(NaturalNews) With bright green sprouts pushing through the melting snow and with the warmth of the sun on our pale winter skin, we all feel the shift in our bodies that the spring season brings. In order to feel our best throughout the year, we must respond to the environmental changes with nutritional and habitual changes of our own. Spring is the beginning of things. It is a time of revitalization, growth, vitality and yang energy. The element of spring is wood, which, when simplified, corresponds to the liver, gallbladder, tendons, muscles, eyes and emotions like anger, stagnation and frustration.
TCM Spring Nutrition
Meals should be light, and one should begin to eat less or even fast to cleanse from the fats and heavier foods of winter. Spring is the time for fresh, raw, sprouted foods. These young, green plants are high in yang energy and promote ascension and expansion. These include fresh greens and sprouts like fiddleheads, spinach, kale, nettles, bok choy and broccoli. Other vegetables to emphasize in the spring are asparagus, peas, artichokes, fava beans, garlic, green onions, morels, mushrooms, spring onions, cabbage and kohlrabi.
Raw foods and sprouts encourage renewal and clear heat. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, even in spring an all raw diet is not ideal, because excessive raw foods weaken digestion. The emphasis instead is placed on a balanced diet that looks at the nutrition, preparation and energy of foods and uses them as tools to acclimate to the surrounding climate and support the organs that need it. Spring foods should be cooked for short periods of time, in fast sautes, mild simmers and light steams. As it is best to rest early, it is also best not to eat late.
Use sweet and pungent foods to create an internal spring, expansion and rising. Honey and pungent herbs, like mint, are traditional spring tonics. Additional desirable pungent herbs are basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, dill and bay leaf. Sweet, starchy, young vegetables like beets and carrots are refreshing and beneficial.
As one of the first fruit to arrive the spring, strawberries are good for spring cleansing. Additional fruits to use are watermelons, bananas, figs, kiwis, mangoes, pineapples, nectarines, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries and other melons. In the spring, the fruit is not yet ripe, making the taste sour. Emphasizing the sour taste in your meals can help support the liver. Other foods that benefit the liver directly include lemons, radishes, rye, beets, carrots, apples, mustard greens, tomatoes, anything green, mung beans and mint tea.
Clams, oysters, lobsters, mussels, wild salmon, sea trout, haddock, lemon sole and brown crab are traditionally recommended fish and seafood for spring. Although meat intake should be limited lamb, other good meats include small fowl, rabbit, grouse and duck. High-quality liver should also be considered to build blood. Avoid heavy fatty foods and minimize salty foods, like miso and soy sauce.
Energy and Emotion
Indulgence in excessive emotions such as anger, frustration, depression or sadness can injure the liver. In spring, attempt to be open and unsuppressed and focus equanimity. Cleanse the mind of the dissatisfaction, impatience and anger that can build over winter. It is also said to be a time for philosophical queries, questioning the vastness of the universe, intelligence and intuition. The voice is given the ability to shout.
Exercise and activity should increase. It is advised to rest early, so one can rise early, walk in the morning dew and absorb its fresh, invigorating vitality. To nourish the tendons and muscles, stretching, qigong and tui na massages are especially important in the spring.
Sources for this article include:
Ni, Maoshing. The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Medicine. Shambhala Productions. 1995.
Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition. North Atlantic Books. 2002.
Beinfield, Harriet; Korngold, Erfem. Between Heaven and Earth. Random House. 1991.
About the author: Lindsay Chimileski: Dr. Lindsay is a Naturopathic Physician and Acupuncture specialist. After receiving her Bachelors in Human Development and Family Studies from University of Connecticut, she proceeded to receive her Doctorate from University of Bridgeport's College of Naturopathic Medicine and Masters of Acupuncture from University of Bridgeport's Acupuncture Institute.
I have a passion for health education, patient empowerment and the restoration of balance- both on the individual and communal level. I believe all can learn how to live happily, in harmony with nature and in ways that support the body's innate ability to heal itself.
Please note: I am not giving any medical advice, just spreading the word and love of natural living, and the pressing health revolution. Always contact your doctor before starting or changing your health regimen.