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Apr 14

Foods for Autumn

Autumn is one of my favourite seasons of the year, though according to Taoist philosophy, there can be no favourites – the seasons are as they are and we can enjoy them all! The weather is mild, the air feeling fresh and crisp and of course, the change that is happening in nature is beautiful and fascinating.

Autumn Trees

The season of Autumn is related to harvesting, pulling in together and gathering. There is abundance but also contraction to prepare for Winter as it approaches – leaves and fruit fall, seeds dry, the sap of trees enters the roots. The foods to focus on this season are astringent foods and heartier flavours and foods to prepare to store energy for Winter.

Astringent foods are sour-flavoured and are contracting in nature. Some of these foods include sourdough bread, sauerkraut, olives, pickles, leeks, aduki beans, salt plums, rose hip tea, vinegar, cheese, yoghurt, lemons, limes, grapefruit and the sour varieties of apples, plums and grapes. Sour foods are very effective in small amounts so take care with the consumption of extremely sour foods.
The cooking method for these foods is to cook with less water, at a lower heat and for longer periods of time to internalise the energy of the food.

Autumn also tends to be drying in nature, though dryness affecting the body can occur in any season. Some symptoms of Dryness in the body are thirst, dryness of the skin, nose, lips and throat, and itchiness. Foods which moisten the boy include soybean products, spinach, barley, millet, pear, apple, persimmon, loquat, seaweeds, almond, pinenut, peanut, sesame seed, cooked honey, milk and dairy products, eggs, clam, crab, oyster, mussel, herring and pork, as well as a little bit of salt. The milk and other animal products are more appropriate for people who have dryness with weakness, frailty and diagnosed as Deficient in Chinese Medicine.
Foods to limit to avoid drying include bitter, aromatic and/or warming foods which include many spices and herbs.

Enjoy slowing down with the cooking and gathering into yourself!

Dec 30

Food for Summer

Summer is a Yang season, which means that lightness, brightness, liveliness, expansion, growth and creativity are the principles that hold true at this time of year. So to live in accordance with these natural principles to enhance your health, the lifestyle we live and the foods we eat are important. The last post focused on the Chinese Medicine summer lifestyle of waking early and being light-hearted (in Chinese Medicine, this is the season of the Heart) and this post will focus on its complementary component, the summer foods for good health!

Varied, many-coloured fruits and vegetables are the way to go this season and creating a visually appealing display of the food will enhance their benefits. The cooking style should be light, which means lightly sauteing at high heat, steaming and simmering foods quickly.
On particularly hot days, create a cooling atmosphere in which to eat, such as having a picnic under a tree or dining al-fresco on your back patio, and eat foods that are cooling. These include:

  • salads
  • sprouts (particularly mung, soy and alfalfa)
  • fruit (especially apples, watermelons, lemons and limes)
  • cucumber
  • tofu
  • flower and leaf teas such as chyrsanthemum, mint and chamomile

To help regulate your temperature, drinking hot drinks and having warm showers will cause sudden sweating and cool your body down. Also, having hot-flavoured spices will intially cause your body to become warmer but will actually disperse the heat from the inside to outside. Some of these foods include:

  • red and green hot peppers
  • cayenne red pepper
  • fresh ginger
  • horseradish
  • black pepper

As always, have these foods in moderation because if you have too much cooling food, it causes contraction in your body and you will hold in sweat and heat, and it will also affect your digestion. For this reason, it is also important to avoid icy drinks and cold foods such as ice-cream. If you have too much dispersing spices, it weakens your warming energy and being able to stay warm in the cooler seasons may be lost. Also avoid heavy foods such as meats, eggs and too many nuts, seeds and grains because they will create sluggishness.

If you find yourself with any combination of the following: red face, red eyes, a bright red tongue with a yellow coating, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, skin eruptions, nose bleeds, constipation, mouth ulcers or an unusually large appetite – it is possible that you have excessive heat in your body and following a diet as above, will help to cool you down!

Jul 7

Winter Wonderfoods

Vegetable Soup
In Chinese Medicine, being in tune with nature is important in maintaining health and preventing illness, and a part of this is being able to change with the seasons. Throughout the year, we experience change from the heat of Summer to the dryness of Autumn, to the cold of Winter and the wind of Spring. Each season has particular characteristics and it is with these that we align ourselves.

Winter is a season of utmost Yin, Yin having qualities of the feminine, nurturing, quietness, inwardness and cold. This is a time for us to slow down and conserve energy, stay warm and be more aware and reflective. It helps us to prepare for and have the energy for Spring when growth and change occur.

Food plays a vital part in health maintainance so eating the appropriate foods for the season will keep you nourished.

The Kidney is the organ associated with Winter because it stores our basic and fundamental energy, which is an inward and nurturing function. Salty foods have an inward energy and support this storage function of the Kidney, so a little bit of sea salt and seaweed assists this vital organ. Take care not to have too much as it will then overwork the Kidney. Other foods which support the Kidney are:

  • kidney beans
  • black bean
  • chestnuts
  • walnut
  • lamb
  • chicken
  • dark leafy greens

Also, the types of foods that are more readily available in Winter are beneficial to eat and these include:

  • root vegetables
  • Winter greens such as cabbage, kale and silverbeet
  • nuts, legumes and grains
  • pumpkins
  • pears, apples and citrus fruits

Have these in warm hearty soups with vegetables and nourishing stocks, casseroles and stews because by cooking food for longer and at lower temperatures, the demand on your digestive system is lessened.

There are a lot of delicious and nourishing meals to be eaten in Winter. Be sure to share them with family and friends because though this is a time of introspection, connecting with family and friends will definitely keep you warmer in Winter!