The energy changes according to the seasons and that produce a different effect, both in nature and in our body. To maintain our health, we should adapt our habits to these energies. The other day I gave you tips how to take care of your health in spring and today´s theme is: what to eat in spring. If you still haven’t read the other article, you will find it here: https://www.paivilinna.com/your-health-in-spring/
In the Chinese dietary therapy different qualities such as flavor, color, nature and the type of energy food generates are taken into account. Today you will discover what are the flavors and colors that are recommended for spring and how to prepare your meals and know what to eat in spring so that your body would benefit the most of it.
The energy in spring
Spring is warmer than the winter. Many times it’s also unstable, due to the sudden changes of the weather and the wind. For that reason it is recommended in spring:
• To eat lighter and less quantity than in winter to better adapt the expansive energy of Yang.
• To focus on cleaning and decongesting the liver and gallbladder. This way we also regulate the circulation of fluids and energy in the body.
• Strengthen the digestive system so that it is able to respond to the need of a movement and to the increased activity in spring.
• Strengthen the immune system, which goes together with the digestive system and can be compromised by unstable weather and the fact that we start dressing in light clothing, too soon.
Liver and spring
Spring is the time of the liver and gallbladder. In the modern world we stagnate the energy of these two organs due to the bad and incorrect diet with excess sugars, refined fats, alcohol and other stimulants. Also, stress, lack of rest and the general toxicity (environmental, medications etc.) help to stagnate these organs. This “stagnation can have both physical, organic and emotional effects.
Physical: muscle pain, headache / migraines, back pain, especially in the shoulder blades, trapezius, visceral pain such as menstrual pain, stomach pain etc.
Organic: liver abnormalities in the analytics, low-grade inflammation in the tissues and fatty liver, among others.
Emotional: anger, irritability, frustration, mental blocks, obsession, and perfectionism, demanding attitude, rigidity and negativity.
What does the color tell us?
The color of food in spring is green, according to the Chinese Dietary Therapy. It is recommended to choose green foods, since they are rich in chlorophyll and support and accelerate the rejuvenation of the liver. However, do remember that Chinese Medicine (TCM) always seeks “balance”, therefore, it is not just about eating green food. Try to have at least three colors in your plate, for a better balance. There are also foods that are not green but still are highly recommended for liver: such as red cabbage, radishes, squash, eggplant, tomato, peppers, and also foods that grow underground, such as: potatoes, parsnips, carrots, and beets.
The flavors of spring
The spring flavor is sour but that does not mean that we should be eating 5 kg of lemons a day. A moderate amount tonifies the liver, but excessive amount damages it.
- Sour citrus fruits: such as lemons, limes and oranges are good options that help to tone the liver and thus work better against excesses and fats that we have been able to accumulate during the winter. They also help the liver to maintain free Qi –energy circulation. You can have a glass of warm water with lemon and apple cider vinegar every morning.
- You can dress your salads and cooked vegetables with a little lemon or orange juice and tahini, or with umeboshi paste. Rice vinegar or apple cider works too.
- It is also recommended to add a little bit of fermented foods (pickles such as sauerkraut and miso, tamari, kefir, kombucha or kefir water for example) in daily meals, for their sour flavor and also because they are very beneficial for the intestinal flora.
- After a fatty meal, lemon juice can be taken to improve the digestion and absorption of fats, (the acid stimulates the secretion of bile).
- The mild spicy flavor is recommended in spring to avoid liver energy to stagnate.
- You can take, for example, radishes that are perfect for spring. They help to move the Qi from the liver and open the liver meridian. You can add them in soups or vegetable creams as “decoration”.
- Other slightly spicy foods include chives, fennel, or aromatic herb leaves, such as basil, coriander, mint, and parsley.
- The bitter taste belongs more to summer than to spring. It has the ability to descend the energy, especially heat. In spring, the bitter taste helps to purify the liver and also to descend the excess Yang energy from the liver.
- You can take bitter green leaves: dandelion, rocket leaves, chicory and mustard greens. Another option would be to take milk thistle and dandelion infused herbal teas.
- The sweet is the central flavor, it should always be present, but not the “toxic” sweet of donuts and cookies, but the sweet of cereals, grains, legumes and vegetables such as pumpkin or sweet potato.
- In spring, the sweet flavor provides an extra to the – energy of the body, and so we are able to respond to the needs of the movement and extra activity.
- The sweet flavor also strengthens our digestion system energetically speaking and also gives that point of “love” of a mother to our emotions.
- For this reason, it is necessary to eat whole grain cereals, legumes and vegetables of all.
In the same way than with the colors, Chinese Dietary therapy seeks balance with the flavors, therefore the five flavors should also be in balance in our meals: sour, sweet, salad, spicy and bitter.
The nature, the energetic effect of the food in spring
Our diet should go hand in hand with what we want to activate and lighten in our body. Preparing food in spring is simpler because we can start using more fresh food: salads, fruits and sprouts. They help to promote rapid movement and at the same time they purify and refresh our liver, in special if it is very congested or “hot”. However, I will not get tired of saying that people with digestive weakness should eat little of these foods, because in the long run, it hurts them more than benefits them.
