If you’re currently living in Southern Ontario, you’re well aware of the crazy changeable temperatures of this apparent “spring”.
The change in weather patterns challenges our immune system, making us susceptible to getting sick. As mentioned in a previous blog post, change of season soup is a great way to help our bodies cope with this up and down weather by enhancing our immune health.
Aside from this amazing soup, there are number of foods that are meant for us to start consuming once the weather starts warming up and spring finally arrives.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory believes that the cyclical nature of the seasons influences human health and that our bodies should always be aligned and attuned to each season.
Specific organs are more active than others with each passing season, and consuming the specific foods and flavours harmonizes these organs (and thus our whole bodies) to the external environment, resulting in stronger health and wellness.
Spring (the Wood Element) is the time for new life, increased energy, rising up and expanding out from the hibernation of winter.
Use newly sprouting plants as a way to view these properties of spring – they rise up and expand from the soil generating new life and energy in response to more light and rising temperatures, leaving behind the heaviness of winter.
The organs associated with spring are the Liver and Gallbladder – primary organs of detoxification – are meant to be activated and nurtured during the spring in order to cleanse the body of fats and heavy foods that we consume during the winter months.
During spring, your diet should be the lightest of the year in order to align the body with this ascending energy of spring.
It’s best to consume a diet rich in fresh young greens and sprouts offered by the new growing season (think baby leaves such as baby spinach, baby kale, micro greens etc.).
These foods make sense to consume as they contain significant amounts of antioxidants, vitamins (K, A, C, Bs), minerals (Mg, Fe, Cu, Mn), fibre and may phytochemicals, all essential for efficient liver function.
Taste/flavour are also properties of foods that align with the seasons.
The flavours that are encouraged to during the spring season are “pungent” and “sweet”.
In TCM, pungent foods are expansive, rising, and have warming properties, just like spring.
These properties improve digestion, and break up mucus caused by the dampness and cold of winter. ”
What is a pungent flavour?
That’s really hard to explain as in Western culture doesn’t really have a word for this but I would associated this flavour with the super scientific word, “herb-y” to “spicy”.
Foods that carry the pungent flavour that are appropriate for spring are typically more neutral herbs and spices such as basil, marjoram, bay leaves, rosemary, fennel.
Extremely pungent flavours of garlic and onions (and other alliums like ramps!) can further help with detoxification by binding excess cholesterol and the ridding the body of unwanted microbes.
Spicier/hotter herbs such as cayenne and ginger are also considered pungent, but are reserved for summer as they are a bit too stimulating for spring.
Sweet flavour is appropriate for all seasons but there are specific sweet foods that are warming and expansive, making them appropriate for your spring diet as well as the transition in to spring.
I’m not talking about sugar bomb sweet – we’re talking about subtle natural sweetness that may not register as sweet to those who are use to eating high-sugar diets.
Sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, yams, peas, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and spearmint (also pungent) are all good representations of the sweet, ascending flavour.
Grains and legumes are also naturally sweet in nature and are also encouraged to eat during the spring season – sprouting grains and legumes before consumption improves the “sweetness” property and also make these foods easier to digest.
Nuts are also considered sweet and are great additions to your daily meals
Combining pungent foods with sweet will also improve the digestion of the sweeter foods such as grains and legumes.
During spring, go light on the heavy, salty foods, such as high sodium foods, excessive fat and meats, which tends to create heaviness and burden on the newly activated liver.
Eating foods raw, or lightly cooked, is the best way to eat foods in the spring.
If eating raw foods, stick with young greens and sprouts as they are highly nutritious, easy on digestion, with their energy matching the young, vibrant nature of spring.
As the weather becomes hotter in to summer, the more raw foods you can consume, but be careful because overconsumption of tough, raw vegetables can leave people with significant amounts of indigestion and is not recommended, especially if you don’t chew your food properly.
If you are cooking vegetables, cook on high heat for a short amount of time in order to maintain the nutrients and “crunch” but breaking down some of the fibre in order for these foods to be easier on digestion.
I really love the concept of aligning our daily health routines to our external environment.
There are hundreds of studies that demonstrate how misalignment with our extremal environment (such as sleep-wake cycle disturbances, altered eating patterns etc.) is a major factor in chronic disease.
Using these TCM principles that have been followed for hundreds of years allows us to become more self-aware and intuitive of what our bodies need with changes in our environment, and how we can to provide our bodies and minds with the correct foods and nutrients in order to function optimally throughout the changing seasons.