Many people are subscribing to the idea of a “spring cleaning” for the body, often starting right after the holidays in an attempt to lose the weight they gained during this time or to get more energy. There are numerous trendy diets and detox options floating around especially after the holidays. But dramatic changes to your diet at a time when our bodies are more vulnerable as it is, might not be the best idea!
In January, many people join a gym and go on some kind of a diet, detox or cleanse program. We joke about “new year’s resolutions” and how we seldom stick to our goals. Changes in routine and diet add stress both physically and mentally. In a northern climate like ours, our bodies are already subject to significant seasonal stress. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that we often fail to stick to our new lifestyles for more than a few weeks.
Think of it this way:
- Focusing your food purchasing primarily on fruit and vegetables can be very costly in the winter. Produce either has to travel a great distance, be grown in a greenhouse, or some combination of the two. The quality and nutritional benefit is reduced. And there’s a high cost impact on your pocketbook, our health, and the environment.
- With winter comes darkness, a lot more darkness than sunshine. Even when we see the sun its distance weakens its benefit. Less sunlight means your body produces less vitamin D which is an important part of how our body’s manage mood, which is part of what leads to the “Winter Blues” or seasonal affective disorder. Again, hardly a good time to make other dramatic changes to your diet.
- A Canadian winter is cold, many people feel even colder when they go on a diet because reduced calorie intake diets can impact your cold tolerance.
- Winter is also flu season, changes to your diet can impact your immune system and leave you even more susceptible to infection.
- There’s a reason your body craves warm, nutritious food in the cold, dark months. Why go against this instinct?
What do I recommend instead?
- Instead of detoxing, cleansing, or dieting to—likely unsuccessfully—lose weight in the winter, do it in the summer or fall when fresh, organic, local vegetables and fruits are abundant and relatively inexpensive and outdoor sport or exercise is possible and fun.
- For more energy and resistance to infections in the winter season, add the following: high-quality multivitamin, minerals (magnesium!, trace minerals), Vitamin D and K2, Fishoil (omega-3). consider adding “super-foods” like spirulina, marine phytoplankton or a “greens” powder.
- Add lacto-fermented foods (e.g. raw sauerkraut) to support your digestion.
- Add the healthy fats, in moderation, that your body craves (organic butter from grass-fed cows, eggs from pastured chickens, fatty fish (preferably mackerel, sardines, herring), real extra-virgin olive oil, virgin organic coconut oil, even grass-fed beef tallow or lard from pastured pigs).
- Add good-quality meat in moderation, e.g. grass-fed beef, pastured pork, pastured chicken.
- Add a warming bone broth with winter vegetables (cabbage, carrots, squash…) for a delicious soup.
- Add frozen, preferably organic vegetables and berries and buy them when on sale.
- Avoid products imported from foreign countries that usually strain your budget and do not add much nutrition to your plate (have you ever tasted strawberries in January? They may look great, but have no taste or nutritional benefits. Compare that to berries from local, preferably organic growers)
- Plan your garden now, buy seeds adapted to your local climate and start gardening if you can (there is options to container garden in smaller apartments or condos or the option of buying a “light garden” for indoor gardening.
- Start sprouting seeds in your kitchen.