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Eating for the Seasons

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.


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