Nourished by Nature | Eating with the Seasons
Do you notice as the seasons change that our appetite changes as well? You may have noticed on a cold winters day pouring with rain that we may crave a warm soup or stew, or on a blistering summers day we reach for a frozen treat or cool drink. Our bodies naturally pull towards the energies of the environment and foods for comfort, relief and nourishment. It is about listening and connecting to our body and providing it with the right type of foods for long lasting nourishment and support.
I will be taking you through the four seasons- Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring drawing on the inspirations and teachings from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and detailing how to utilise them to the fullest potential.
Hot air, sweaty skin, ice cream, beach holidays, and blue skies. The season of summer is all about the outdoors, adventure, and playfulness. It is connected with the element of fire and with the organs the heart, small intestine, pericardium and triple heater.
Use this time to connect. Open the heart and get out and about to make new soul connections. When we feel joy the heart is happy. The summer energies call for expansion. Expand your love, your heart and soul.
Eat lighter: Small, balanced meals through out the day is ideal. Stay clear of heavy and greasy foods that weigh the body down. Our food choices want to be light, hydrating and heat dispursing to balance the energies of the hot summer months.
Eat more raw and fresh foods: Fresh fruits and vegetables are abundant in summer. If you have a strong digestive fire (aka-you digest foods easily) then raw salads and fruits may be good for you. If you have a sensitive digestion, focus on a balance of raw and cooked foods (follow the 80/20 rule- 80% cooked, 20% raw) to aid in absorption of the food and nutrients.
Hydrate: The changes in temperature will cause dehydration. Keep up water intake, ideally at room temperature and add some sliced cucumber, fresh mint, lemon/lime or watermelon. Tip: add a small pinch of unrefined sea salt on those extra hot days for a dose of minerals and electrolytes, or if you can grab a fresh coconut- natures pure hydration formula!
Summer fruits and vegetables: Enjoy all the beautiful summer fruits on offer, especially the berries-make smoothies or just enjoy fresh. Include lots of leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, rocket, bok choy, broccoli and cauliflower as well as some more grounding root vegetables such as carrots, beets and sweet potatoes; cook these vegetables lightly by steaming, stir fry or sauteing.
Reduce animal protein: Animal protein can be quite heavy and contain a lot of heat. Limit to light, easy to digest types such as eggs, fish and occasionally chicken. Aim to lightly steam or stir fry.
Include bitter foods: Bitter foods help to reduce and disperse the heat from the body and aid in cleansing the organs related to the fire element. Dandelion greens, green tea, raw cacao, bitter melon, radishes and cruciferious vegetables are all beneficial.
As we progress into the depths of winter we want to take the time to go inwards and focus on more soul nourishing activities- writing, journaling, self-reflection and meditation. In TCM winter is associated with the kidneys and bladder. The kidneys store our essence (jing) and provide our basic and fundamental energy. Focusing on more yin and energy preserving activities is important to not deplete our natural kidney essence and to aid the body in rebuilding it’s energy stores.
Bone broth/ Vegetable broth: The element for winter is water-we want to nourish the fluids of the body while also keeping the warmth. Bone broth or vegetable broth contain and abundant of vitamins and minerals to aid is hydration, building and repairing of muscle, tissues, ligaments and organs and it also aids in healing the gut. This is especially important in winter to keep our immune system strong.
Avoid raw foods: Keep the basis of the diet warm, cooked and easily digestible. Focus on cooking for longer; stews, casseroles, soups or poaching, steaming and roasting.
Increase grounding and building foods: Carrots, beets, pumpkin, sweet potato, parsnips, seaweed, barley, onions, turmeric, ginger, beans, lentils, whole grains and animal meats are all great nervous system building foods and aid to ground the body and mind. If you are vegetarian/vegan, opt for higher quantities of the root vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
Create a more yin based practice: Yin qualities include in softness, internal, earth, the moon, slowness, passive and feminine. Use this time to slow down the body and mind and build the internal energy ready for the coming months. Practices such as yin yoga, meditation, pranayama, qi gong, journaling, painting, drawing are all great for building yin energy.
Include naturally salty foods: Foods that are naturally salty in flavour such as seaweeds, unrefined salt, fermented and pickled foods contain an abundant of minerals and electrolytes to support the body’s hydration, mineral storage and can boost the immune system. Make sure these foods are naturally salted and not using “fake salt” aka: table salt.
