Everyone wants to get through the winter cold and flu-free, but each year as you are sitting in the middle of a group of people coughing and sneezing it seems increasingly difficult. As it turns out, there are some really simple things you can do this fall to help improve your chances of staying healthy through the winter.
Arguably, one of the easiest things you can do to improve your health by leaps and bounds is to begin eating seasonally. What does this mean? It means eating what grows in your area at that time of year. This is nature's way of giving us exactly what we need to keep us healthy and prepared for the season ahead.
Preparing for cold and flu season actually begins in the spring, when berries, sprouts, and dandelion root are prevalent in our eco-system. These foods are all detoxifying and help to remove the mucous that has built up over the winter months throughout the body. To the extent that we detoxify in the spring, is as mucous-free as we will start out in the winter. Think of this process as it appeared in nature this year. We had a very mild winter, so the insect populations didn't diminish, as they normally would. Instead, they survived and proliferated during the winter months. This made for a very buggy summer. Likewise, if we skip the detoxifying foods in the spring, the mucous in our system stays and increases as the colder weather begins.
For those of you who might have missed the berries and sprouts this year, THERE IS HOPE! Fall gives us another chance.
You see, the key is to align your body with nature as much as possible. This is what the ancient science of Ayurveda (the sister science of Yoga) encourages us to do. According to Ayurveda, fall is a Vata season, which means that it is windy, cool, and dry. You can see the evidence as the temperature begins to drop and your skin begins to dry out. Following logic, you would want to eat the foods that nature provides to counter this phenomenon inside your body. We strive to create warmth inside and it gets cooler outside.
Here are some tips to help balance vata in the fall:
-Start the day with a grounding breakfast such as oatmeal with nuts, grains, or quinoa.
-Eat root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, beets, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, fall and winter squash.
-Eat warm, nourishing, freshly cooked soups and other foods.
-Increase fat and oil intake.
-Flavor foods with sweet, sour, and salty tastes.
-Incorporate warming spices like cumin, coriander, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, and ginger.
-Limit raw, cold foods such as salad and raw vegetables.
-Avoid cold beverages, caffeine and other stimulants.
-Remember to include leafy greens into your diet daily year-round for respiratory health.
As far as asana in the fall, it is best to focus on the grounding, stabilizing, and strengthening poses to pacify vata. These include, but are not limited to Warriors 1 and 3, Tree Pose, and Chair Pose. Be sure to also incorporate poses that calm the nervous system, such as child's pose, forward bend, and corpse pose. Throughout your fall yoga practice, try to keep your breathing slow and rhythmic.
Just a word about Vitamin D, since it is a question I get asked all of the time. There is no vegan version of Vitamin D supplement that works with the human system. The only version that can be utilized by our bodies is Vitamin D3, which is always an animal product. Those with packaging that says it is vegetarian, are still using by-products of living organisms. The absolute best way to get Vitamin D year round is to go out in the sun-15 minutes early in the morning, and 15 minutes in the evening each day is your best bet. Remember that the sunlight has to actually touch your skin in order for your body to absorb Vitamin D. If taking a supplement, the body assimilates Vitamin D best in the afternoon, when the sun would be strongest on your skin.
If you take nothing else with you from this article, please remember this: The earth supports what the body needs. What grows naturally in our area in any given season is what we need to be eating at that time of year for optimal health. Now go forth and eat, drink, be warm and healthy. If you have any leftovers, or if you come up with a great fall recipe, stop by healthyvibrantyou.com to let us all know!
Theresa Venezia is a Health Coach, RYT-500, ECRYT, Energy Worker and Spiritual Teacher. She works with individuals and groups to empower people to take their healing into their own hands. Her website is HealthyVibrantYou.com
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