SPRING: New beginning
Chinese Organ Systems: liver and gallbladder Chinese Element: Wood
A healthy liver establishes smooth and soothing flow of energy through entire body and mind.
- Eat less or fast to cleanse body of fats and heavy foods of winter
- Diet should be the lightest of the year and contain foods which emphasize the yang, ascending, and expansive qualities of spring: young plants, fresh greens, sprouts, cereal grasses, raw foods
- Simple food preparation
- Use sweet and pungent flavored foods
- Pungent: basil, fennel, marjoram, tumeric, cardamom, cumin, ginger, black pepper, horseradish, rosemary, caraway, dill, bay leaf, garlic, onion, watercress, mustard greens
- Sweet: grains, legumes, seeds, young beets, carrots, starchy vegetables, minimally-processed sugars (honey, stevia root, unrefined cane-juice granules, whole sugar cane, licorice root, barley malt, date sugar, molasses, rice syrup)
- To move stagnation: beets, taro root, sweet rice, strawberry, peach, cherry, chestnut, pine nut, cabbage, turnip root, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, VINEGAR
- To detoxify the liver: mung beans and sprouts, celery, seaweed, lettuce, cucumber, watercress, tofu, millet, plum, mushrooms, rhubarb root, radish, daikon radish
- Limit salty foods, which have a sinking energy, and heavy/fatty foods, which clog the liver
SUMMER: Luxurious Growth
Chinese Organ Systems: Heart and Small Intestine Chinese Element: Fire
Heart not only regulates blood circulation but also controls consciousness, spirit, sleep, memory, and houses the mind. A calm heart will bring clarity and peace to the entire body.
- Avoid highly warming substances: coffee, tobacco, alcohol
- Bitter foods cleanse the physical heart and arteries, cool the heart, and create a centering action in the body.
- Magnesium, especially in green foods, is healing to the physical and emotional heart.
- Calm the mind: whole wheat, brown rice, oats, mushrooms, high silica foods (barley, cucumber, celery, lettuce), mulberries, lemon, schisandra berries, jujube seeds, dill, basil, chamomile, catnip, scullcap, valerian
- Cool the heart: fresh wheat germ, wheat berries, mung beans
LATE SUMMER: Interchange of All Seasons
Chinese Organ Systems: Spleen and Stomach Chinese Element: Earth
The spleen-pancreas and stomach are responsible for digestion and distribution of food and nutrients.
- Prepare food simply with a minimum of seasonings and mild taste
- Moderate cooking time and temperature
- Chew food well and eat small, frequent meals
- Choose foods that are harmonizing and represent the center: mildly sweet foods, yellow or golden foods, round foods; millet, corn, carrots, cabbage, garbanzo beans, soybeans, squash, potatoes, string beans, yams, tofu, sweet potatoes, sweet rice, rice, amaranth, peas, chestnuts, filberts, apricots, cantaloupe
- Tonify spleen-pancreas:
- Grains: well-cooked rice, oats, spelt, sweet rice
- carbohydrate-rich vegetables: winter squash, carrot, rutabaga, parsnip, turnip, garbanzo beans, black beans, peas, sweet potato, yam, pumpkin
- pungent vegetables and spices: onion, leek, black pepper, ginger, cinnamon, fennel, garlic, nutmeg
- sweet foods: rice syrup, barely malt, molasses, cherry, dates
- If there is deficiency, avoid excessive amounts of raw and cooling foods, large meals, rich foods, of mucus-forming foods
FALL: Season of Harvest
Chinese Organ Systems: Lung and Large Intestine Chinese Element: Metal
Lungs receive the vital qi of the air and mix with the qi extracted from the food to distribute qi over the body.
- Choose more astringent foods to represent the contracting, inward motion of nature
- Heartier foods and flavors
- Cooking methods should use more focused preparation to supply the greater energy needed in a cooler season. Cook with less water, at lower heat, for longer periods of time to internalize your focus during cooking.
- Stimulate the appetite with smells- baking, sautéing
- Add more sour flavored foods to focus the scattered energy of summer: sourdough bread, sauerkraut, olives, pickles, leeks, aduki beans, salt plums, rose hip tea, vinegar, cheese, yogurt, lemons, limes, grapefruit, sour apples/plums/grapes
- Pungent foods to clear toxins: hot peppers, chilies, onions, garlic, turnip, ginger, horseradish, cabbage, radish, daikon radish
- Clear old mucus deposits and line surfaces with clean, moist coat: seaweeds, marshmallow root, flaxseed, fenugreek
- Protect surface/boost immunity (foods rich in Vitamin A): carrot, winter squash, pumpkin, broccoli, parsley, kale, turnip and mustard greens, watercress, wheat or barley grass, algaes, mullein leaf, nettles
- Fiber to cleanse the colon: apples, cherries, carrots, oats
- Start to add bitter and salty foods to move energy inward and downward
WINTER: End of All Seasons, Time for Rest
Chinese Organ Systems: Kidney and Bladder Chinese Element: Water
Kidneys rule water metabolism, govern sexual and reproductive function, provide warmth and energy, and serve as the root and foundation of the body.
- Warm hearty soups, whole grains, roasted nuts
- Cook foods longer, at lower temperatures, and with less water
- Salty and bitter foods have a sinking/centering quality, which increases the capacity for storage of energy
- Salty foods: miso, soy sauce, seaweeds, salt, millet, barley (care not to overuse salt)
- Bitter foods: lettuce, watercress, endive, escarole, turnip, celery, asparagus, alfalfa, carrot top, rye oats, quinoa, amaranth, chicory root, burdock root, horsetail, chaparral
- Fortify the kidneys: dried foods, small dark beans, seaweeds, and steamed winter greens
Source: Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. Third Edition.