What Chinese Medicine Taught Me About Seasonal Eating

The days are becoming shorter, the morning commute to work is darker, and I’m quite sure we all already feel that shift into a slower pace from our longer and more active summer days.

I was having brunch with a couple of girlfriends the other day, we were talking about reorganizing our homes, doing a little fall cleaning, it sounded like we were all feeling that pull the make our homesteads just a little bit more comfortable for autumn and winter season.

Colder days are a time to break out our oversized sweaters and cozy blankets, pack away our Birkenstocks and break out the other Vancouver staple footwear, Blundstone boots.  Shorter, darker days are a time to finish up summer projects and start researching warming recipes and more introspective activities. Do you follow Chinese Medicine at all? Have you heard about yin/yang?

Fall and winter for me usually mean I live in my sweaters and usually have a least two layers on. All my life, I have always run a bit colder, I’m prone to cold hands and feet. I used to experience more bloating and have had sore joints in the past. Since incorporating some of the Chinese Medicine principles, balancing yin/yang, into my daily lifestyle and paying more attention to the seasons, I find myself feeling more balanced; I have more energy, less of a chill and less bloating. I tend to avoid juices and smoothies in the fall and winter and focus on more hearty meals.

According to Chinese medicine, we should be eating with the seasons to keep our yin and yang balanced. The fall and winter season is more yin, darker, contractive, slower, colder energy. Summer is more yang, expansive, bright, hotter energy. In Western culture, eating with the seasons can easily get out of whack because we have access to fruits and vegetables from all over the world at all times.

If you find yourself experiencing;

Cold
Cold hands and feet
Bloated
Get stomach pains
Have a lack of energy
Sore joints

Take a look at what you’re eating through the day.
Are you eating a lot of raw foods or foods with cooling effects (yin) like

Cucumber
Strawberries
Spinach
Peaches
Zucchini
Pineapple
Tomato
Eggplant
White bread and pastas

Are you drinking a smoothie every morning?
Eating a salad at lunch?
Eating raw fruit & veggies for a snack?

It may be time to switch a few habits for the fall, one of the easiest things I like to do is make soups and stews.

According to Chinese medicine, cooking on lower heats over an extended period of time make for a very nourishing, easy to digest and warming meal. I’d like to mention that eating more warming foods according to Chinese medicine is a more energetic than a temperature thing. But, keeping in mind that cooking your meals during colder, slower months does make it easier on the body break down, digest and absorb much-needed nourishment. That is why further down, I’m mentioning cooking methods as well as adjusting your intake of raw foods.

If your lifestyle allows, use organic or pasture fed chicken or beef bones for your soup stock. The benefits of using real bones over ready-made boxed broth are with a fresh stock you will get vital minerals and collagen with help with immune system health, skin, and gut health. Pre-made boxed broth usually contain preservatives and too much salt. Making hearty soups and stews are incredibly easy to prepare and batch cook. I make mine usually with a slow cooker and my new favorite kitchen tool! My Cuisinart hand blender to create smooth blended soups.

Some of my favorite soup ingredients that pass the test for warming (yang) foods

Squash and root vegetables
Winter greens
Garlic
Ginger
Leek
Chives
Coconut milk
Cinnamon
Cloves
Nutmeg
Black beans
Kidney beans
Roasted nuts
Buckwheat
Millet
Poultry
Eggs
Salmon

What I’ve listed are just a few that I regularly use, There are many resources to guide you in yin/yang balance when it comes to eating and lifestyle.

You are what you eat! (and what you absorb) it makes sense to eat colorful, fresh, nutrient dense squash when they are in local and in season, it also means that they are less expensive than an import vegetable from another continent, an import may be old or sprayed to preserve freshness (keep in mind carbon footprint too)

Methods of cooking your warming recipes;

Roast
Bake
Boil
Slow cooker – my personal favorite

All that talk of warming goodness, here is a lovely and easy recipe to get you going. (GF, DF)

Gingery Kabocha Squash Soup 

1 Kabocha Squash – seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks (the skin is edible!) If you don’t want to eat the skin. Cut the squash in half and roast, you can then scoop out the cooked squash.
5 tsp coconut oil, divided
1 tsp sea salt
1 med onion diced
1 med carrot, chopped
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
4 cups of broth, vegetable or chicken – low sodium or your fresh made broth
1 zest of lemon + juice of half a fresh lemon
1 knob of fresh chopped ginger, about 3/4 inch.
2 cloves of chopped garlic
1/2 cup coconut milk

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees, Prepare the squash with 2-3 tsp coconut oil rubbed on it, salt lightly and roast until lightly browned. About 20-30 minutes.

While the squash is roasting, heat a 3 tsp coconut oil is a soup pot over med-high, Lightly saute the onion, carrot, ginger for about 5 minutes, add the turmeric, coriander and a pinch of sea salt.  Reduce the heat to med-low, and allow the onions to sweat.

Once the squash is done, add it to the soup pot with the broth, zest and lemon juice, simmer for about 20 minutes. In the last 10 minutes, add the coconut milk.

Using your hand blender blend the soup until creamy and smooth, add salt to taste. Enjoy with a side of winter greens or GF baguette.

 

If you would like to learn more about how to eat for your body, according to season and lifestyle, book your one on one consultation with me here 

Be sure to leave a comment below, have you felt better when adjusting your diet to the season? eating more cooked versus raw?

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