Eating with the seasons
As the seasons ebb and flow they offer us an array of beautiful fresh produce to keep us in harmony with the rhythms of nature. TCM believes seasonal produce contains within it the energy properties of yin and yang for absolute balance between the internal qi of the body, as well as the external qi of the environment.
“During the summer months, we’re at the height of yang time; the energy of the body is flowing at its fullest and our bodies are trying to cool down,” says Dr Cass. “This is where the calming effects of bitter foods keep our body cooler, as energetically they’re considered to benefit the heart energy by cooling down flared up emotions.
“Select more yin fruits, like pineapple and watermelon, and vegetables in season to clear heat and hydrate the body. And while this is the optimal time to eat more raw foods, if you have digestive disturbances steam or boil your vegetables to help break them down for easier absorption.”
Traditionally starts around the third week in February and lasts around six weeks. “This season transitions from the yang energy of spring and summer, and moves into the yin energy of autumn and winter, so it’s vital to nourish and nurture the body, especially the digestion, in preparation for the cooler months ahead,” advises Dr Cass.
Eat more sweet foods, which are the over-ripe fruits in season, golden to yellow in colour, like pumpkin, sweet potato, apples and almonds. “As the weather begins to cool, it’s also time to incorporate more warmer and cooked foods, through frying, steaming and boiling,” adds Dr Cass.
Just as the temperatures begin to cool down, we need to eat more yang pungent and spicy flavours. “These are great to stimulate the digestive fire to get rid of excess heat that’s been lingering from summer and to promote warmth throughout the body,” explains Dr Cass. “In turn, pungent foods bring about sweat and, as it’s flu season, this helps get rid of internal pathogens that are starting to creep in,” she adds. Begin to stir-fry and oven bake your food.
“This is the peak of yin time when everything is cold, both externally and internally, so you want to have very salty yang types of foods to help keep your extremities warm,” says Dr Cass. “Drink plenty of room temperature water to maintain energy levels, herbal and black teas and kombucha. Slow cook your meals and have plenty of soups, bone broth and stews.”
“As you transition back from yin to yang time and out of hibernation, this is when sour flavours are best in preparation for becoming more physical in the upcoming warmer months. However, don’t overdo it on sour foods because this can also injure the liver,” says Dr Cass. Light foods eaten raw or lightly cooked are beneficial. Begin the day with hot water, lemon and mint to detox and renew your energy.