Episode 045: Seasonal Summer Eating

Episode 045: Seasonal Summer Eating

Holistic health is at the focal point of my practice, and the topics we talk about here on this podcast are through a functional nutrition lense. Viewing food as fuel and medicine are at its backbone, and seasonal eating is at the core of the “food as medicine” movement.

Seasonal eating may seem like the latest food trend, but it's an ancient practice that's been around for a long time.

In this episode, we'll discuss:

  • Benefits of seasonal eating

  • How to cook and what to eat for each season

  • Unique aspects of the summer season

  • Bonus tips for summer health care!

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Welcome back to The Live FAB Life Podcast.

Today we’re wrapping up a three-episode series on summer health.

First, Episode 043, I chatted with Genevieve Blair on Safer Summer Skincare, then in Episode 044, I chatted with Dr. Sandra Miyamoto on Safer Summer Eyecare. So if you haven’t listened to those episodes yet, don’t forget to check them out!

Today we’re talking about seasonal summer eating.

By now you know that holistic health is at the focal point of my practice and the topics we talk about here on this podcast are through a functional nutrition lense. And viewing food as fuel and as medicine is at its backbone.

Seasonal eating is at the core of the “food as medicine” movement.

It may seem like it’s the latest food trend, but actually, it's an ancient practice that's been around for a long, long time.

Now I like to call seasonal eating - “just-in-time” eating - or in other words, eating foods when they’re harvested.

So before we get into what are the best seasonal foods for the summer, let’s explore what are the benefits of eating seasonally.

1 | Food is fresher

When we eat foods right after it’s been harvested, it’s likely to be organic and free of herbicides and pesticides because they don't need to be preserved for a longer shelf life. So a lot of time these chemicals are used to preserve produce so it lasts longer. When we eat foods shortly after its harvested, these chemicals aren’t needed!

And the bonus: Being herbicide and pesticide-free makes it better for the environment too!

2 | Local to you

When we eat foods that are freshly harvested, they’re likely have been grown in our local community (or pretty close by to it!). Organic, fresh foods are almost always locally grown which means that they aren't subject to long travel times from the other side of the world. And this is when the chemical preservatives are needed.

So when I’m shopping for organic produce, I always try to see where something is from and if there multiple options to choose from, I will always chose the farm that’s closest to me because that means it had the shortest transit time.

3 | You’re supporting your community and local economy

When we buy our foods from local farmers, we not only support our community but boost our local economies.

So eating seasonally isn’t just great for our health, but it’s also good for our immediate environment and for our local economy too!

So let’s briefly take a look at the unique attributes of each season and then we’ll dive into the summer.

Fall, or as I like to call it, autumn, because autumn just sounds prettier, is the harvest season. It’s a season of transition to prepare yourself for winter. Because you’re slowly transitioning from enjoying the outdoors during the summer, to being indoors for the winter.

It’s during Autumn that we turn to warm, baked, or sautéed foods, and might also enjoy sour foods like sauerkraut (which is a great food for gut-healing), pickles, olives, leeks, lemon, limes, grapefruit, and sour versions of apples, plums, and grapes.

During Autumn, it’s also ideal to eat moistening foods to contrast the gradually drying weather. So moistening foods would be things like spinach, pears, apples, persimmons, seaweed, eggs, crab, and all foods that are naturally available in the Fall.

Cooking during the Autumn season means cooking with less water, at a lowered temperature and for longer periods of time, which makes sense because this is when we typically bring out the crock pots and slow cookers, right?

Now winter is the end of all of the seasons. It’s the season for hibernation, a time for rest and meditation.

During the winter we gravitate toward foods that are naturally salty and bitter; and eat warm, hearty soups; roasted foods, and steamed winter greens.

So Winter foods include lettuce, watercress, turnips, celery, asparagus, quinoa, citrus peels, and root vegetables like chicory and burdock.

Winter cooking means foods that are cooked longer, slower, with even less water than is used in the Fall, also at low temperatures. So again, more slow cooker meals.

Then comes Spring. And Spring is the season of renewal. Baby animals are born, plants and flowers bloom - it’s the season for new beginnings.

During the Spring our bodies naturally wants to cleanse itself. It physically wants to remove the residues of heavy winter foods and emotionally wants to release feelings of dissatisfaction, impatience, and anger.

We naturally gravitate to lighter foods like herbs, sweet starchy vegetables, like beets, parsnips and carrots, and even raw foods, because Spring is for shorter cooking times at higher cooking temperatures. So dishes like stir frys are fantastic for the Spring.

And finally, there’s summer.

Summer is a season for growth!

During summer the sun rises early and if we’re our natural circadian rhythms are aligned to the sun, which we want them to be, then we’re rising early too! @e naturally feel lighter, brighter, and hopefully, spending more time outdoors, enjoying the longer days of sunshine and absorbing all that Vitamin D!

We tend to even dine outdoors on our patios and on picnics, and naturally, we want to eat less, but also eat light, cooling foods, avoiding heavy foods that can make us feel sluggish.

So we turn to brightly-colored fruits, sprouts, flower/leaf teas like mint and chamomile, and so much more.

