Spring Eating Tips Inspired by Traditional Chinese Medicine

Today it is my great pleasure to introduce you to my friend Kristin Misik. Kristin is an acupuncturist, herbalist and life coach in New York City. We go to the same CrossFit gym, and we share a passion for eating whole, locally sourced foods and living a sustainable lifestyle.

When we were talking about what sort of guest post she might want to do, Kristin suggested writing up some tips for how best to eat in the spring according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Since we do seem to be done with the very cold weather, I really loved this idea. So take it away, Kristin!

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a fundamental way to prevent illness and imbalance is to live in harmony with your environment. Depending on your locale, you may not yet see the evidence of new life bursting forth, but there is a distinct shift in our body’s energy as the hours of daylight increase and the earth starts leaning a little further south.

According to TCM, spring is the season of the liver and the gallbladder. These organs are in charge of regulating a smooth and soothing flow of energy throughout the whole person (body and mind). Unfortunately, they’re prone to congestion (aka “stagnation”) because most people take in too many poor quality fats and denatured foods, chemicals, medications, and intoxicants.

What happens when liver or gallbladder energy isn’t flowing properly? We can experience anger and irritability (and for women: PMS), depression, insomnia, and an inability to lead or make decisions. We are also more susceptible to problems like muscle pulls and strains, joint pains, and headaches when the liver and gallbladder are out of balance. The good news is there are many ways to alter your dietary and food preparation habits in order to prevent a major liver and gallbladder meltdown.

Springtime is the best time to start integrating the following changes, especially if you are a seasonal allergy sufferer:

1. Like the green shoots and buds of the plants and trees, spring is associated with the color green. Consume foods that are rich in chlorophyll (including cereal grasses like wheat or barley grass juice, micro algae like spirulina, blue-green, and chlorella, parsley, kale, swiss chard, and collard greens) in order to accelerate liver rejuvenation.

2. Cook vegetables for a shorter time but at a higher temperature. This way, the food (especially the interior) is cooked slightly ‘al dente’. Think lightly steaming or minimal simmering. A quick, high-temp saute method is also recommended.

3. Upon awakening, before that first cup of tea or coffee, drink warm water with a slice of lemon to detoxify the liver and gallbladder. Or try 1 teaspoon each of apple cider vinegar and raw honey in one cup of water. Mint tea throughout the day is another excellent remedy for soothing liver qi (energy). I recommend this in especially if you are experiencing irritability, frustration, or notice frequent sighing.

4. Avoid heavy foods which can exacerbate sluggishness in the liver. These include dairy, fried foods, poorly sourced meats and large quantities of nuts (including nut butters).

5. Make sure to increase moderately pungent foods like green onions, garlic, ginger, watercress, mustard greens, turmeric, basil, cardamom, marjoram, cumin, and fennel in your diet. These help to ease the transition into spring when erratic changes in weather make us susceptible to colds, flus, allergies and acute illness. These foods also have a powerful immune boosting qualities.

6. Eat more raw foods, sprouted grains and seeds. According to TCM, we should also be consuming root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, beets, and turnips.

7. Increase foods with a slightly bitter quality as these can help your deal with problematic heat and inflammation in the liver. Rye, romaine lettuce, asparagus, amaranth, quinoa, radish leaves, citrus peel, dandelion, chamomile, milk thistle seeds, and Oregon grape root all have liver cleansing capabilities. Include these in your diet on a regular basis if you are prone to springtime allergies characterized by itchy, red eyes, post nasal drip and/or sneezing. These foods will also benefit red, swollen joints.

Living in accordance with the shift of the seasons can benefit your health in many ways. The wisdom of TCM dates back thousands of years, but it’s just as important today as ever. You can deepen your knowledge of TCM and other actions to take for spring by visiting Acupuncture Wise.

Kristin was kind enough to look through my recipe index and highlighted the following recipes as being potentially beneficial:

Green Juice (pictured above)
Roasted Onions Stuffed with Black Quinoa
Spanish Garlic Soup
Curried Quinoa Salad
Strawberry and Basil Aqua Fresca
Greens with Eggs and Sweet Potato
Spicy Cucumber Salad
Spring Vegetable Curry with Ramp Cilantro Chutney
Raw Kale Salad
Green Smoothie

Speaking of guest posts, I’ve written a few myself recently! Here they are if you’d like to check them out:

A Variation on Sauerkraut over at Deliciously Organic
Chocolate Sandwich Cookies over at Nourished Kitchen

I also wrote an article that has nothing to do with food. It’s about my CrossFit journey thus far, and how I’ve embraced my muscles :) You can find it here.

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28 thoughts on “Spring Eating Tips Inspired by Traditional Chinese Medicine”

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  5. What a terrific article filled with so much healthful info. You know now that I think of it I’ve had severe gall bladder issues twice in the past years which occurred in the spring season – both times I needed urgent medical care. I’ve been more careful since. Glad to read all these helpful tips. Bookmarking this. Thanks for sharing, Winnie!

  6. Loved this post! Very inspired to go forth into spring with vibrant + mega awesome health. Stoked to show my liver some love :) Thanks for this Winnie + Kristin!

  7. Winnie,
    Wow, what great recommendations. It’s nice to know that the healthy lifestyle I’ve recently adopted is somewhat in line with this advice. With just a few adjustments my liver and gallbladder should be super pleased with me. Thank you so much for this information!!!

  8. Hi Winnie!
    I have just discovered you and your awesome site! I’m very excited to be connected and I look forward to cooking with you.

    I was wondering if you might share the Brand of Juicer that you currently use. I did read that you have been through a few…given a few away. I tried clicking on the link that said “we have this kind” but it only gave me a blank page.
    Anyway, I would be most appreciative if you would share. You certainly have a lot of experience with them it seems.


  9. I loved the TCM tips from Kristin. I am definitely going to try to work some of them into my daily springtime routine!

  10. Great post, Winnie! I’m definitely going to be implementing some of these strategies. This is more of a juice related question: I’ve started juicing recently and though I know that it’s best to drink the juice right away to maintain the integrity of the nutrients, I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on whether the loss of nutrients really outweighs making a “batch” of juice for the week. Being a student can be very busy (as you know), so we usually make a juice on Sunday or Monday for the week/a few days. I keep it in a large mason jar in the fridge and open in only once a day when I want to pour some out. I was hoping that less access to oxygen would also mean less damage to the nutrients. Am I wrong about this? I’d love to hear any thoughts you have.

  11. Your coconut flour scone recipe brought me here. Clicked on your HOME page to see what you are about and so glad I did!

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  13. Hey Winnie, So interesting! Especially the bit about bitter foods. I feel like I’m definitely at that point where my body is really craving all of the green stuff that spring has to offer, but I find that I especially crave bitter things in the spring.