival. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids help reduce the inflammation we have in our bodies. Healthy fats in our body have a big job to do. They help maintain our cell membranes, transport cholesterol, support brain, and skin health, maintain body temperature, and assist cell repair.
- Organic avocados
- Raw nuts and seeds
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Unrefined, cold-pressed coconut oil
- Grass-fed dairy products
- Wild-caught fish
Talk to your functional medicine practitioner about creating a spring meal plan for your individual needs and health challenges.