What to Eat in the Spring

Spring is here, and all of nature is moving upward and outward: aligning your diet with the season can help you lighten up and let go.

It’s a time of rapid growth: budding, flowering, happening. The taste that corresponds with the season is pungent. Pungent, also known as spicy, is the taste that invigorates, circulates, and breaks through the mental and physical sluggishness left over from winter.

Pungent herbs can be warming, like garlic, chives, and onions, cayenne, cinnamon, cumin, fennel, ginger, turmeric, thyme and rosemary; pungent can also be cooling like peppermint, marjoram, oregano, parsley and cilantro.  Apart from spices, there aren’t very many pungent foods. Turnips, radishes, and mustard greens are a few notable exceptions.

In addition to pungent, the Liver benefits from a little bit of the sour taste, which prompts the liver to release bile to help us emulsify fat. Starting your day with hot water and the juice of half a lemon is a lovely thing to do to aid peristalsis, regulate gut flora, and benefit digestion and weight loss. Olives, limes, and sauerkraut are excellent sources of the sour taste.

It’s the time of year when it’s most appropriate to lighten up our diet. This makes sense, since in Chinese Medicine, the spring time corresponds with the Liver and Gall Bladder organ systems. You can love up your liver by giving it a break from refined sugar, refined flour, alcohol, pesticides, herbicides, and artificial chemicals. Consider opting for plant-based proteins from legumes instead of meat and dairy this season.

Enjoy the young shoots and stalks that are emblematic of the new growth of the season: pea greens, bean sprouts, asparagus, and celery. Leafy greens like spinach, kale, swiss chard, beet greens, mustard greens, collard greens, dandelion greens, arugula, and watercress are awesome for spring cleaning from the inside out. Braise them with some garlic and olive oil and you’ll help escort fat-soluble toxins out of the body.

Like leafy greens, mung beans are especially useful for helping the body detoxify. In Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, yellow mung dal is combined with basmati rice and digestion-enhancing spices like ginger, cumin, coriander, fennel, turmeric, black pepper, and cinnamon into a one-pot meal called kitchari. Make a batch and eat it with steamed vegetables for a few days for the world’s easiest cleanse (I make mine with quinoa for extra protein).

If you deal with seasonal allergies this time of year, try an infusion of nettles: 1 cup of dried nettles to a quart of hot water. Let it sit overnight, and drink it the next day. Chrysanthemum blossoms and mint are used in Chinese herbology for red, itchy eyes, and headaches. They’re great steeped for at least 5 minutes (covered) and combined with green tea. For more allergy tips, keep reading — that’s next up.

If you like learning self-healing strategies, check out my course, the Basics of Chinese Medicine.

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