If you like salads, you can now start eating them more, but try not to live day and night based on the salads. It´s better to eat the salads for a lunch but not for the dinner, (because the digestive system does not have so much energy during the evening time). I also recommend making complete salads, with cooked cereals or with vegetables quickly sauteed in the pan. Use spices, aromatic herbs and dressings that take the nature of the green leaf, from fresh to neutral and thus, in some way, adds more “yang” to your salad.
All food items make an energetic effect to our body, in their natural form. The different natures or energetic effects are:
Different cooking methods in spring
Cooking times in spring are shorter than in the winter, but with higher temperatures; thus the central part of the food is not cooked completely. If we use oils, the best would be to do a quick stir fry. In cases of imbalances in the liver or a fatty liver, it’s better to use oils cold for the dressings and not to heat them. Steaming, a light stir fry in water, or a wok are also good cooking methods. In spring we can eat less cooked food than in winter, as long as we have a strong digestion. A person with digestive weakness, tiredness and digestive problems should cook food well, in order not to generate further weakness. It is always recommended to give some heat to the food to nourish the digestive fire and facilitate the digestion. We should remember the philosophy behind oriental medicines, which is based on the fact that, if we give the body the right food and in the right way, it will give us the energy and abundant blood so that we have good health.
Never forget the importance of digestive fire !!!
Foods to avoid
It is more important to avoid certain foods than to think what superfoods to add to your diet. Especially when your liver is overloaded due to the bad habits. In more severe cases, we must eliminate these elements and in other cases, we should try to reduce the excessive and regular use and eat them only occasionally:
• Sugar and all synthetic and natural sweeteners.
• Alcohol, coffee and other stimulants
• Refined fats (sunflower, canola, margarines …)
• Poor quality red meat and excess of red meat
• All industrial meat products, sausages etc.
• Fried food (fried potatoes etc.)
• Refined bakery products, especially industrial ones
• Any product that contains preservatives, emulsifiers and additives, such as E-xxxx something)
• Excess salt + products that carry a lot of salt. All these products makes our body more acid, overload our liver and are responsible for insulin resistance, fatty liver, obesity, metabolic problems and a long etc.
What to eat in spring
MORE VEGETABLES, LESS RED MEAT
- Eat more vegetables in general and reduce the amount of red meat.
GREEN VEGETABLES, GREEN LEAVES,
- Seaweed such as spirulina and chlorella, wheatgrass or other cereals, kale / kale, chard, asparagus, celery, rocket leaves, watercress, lamb’s lettuce, beet greens, chicory, lettuce, borage, endives, spinach, green beans , beans, peas, artichokes, fennel, leeks, chives, nettles.
- Avocados are also ideal, for their green color and for their healthy fats.
- Parsley, coriander, mint, dill, basil …
- Use sprouts, as they are a great source of nutrients; they are detoxifying and they are also very versatile to use, you can you them in many ways: salads, soups, creams, on top of the vegetables or as a topping on a slice of bread.
- Eat/use the whole fruit but do not juice it due to the large amount of sugars the juice has because you take out the fiber and also because you will use more fruits for the juice than what you would eat them.
- Use seasonal fruits and citrus fruits such as lemon, orange, lime or grapefruit,
- Wild berries such as blueberries, red currants, black currants, strawberries and raspberries are also beneficial in spring and contain less sugar than the fruit.
- Eat fermented food: they are beneficial for our intestinal flora + they provide sour flavor: pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, kefir water, kombucha, miso or prebiotic potato (= cooked and chilled out during one night in the fridge).
- Do not forget to eat good quality cereals and grains. Millet and barley are good ones to purify the “Heat-Dampness” condition from the liver. Other recommended cereals are: amaranth, brown or wild rice, quinoa, whole grain oats and bulgur among others.
- Always eat whole grain and never refined cereals.
- Do not forget to eat good quality and organic protein, but without overloading the liver. Now we are interested in doing a little cleaning and therefore it is advisable to reduce the consumption of red meat and eat more vegetable protein, fish or organic eggs. Better the small and wild fish, not from the fish farms! The meat is very yang and in excess it overloads the liver.
- Vegetable proteins: tofu is more refreshing than, for example, tempeh or seitan.
- The combination of legumes (beans, chickpeas, lentils, azukis) + cereals + roasted sesame seeds, also bring us a very good protein intake.
- By mixing the pseudocereals, such as quinoa, amaranth and buckwheat with rice or millet or another cereal, we bring good quality protein to the plate. Buckwheat is warm by nature and is normally recommended for cold seasons. Likewise, for a person with digestive weakness, it is advisable to make complete salads with cooked buckwheat and thus neutralize the refreshing effect of the salad.
- It is ideal to combine different proteins and not always eat the same!
And don’t forget to cook with good humor!!! Decorate your meals, for example, with edible flowers (marigolds, violets, nasturtiums, dandelions, flowers or the leaf of aromatic herbs). Try to have 3-4 colors on your plate, make the food appetizing and it is also very important to eat with good energy. I leave you a guide on edible flowers: https://www.thompson-morgan.com/edible-flowers