As we transition into cooler months and darker days, with the leaves changing and falling, the wind shifting to sharp and cool, and the earth steadily preparing itself for a long hibernation period, we’re reminded of the cyclical rhythms of nature. And adjusting what we eat is a natural and instinctual way for us to align with these rhythms.
The Ayruvedic Roots
In Ayurveda, the teaching of Ritucharya is essentially basing your routine, including your diet, around the changing seasons. It follows the principle that, like plants, humans grow and shed with the seasons and are directly affected by the ecosystem that surrounds them. During late autumn into winter, the weather is cold, windy, and dry, so incorporating warming spices such as ginger and cinnamon fuels Agni, or digestive fire. Fermented foods help boost healthy gut bacteria and enhance immunity during a time of year when colds and viruses run rampant. Warm meals like soups, stews, and roasted root vegetables are grounding to the nervous system and support balanced digestion. Sweet foods, like stewed apples and pears over hearty oatmeal with ghee, build and prepare the body for deep rest and hibernation.
The Benefits for the You and Earth
When we eat in alignment with the seasons, we consume food that is at its nutritional peak, enhancing our state of health and vitality. Eating seasonally and shopping locally at farmers’ markets and co-ops also supports sustainable agriculture and reduces our carbon footprint by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There is less transportation involved in local, seasonal foods, which means less carbon dioxide from transport trucks being emitted into the atmosphere. By supporting the movement of local in-season foods, you’re also supporting food crop biodiversity and helping to mitigate mono-agriculture.
Eating this way is also often more cost-effective. Focusing on what’s readily available, both seasonally and locally, reduces the costs of transportation and excess packaging. If you’re following a budget, the practice of eating seasonally may allow you to spend more on local and organic or sustainably grown produce, further supporting your community and sustainable eating practices.
Your Seasonal Shopping List for Late Autumn and Winter
The list will look different depending on where you live—you can reference this guide for the freshest seasonal produce in your area or simply visit your local farmers’ market, sign up for a CSA, or join a local co-op. But the below is a good start.
Apples/pears (great for stewing), dates, prunes (soaked), raisins (soaked), pomegranates, and citrus
Acorn squash and other squashes, avocados, mushrooms, beets, bok choy, burdock, carrots, celery, celeriac, parsnips, persimmons, chard, collards, sorrel, turnips, yams, and sweet potatoes
Basil, cilantro, parsley, rosemary, sage, tulsi, and thyme
Mustard seed, saffron, turmeric, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves
Gluten-free oats, oat bran, brown and basmati rice, and buckwheat
Chai tea, mint tea, miso, chestnuts, walnuts, pecans, almonds, almond butter, apple butter, ghee, grass-fed butter, olive oil, and olives