Some of the best summertime fruits are berries, stone fruit, melons, and tropical fruits!

Like the Spring, Summer is for very short cooking times at high cooking temperatures because the last thing we want is to feel more heat from cooking. I tend to steam and saute a lot of my meals, as well as eat salads with lots of greens like arugula, mustard greens, spinach and collard greens, and add in peppers, cucumbers, radishes, artichokes, beets, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, fennel and even do slaws with cabbage and incorporate summer fruits into them.

The biggest takeaway I want to impart on you is that when we eat seasonally, we naturally bring ourselves back into balance and harmony with nature

And when we do this, we naturally build up our immune systems, and create a natural defense against illnesses, headaches, digestive issues, and even skin issues that can plague us and are signs that we’re out of balance.

So if you are experiencing these things, adopting a practice of eating seasonally, with regularity, is one way to bring yourself back into balance.

I personally try to do a one week seasonal cleanse four times a year - one during each season.

It’s a nice reset that helps remove toxins and unwanted "clutter" that’s built up in my body.

And it allows me to to release the things that weighs me down physically and emotionally, so I can make room for my natural energy to flow, and be open to transformation, and positive changes.

If you've never done a seasonal cleanse before, they’re nothing to be afraid of. I don’t take any pills or powders or depriving myself to the point of starvation. All that does is create havoc on my blood sugar and adds more stress (which is a toxin, yes too much stress can be toxic!) to my toxic load.

A seasonal cleanse simply means eating foods that are currently in season.

When you actively make an effort to do this, you’ll find yourself naturally eating more real, whole foods, crowding out processed foods and refined sugar, which then brings your body into better balance and harmony with the season.

Now here some additional summer tips that are more or less, unrelated to seasonal eating, but I think are wise for the summer

1 | Stay Hydrated

We have a tendency to sweat more during the summer, I know that I do on hot summer days, so we want to be sure to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. We don’t want to get dehydrated or have a heat stroke!

I know, this sounds very basic, but I cannot tell you how many times I have been out and about on a summer day and totally forgot to bring my water bottle with me and didn’t drink any fluids. It is only when I start to feel nauseated and get headaches do I connect the dots and realize that, “OMG, I’m dehydrated!”

So be sure to carry a reuseable water bottle with you at all times! Personally, I love my hydroflask!

And if you need a reminder to drink water, there’s plenty of apps that you can download for this! Many of them even have hourly reminders to keep you on track!

2 | Related to staying hydrated is to replenish your minerals

I like said earlier, we tend to sweat a lot more during the summer, so we more easily become depleted of minerals that our body needs. A little tip that I have to stay “mineralized” is to add a pinch of Himalayan sea salt to my water bottle.

3 | Eat plenty of berries and antioxidant-rich foods to protect your skin!

The antioxidants in berries and other antioxidant rich foods will also help to reduce aging effects that can happen from being out in the sun for too long. Of course, this is also in conjunction with using a broad spectrum sunscreen that also protects against UVA aka aging rays - what we talked about indepthly in Episode 043

Getting back to berries, besides eating them in smoothies and smoothie bowls, another way enjoy them is to simply freeze them, then eat them chilled with sprinkles of hemp seeds, which adds a nutty flavor or even dulse flakes if you prefer salty. Both things you can easily get on Amazon or Thrive Market or even in your local Whole Foods or health foods store.

You can also blend frozen berries by itself in a high powered blender or in a juicer that has a blending feature and make what I call "ice cream" and top it with nuts or cacao nibs.

All natural sweetness, with none of the junky stuff.

Personally, I don’t crave the sweetness, but I do like cold treats, especially during the summer

4 | And last, and we touched a bit on this in the beginning, make sure to get plenty of sleep so your body has time to refresh.

Is there anything better than waking up after a full night's sleep and feeling like a million bucks?!?

As someone who has struggled with sleep for years, that is honestly how a good night's sleep makes me feel!

I find it more challenging to sleep well during the summer because of the long days. I mean, the sun is still out at 9 pm! Personally, I have to be diligent about a set bedtime because my body’s natural alarm wakes up at the same time every day, and sometimes even earlier during the summer, aligning with the sun’s circadian rhythms.

And I don't know about you, but when I don't get enough sleep, I pretty much useless the next day.

So I consciously try to start winding down my day at the same time every night and do my best to follow my ideal bedtime routine. It doesn’t always happen, but I try.

First, I have a cup of herbal tea - mint and chamomile are great during the summer.

Next, I turn off the TV and shut down the laptop about an hour before bed.

Then, I set the timer on my phone for 10 minutes and see how much clutter I can pick up and put away around the house during those 10 minutes.

Then I wash-up, let my dog out to go potty one last time, then climb into bed, and turn on my meditation app for a 20-minute meditation.

If you’re like me and struggle with sleep, creating your own bedtime routine can help your mind wind down from the day.

So this wraps up my safer summer mini-series. Summertime is for sunshine and fun - just be sure to make it a safe one too! I hope you picked up a few valuable tips for the past three episodes and I’ll see you next week.


Naomi Nakamura is a Functional Nutrition Health Coach. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, programs, coaching services and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop!
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