Traditional Chinese medicine holds that a person should eat according to the seasons
to reap the most benefit from food and keep illness at bay. The external environmental
factors impact the internal (the working of the body) and, if you eat according to the
season, you will feel much better. This way you will be in accord with nature and the
elements and keep the balance in your body.
Spring is the time for growth and renewal so you should cleanse your body from the
heavy, fatty foods of winter which also slow you down. In spring you are more active and
you should eat foods which make you feel light and energetic.
Include baby greens in your diet: spinach, kale, collard greens, chard, bok choy, watercress, romaine, baby asparagus, young peas are all good for spring eating. Sprouted beans and grains, which you can do yourself at home or buy ready from the supermarket are also cleanse and detoxify. Chives, spring onions, rosemary, Chinese leeks, garlic, ginger, basil and dill can be used to add more flavor to foods.
While you can include some sour foods in your diet, don’t go overboard with them. Have some lime or lemon juice, citrus fruits and juices. These will give you Vitamin C and help build up immunity against colds and respiratory ailments. Other foods you can include in your spring diet are mushroom, Chinese dates, yams, bamboo shoot, pumpkins, potatoes, carrots, chestnuts, taro, cabbage, rice, soybeans that will nourish you. Naturally sweet foods are good for spring eating.
However this does not mean that you absolutely cannot eat other foods according to
traditional Chinese medicine. But you should have them in restricted quantities. Alcohol,
refined sugar and refined foods, processed and frozen foods, dairy products, heavy meats
laden with fats are best given the go by. Whenever you can, include some raw foods in
Pungent foods also introduce the yang element, especially since early spring is quite cold. These flavors move the energy upwards and outwards, which is an important component of spring eating according to traditional Chinese medicine. The food items which have pungent flavors include mint, cayenne, elderflower, black pepper, hot green and red peppers, fresh ginger. These balance the effect of grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, which add the sweet element. Pungent foods are cardiotonic and improve blood circulation and liver function, which is what you want in spring. During colder weather you can have dry ginger and cinnamon which are warming.
When you are cooking foods, you should cook them lightly, either steaming them or
stir frying or sautéing them over high heat very briefly and using little oil. Remember
Chinese food is best eaten freshly prepared and cooked and vegetables should still be
crunchy. Also over cooking destroys the basic elements of the food, apart from negating
its nutritive value.
What happens when you follow the spring diet pattern? You will feel lighter and more
energetic, your digestion will improve and you will lose weight (which you may have put
on during the heavy eating of winter). You can, of course, cook the foods the way you
want to, not just Chinese style. Simply don’t overcook, add large quantitites of heavy
sauces, bake for a long time and reduce the nutritional value of the foods.
When you eat the right seasonal foods and, this is very important, fresh and organic foods
are better than frozen and preserved foods any day, you will experience better health.
At the same time, increasing your outdoor activity level will help you get much needed
sunlight and be beneficial in other ways.