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Food As Medicine: Eating Seasonally

Updated: Mar 1, 2021

Seasonal eating is one of the basic principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Traditionally one would naturally make changes in diet that the season demanded as there was only access to local seasonal foods at specific times of the year. Humans are naturally connected to the rhythms of seasonal cycles, so eating seasonal foods is a natural method of maintaining, detoxifying, and strengthening our body and its organs. Modern-day farming and food processes now gives us access to all foods throughout the year. Our lifestyle also seems to keep the same pace and productivity levels throughout the year. There is a downside to this in that we’ve lost touch with the natural rhythms of nature and our bodies.

Aligning our diet and lifestyle with the subtle changes of the seasons can benefit our health and wellbeing. We often overlook these subtle changes in seasons and continue pushing through our everyday routine to 'keep going'. Eating the same foods year-round can have adverse effects on our health. Our health can be thrown out of balance when we continually eat cold foods in the winter or raw food all year round, leading to digestive discomfort, feeling run down, or dis-ease.

Here are some ideas for you to incorporate into your seasonal diet and lifestyle routine.

  • Summer: It's a time when the heat is at its height and don't we know it after our recent heatwave. Summer brings an abundance of fresh local foods. Our digestive system can process naturally cooling foods found in summer-like cucumber, green leaf salads and tomatoes during the summer months. If your system is out of balance you may have bloating or loose stools. In this case, avoid raw foods and stick to cooked or blanched foods.

  • ✔ Tomatoes, green salad leaves, watermelon, sweet peppers, cucumber, and local fresh produce.

  • Autumn: The days are drawing in and the nights are cooler. This is the time for transition into the winter months ahead. Root vegetables are in abundance. Adding soups, stews, roasted root vegetables, and generally more warming foods this time of year will set a foundation for the winter months ahead.

  • ✔ Pumpkin, squash, ginger, carrots, sweet potato, dark leafy greens like kale, chard, onions, and garlic.

  • Winter: A time to go inward, a time of reflection, and a time to restore. Traditionally a time to embrace the slower aspects of nature that surround us. Some animals are in hibernation and the trees are dormant awaiting the first signs of spring. Winter is a time when our energy should be slower and this can be reflected in our food preparation. From a TCM perspective, slow-cooked foods are naturally more warming, nourishing, and easier to absorb at this time of year. The general rule of thumb in TCM is to avoid raw or frozen foods during the winter months. Add warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger, cumin, or star anise to warm up soups and stews.

  • ✔ Root vegetables, legumes, kale, warming spices. Slow-cooked foods are important this time of year to set you up for the emergence of spring.

  • Spring: The quintessential time of creating, cleansing, activity, growth, and renewal. A time for movement and bringing life back after a dormant and sedentary winter. This is a time to start introducing lighter fresher foods into your diet. Lightly cooked foods with added warmth from spices can ease your digestion into this season laying the foundation for the more cooling foods of summer.

  • ✔ Broccoli, celery, carrot, complex carbs, seeds, spring greens, and spring onions.

We are all unique, so it's important to listen to our bodies. We all process the foods we consume differently, listen to your body to make a mental note of your reactions. You can even keep a food diary of your reactions to pinpoint certain foods that your body reacts to adversely.

There is so much information out there about various diets for health and wellbeing. Personally I think it's best to stick with what nature intended by eating whole foods in their most natural state and try avoiding processed and fast food. Eating a healthy balance whole food diet can do wonders for your health. After all, you need to nourish to flourish!

Your diet can be fine-tuned specific to your needs, pattern, or body type. It's often easier with the assistance of a trained practitioner. If you have any questions on how acupuncture and diet from a TCM perspective can help get in touch, I'm happy to help.

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