Ah, it’s that magical time of the year. Still a tad chilly; but we’re noticing the days getting warmer and that little bit longer. Internally, things are shifting too. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) reminds us that as the seasons change rhythms, so do we.
We experience shifts in our insulin, dopamine and blood sugar levels; our metabolisms, sleeping patterns, and skin PH levels… just to name a few! Each new season marks a time of new beginnings, and when we reflect this in our movements, settings and diets – we reap the benefits of living more in harmony with nature.
TCM and Food
Contrasting western medicine, in TCM, the role of food and medicine in overlap. In TCM, different foods are associated with different energies. Food falls under the category of being ‘warm’ and ‘hot,’ which heats up the body and rises upwards; or ‘cool’ and ‘cold,’ – both which cool and move downwards through the body. Generally speaking, the key to a balanced diet is to combine the two sides – where possible, avoiding (or eating consuming in moderation) the extreme hot or cold foods.
Within TCM, different flavours of food are also noted. They’re categorised as; sweet, salty, pungent, sour and bitter – with each corresponding with benefits to a particular organ. Again, moderation is key. Too much of any one flavour can be harmful for the body.
The final piece here, involves eating seasonally. Traditional Chinese Medicine suggests that human beings should live in harmony with the natural cycles of their environment, and food should also reflect this.
Winter reflects the most Yin (feminine) aspect of Chinese medicine. The cold and darkness of this season invites us to slow down. This is the time to replenish our energy, conserve strength, and turn inwards. Here, it’s particularly important that we’re paying close attention to our health and bodies – as opposed to the demands of the external world. In Winter, our bodies require warm foods. Think vegetable soups with rich stocks that feel nourishing; like Yara’s delicious lentil soup, or our hearty tomato soup. Key winter foods include:
- Dark leafy greens
- Root vegetables (carrots, potato, leek)
- Apples and Pears
- Citrus fruits
Perhaps intuitively, in TCM, spring is considered the season of rebirth and growth. The liver and the gallbladder are the organs of the season; meaning that a diet tailored to support these two is going to be the best choice for spring. The liver is responsible for detoxification within the body, so eating foods that help this process along will be best. This means:
- Leafy green vegetables (for example chard or kale)
- Bitter greens (endives and parsley)
- Sour foods (lemon, lime and grapefruit)
- Sunflower seeds
- Milk thistle tea
Summer is the most ‘yang’ season in TCM. This means that of all of the seasons, summer can most quickly lead to imbalances. Because of the warm and drying weather, the best foods for summer will be those which are cooling, hydrating, sweet and neutral.
- Sweet potatoes
- Sweet corn
- Cooked grains
- Light broths and soups (to keep portions smaller than other seasons)
TCM regards Autumn as a season of transition. Here we’re moving from the yang of summer, into the yin energies of winter. The best food choices here are those which are pungent and warming. Where possible, use methods such as slow-cooking or braising for delicious meals that support the season’s key organs: the lungs and large intestine. Here you’re looking to include:
- Seasonal fruits and veggies like pears and figs
- Quinoa, rice or oats
- Brussels sprouts
- Onion and leek
If you’re ready for delicious, home cooked food without the work… why not pop in for a weekend retreat? Our chefs know that winter is all about those nurturing, nourishing meals – don’t worry, we’ve got you!
Nisha is a freelance writer and Vedic astrologer, based in the magical Byron Hinterlands. As well as running her candle business, her life and loves involve: yoga, gardening and all things esoteric. You’ll find her out in nature, or curled up at home with a good book. Happy Buddha is one of her most treasured places on earth (and indeed where she met her fiancé!).