I love food. I always have. And I’ve always had a very healthy appetite. You might remember my telling of a story from when I was young where my mom and I were going to see my grandparents one weekend. On our way, we stopped at a diner and had breakfast. I think I ordered everything on the menu.
At the table next to us was a group of business men who overheard my order. One leaned over to my mom and asked, “Is she really going to eat all of that?” I swear my mom was beaming with pride when she answered, “Yes.”
When I was dating, every guy always commented that they liked that I ate food. I wasn’t the girl who went on a date and had the soup and salad. I had the soup, the salad, the entree and the dessert. And possibly whatever the guy didn’t eat. I cannot confirm nor deny if that ever happened.
But you know how sometimes you just crave something? Like as soon as the weather starts getting cool in the fall I want beef stew with some hearty root vegetables, or pumpkin anything. When summer comes, I LOVE berries. If I’m sitting on a hot beach in The Bahamas, I want to drink something tropical and refreshing.
There’s a reason we get these cravings. Yes, of course, some of it is in fact the idea that your body is missing something and what you’re craving has that nutrient. But a huge factor comes from one of the tiniest parts of your body known as the Pineal Gland. (I’ve heard it pronounced two ways, pin-eel - or like pinwheel without the wh. OR Pine-eel, with the long i sound.)
The pineal gland is no bigger than a pea, and shaped like a pine cone. It sits almost right in the middle of your head. It’s at the very top of your brainstem and behind the thalamus gland. It’s chief function is to keep your circadian rhythm, or your natural cycle of awake and asleep. Through its secretion of melatonin, this gland tells your body it’s time to go to bed.
Btw - melatonin only alerts the body to the time aspect of sleeping. It is not the hormone that actually makes you sleepy. We will discuss that a bit next week.
The pineal gland also plays a big role in sex drive, with melatonin also being responsible for regulating your libido. Low melatonin levels can lead to a sluggish sex drive.
So with the pineal gland being in charge of “time” for your body, it needs to get accurate signals of where you are. And one very clear way of doing this is to eat seasonally and locally. By doing this, as well as sensing daylight and temperature, your pineal gland knows where you are and can figure out how to adjust your circadian rhythm.
But if you’re eating lots of tropical fruits and living in New Jersey, over time this can cause a significant impact on your hormones and disrupt your entire endocrine system. This can lead to, as already mentioned, a decreased sex drive, but also chronic fatigue, depression, as well as peptic ulcers, insomnia, and even infertility. This is not a complete list, but I hope you’d agree that these are things we would all like to avoid.
Does this mean that you should never ever eat a banana or a pineapple if you live in, say, Nebraska? Of course not. But you should limit how often you’re eating them, and plan for most of your fruit and vegetable intake around what’s growing in your region right now.
A great resource for figuring out what’s local to you and when is Seasonal Food Guide. You can sort by state, which month, and what produce. I was SO happy when I found this tool.
Another way to find out what’s local to you is to join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group. These are organizations that work with local farmers to provide people with farm-fresh produce, and often dairy and ethically raised meats as well. Think you’d like to join one? Check out Local Harvest.
Another option to join in the fun as to what’s seasonal and local to you is to gather the family and head out to a “pick your own” farm. And you can find one of those through Local Harvest as well.
So if you’re feeling fatigued or your body is showing signs of just feeling “off”, plan your produce for what’s growing in your region right now, and see if you don’t feel just a little bit better.