Balancing Your Diet According To The Five TCM Seasons

“Eat spinach every day.” “For healthy bones, drink milk.” “Eat 5-7 servings a day of …” “Don’t drink more than two cups of coffee a day.””Eat garlic – because it’s good for you.” We’ve heard them all. So many rules and regulations to heed! What’s too much? What’s right? All these are enough to cause anxiety and confusion.

An alternative healing system known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perceives food and how it impacts people’s health in a whole different way, with no numerical guidelines involved. The dietary therapy that TCM deals with tackles the attributes of food and how it can actually be utilized as medicine for the treatment and prevention of illness and the and preservation of health.

InTCM, all aspects of health are viewed through the picture of yin and yang, with the goal of attaining complete balance between the two. As medicine, food is used to maintain and attain that balance by simply removing or including from the diet certain types of food. The internal organs and the rest of the body are also related to the five elements and their associated colors: metal (white), earth (yellow), water (blue/black), fire (red), and wood (green),as well as the five seasons (yes, five) winter, spring, summer, late summer, autumn. The same is true with food which is set into five main classes and grouped based on nature and flavor.

In the winter season, we often tend to consume a lot of foods related to the water element. “Water” element foods possess a salty taste. The bladder and the kidneys are the organs associated with winter. Excessively watery and salty foods such as pickles, watermelons, olives, soy sauce, mung beans, kidney beans, mushrooms, and miso cause problems like edema (water retention), hunger, thirst, and even anxiety.

Thespring is related to the element of wood element which becomes prominent during this season. Foods associated to spring and the wood elements include green lentils, green vegetables, citrus fruits, apples, wheat, rye, and oats. They all have cleansing properties on the body and influence the gallbladder and liver. If say, you drink a cup of warm water with lemon juice, it can help process fats, particularly after a rich, heavymeal.

The fire element is associated with the season of summer, the body organs small intestine and heart and the taste of bitterness. Bitter tasting foods heave a laxative quality, are cooling and typically stimulating. Some bitter tasting foods include green tea, corn, plain unsweetened chocolate, black tea, black coffee and… cigarettes. Too much intake of “fire” or bitter foods can dehydrate the body, adverselyimpact the nervous systems, and lastly,weaken the digestive systems and the heart.

The late summerhas a nourishing quality. This TCM season is associated with the earth element,the taste of sweetness, and the organs of the spleen and stomach. Our mouth is deemed the gateway to the abdomen and during times of stress, we tend to eat a lot or consume certain kinds of sweet foods to relieve that stress. Sweet foods like sweet cheeses and fruits, breads, pasta, and refined sugar all have phlegm-producing, lethargic, and sedating properties. Excessive amounts of these foods can cause bloating and disrupt digestion.

The hot taste, a pungent odor, and the metal element all are associated with the autumn season. The body organs related to the metal element include the skin, large intestine, and the lungs. One tends to sweat when or after eating pungent foods such as ginger, onions, garlic, and peppers. Include pungent foods to your diet if you want to speed digestion and boost appetite.

So, from all this information, it may be good to assess your eating habits. Do you, for example, crave salty foods or sweets or use too much spice? Do you need coffee to wake up? You yourself can determine what your taste proclivity is and what kind of foods you eat more than others. This will help identify the areas where you are out of balance.

Here are some simple few tips to follow: first and foremost, sit down when eating your daily meals, chew your food well. Also, be sure to consume foods related with the current season and balance all five colors and tastes on your plate.

Christina Prieto is an Orlando acupuncturist, a certified Yoga instructor and the founder of Harmony Wellness center in central Florida.

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