What is Eastern Nutrition?
Eastern nutrition is the nourishment of the body through the consumption and digestion of food. It is based on the belief that the body can health itself, with the help of proper nourishment. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the human body is made up of energy and matter. Our meridians are our energetic structure, uniting the body and consciousness. They must be free of congestion, which can be caused by postural distortion, tension, injury, or invasions from the external environment, in order to perform their functions. Keeping the meridian healthy benefits the organ and deeper systems, allowing for the circulation of nourishment throughout the body. It is important to not only eat the proper food, but also make the food digestible through the proper cooking techniques.
Eastern Nutrition in Alignment with the Seasons
An important aspect of Eastern nutrition is aligning yourself with the seasons. Certain in-season foods and cooking methods complement each season in order to help our bodies adjust to the changing climate and prevent illnesses common during that time of year. Just as it is important to wear the right clothes during a particular season, it is important to eat the right foods during the corresponding season to help adapt to temperature changes and altering weather patterns.
Winter calls for warming foods as they help warm us during the harsh cold. It is a time of conservation of energy and rejuvenation. The Sun tends to rise later and set earlier, meaning that the dark stays around longer. We stay indoors more often and longer in order to recharge for the upcoming spring and summer. It is very important during this time to warm our kidneys. Lamb, venison, warm soups, and stews and vegetables that mature in the winter and last throughout the year, such as kale, cabbage, broccoli, and winter squash, are warm in nature and provide more calories and necessary phytonutrients. Cooking methods that are perfect for the winter include deep frying, roasting, stewing, and baking.
Spring is a time when the Sun begins to rise earlier and stays out longer. Everything in nature starts to come out of hibernation. As it is a time of warmer weather, spring is also a time of winds which brings pathogens leading to colds and the flu. Eastern nutrition teaches us to nourish the liver in this season as it purifies the blood and keeps the energy flowing within the body. Recommended spring foods include rice, fennel, acrid flavors (ginger and onions), and foods with sour flavors (grapefruit, lemon, lime) Cooking styles for this time of year shifts from the warming methods of winter to sauteing, steaming, and simmering. It is best to gear toward shorter cooking times, less oil, and lower temperatures.
Summer is the best season to eat more salads, lots of lettuce and other greens, and lighter meals as become more active outdoors. Ther farmers’ market is the perfect place to not only get your sweet corn, cucumber, okra, avocado, summer squash and tomatoes but aldo fruits like berries and apples and fresh herbs such as basil, mint, and oregano. During this hot season, it is imperative to combat the heat with cooling foods and to nourish the heart with raw and bitters. Foods. Raw foods include raw vegetables and raw meats. Raw animal foods are high in vitamin B6 and detoxifying glutathione, which are destroyed by cooking. The best way to avoid contamination is to aim for pastured and organic beef and law that has been frozen and thawed or for fish that has been marinated in an acidic medium. Cooking techniques for this season include sauteing, stir-frying, boiling, steaming, and fermenting as well as eating raw foods.
Autumn is a period of harvest and there is an abundance of food. The weather begins to feel colder and our immune system becomes more vulnerable, thus making it easier to catch colds. During this portion of the year, everything in nature stocks up and prepares to store for the winter months ahead. To compensate for the increasingly cold weather, we should opt for mildly acrid and warm foods such as oats, carrots, sweet potatoes, garlic, rutabagas, parsnips, beef, and lamb. We should aim to minimize dairy consumption or use goat and sheep products. These foods not only warm the body, but also help to open the lungs and stimulate lung function. Baking, sauteing, roasting, stewing, and braising are great methods for cooking during this time of year.
The combination of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Eastern nutrition is very powerful in achieving harmony of the body, mind, and qi and allowing the body to heal itself. Practices, such as acupuncture, moxibustion, and massage, work hand in hand with nutrition to support not only your physical health but also your emotional and spiritual health. Modern lifestyle often challenges our ability to nurture our holistic health, but TCM and nutrition permits us to do that as well as nourish ourselves.