There is no doubt that Fall has arrived here in Vancouver ~ crisp morning air, a fireshow of colour and on the rare side for Vancouver? Clear blue skies! As the temperatures drop, it’s the perfect time to nourish our immune systems. And what better way to do this than through our food? Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) gives us a bounty of ways to do just that using the medicine found within our Fall foods.
According to Chinese Medicine, Fall is a time of great change – of push and pull, yin and yang. The Chinese call this ‘wind’ and consider it to be dangerous to the immune system. It requires that the body constantly adapt which drains the body’s resources. As a result, colds and flus are frequent visitors.
To avoid getting sick this season, TCM teaches us to choose foods that balance the seasonal pattern around us. For example, if the weather is dry, choose lubricating foods. This helps to prevent the itchy throat, dry nose, chapped lips and skin, dry stools and hair loss which may all be associated with dry weather patterns. Lubricating foods include soy products, spinach, barley, millet, pear, apple, persimmon, seaweed, almond, pinenut, honey and eggs.
As we move towards even colder weather, TCM teaches that we need to strengthen and ‘thicken’ our blood. In essence, this means foods that are highly nourishing and warming to the body. Heartier foods such as soups and stews rich with root vegetables and warming herbs or spices are the perfect match for the colder weather.
The fall can often be a hectic time, with school, projects and extra-curricular activities. With everything going on, it’s really important to stimulate healing activity within the body as well as support our or to mental focus. Adding sour foods to your diet is great for this. Examples include sauerkraut, pickles, leeks, aduki beans, salt plums, rose hip tea, vinegar and citrus foods. For improving mental focus in particular, TCM recommends cooking with less water and at lower temperatures for longer periods of time.
Lastly, choose Warming Foods to stimulate the immune system and strengthen the body’s internal fire. According to Chinese Medicine, warming foods often have a greater amount of internal energy stored within them. This is because they typically take longer to grow (as is the case with root vegetables) or they have endured cold climates (such as in the case of salmon). Spices are an excellent way to increase the energetic warmth of our meals. Cinnamon, clove, fennel, dill, cayenne and ginger are classic examples.
Following the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine is a great way to ‘have food be your medicine and medicine be your food’!