Keep up the fluids: Just because it is colder and you don’t feel as if you are exerting as much energy, it is still important to keep hydrated. Consume room temperature or warm water to aid in detoxification and elimination of build up toxins. Opt for herbal tea such as ginger, fennel, chamomile, mint, lemongrass and cinnamon.
From the outward energies of summer, autumn is a time to start moving inwards in preparation for winter. Autumn is connected with the metal element as well as the associated organs the lungs and large intestine. It is here we focus on the art of ‘letting go’.
Autumn is a time to release and let go of what no longer serves us. Just as the leaves fall from the tree’s, we are being asked to shed the old to make way for the new. The lungs allow us to exhale the old and breath in the new, and similarly, the large intestines allow us to get rid of the waste we no longer need.
During the Autumn months we are being asked to focus on warming and grounding energies with the use of slow cooking methods and warming spices.
Incorporate grounding root vegetables: Sweet potato, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, beetroots, ginger, galangal, onions, and turnip.
Reduce raw and cooling foods: As the temperature drops and the air is dryer, we want to hold on to moisture and retain warmth in the body. Reduce raw foods such as salads, raw vegetables and smoothies. Encourage warmth by slow cooking, steaming or boiling foods to lock the moisture in.
Increase legumes, beans and lentils: Grounding and recharging for the adrenals and nervous system. As we move slowly inwards in Autumn, we want to recharge and rebuild the body. Start adding a variety such as kidney beans, red lentils, mung beans, chickpeas and black beans to dishes. If you are new to these foods-start of slowly and make sure they are well cooked.
Pungent spices: Flavours ranging from warm to hot, these spices can aid in dispelling and discharging mucus and phlegm while also aiding in circulation, digestion and create warmth. Try cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary and thyme. Add to a mug of warm milk, hot water or savoury dishes.
Slow down: Autumn is a time to start to slow down and move inwards. As this season represents the organs of elimination; lungs and large intestine, it is a good time to also eliminate things in your life that no longer serve you. Physical objects, emotions, thoughts, feelings, commitments and so forth. Take the time to think, journal and start to prepare to release and let go.
And finally, spring. Spring is a time for growth, expansion and renewal. It’s natural energy is to release, lighten up, shake off that winter slumber and start to move the body. Springs physical connection according to TCM is the liver and gallbladder and associated with the element wood.
The liver and gallbladder are involved in elimination, detoxification, digestion and absorption. These processes allow the body to hold onto the good and release what is no longer needed. We can relate this to our emotional body as well. Spring is a great time to assess all aspects of our life. The physical, emotional and spiritual bodies are all going through a ‘spring cleanse’ if you will. With this detoxification or release of energies and toxins, the wood elements asks us to ground into the earth, find purpose while remaining supple and yielding.
Go light: As we transition into spring allow the lighter foods to make a slow comeback. Fresh leafy greens, fresh herbs and fruits will start to become more available. Connect with your own digestive capability and monitor your ability to digest a higher quantity of raw foods such as salad. If you feel better on cooked foods aim for lightly steamed or sautéed vegetables combined with some green leafy’s such as spinach, kale or rocket.
Eat and play outdoors: This is the perfect time to connect and embrace the nature around you. Depending where you live, it may be to hot or to cold in the other seasons to spend a lot of time outdoors. Use this opportunity to get in as much ‘earthing’ time as you can. Play sports, exercise and enjoy meals in mother nature.
Aid in the natural detoxification process: During the spring the bodies natural process is to cleanse or detoxify. Aid this process by setting up a self care routine and include practices such as dry skin brushing, more active exercise such as jump rope, swimming, running or walking, and increase your water intake. You may find you sweat more so increasing hydration is number 1. Consider visits to the sauna, steam room or get regular massages to excelerate this process.
Detox your emotions: Find what methods work for you. This may be chatting to a friend, seeking professional support, writing, journaling, or partaking in exercises that work as stress/emotion busters for you.
Bump up nourishing spring foods: Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, rocket, dandelion greens and sprouts. Radish, artichoke, mint, cucumber, lemon/lime, broccoli, celery, basil and green tea.