Why different foods are consumed each season
and what are their health benefits?
Man is part of the holistic entity, and takes his cue from nature. He is influenced directly and indirectly by changes in weather and needs to make corresponding physiological and pathological responses. For example, a change of season causes the rate, rhythm, volume and tension of the pulse to vary. The pulse tends to be taut in spring, full in summer, floating in autumn, and sunken in winter.According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the world is a harmonious and holistic entity where all living beings are viewed in relation to the surrounding environment. Since ancient times, the Chinese have tried to explain different complicated phenomena by creating yin yang or the five elements theories.
TCM physicians will take this into account when distinguishing the abnormal pulse from the normal. The occurrence, development and change in the pattern of many diseases are seasonal such as wenbing occurring in spring, sun strokes in summer, dryness-related symptoms in autumn, and cold stroke syndromes in winter.
The ancient Chinese realized that in accordance with seasonal changes, yang qi tends to flow outwards and occupies the body surface in spring and summer and therefore, the innards get relatively depleted of yang qi and need replenishing. At the same time, the weather in autumn and winter is cold and dry, and it is important to keep warm and prevent dryness. Through the methods of replenishing yin and nourishing dryness, TCM believes it is a way to build up energy and prepare for the coming seasons.However, we can take active measures to prevent disease and maintain good health. One common method is to consume different foods according to the season. The Chinese widely believe that we are what we eat, and most dietary guidelines follow on from nature. According to TCM philosophies, if we imbibe seasonal foods that are similar in nature to the external environment, we remain in harmony with the environment, adapt better to changes in season and stay healthy. The basic applying principle is “nourishing yang in spring and summer time, and nourishing yin in autumn and winter time.”
Plants grow fast in summer. People act energetically, and the body’s qi and blood become relatively more vigorous than in other seasons. TCM claims that the physiological changes make the heart over-function, and there is too much yang qi flows outward to the exterior part of the body. According to the five elements theory, an over-functioning heart restricts the lung functioning, it is advisable to eat more food with pungent flavors and reduce bitter flavors; this enhances the lung and maintains the normal sweating mechanism in summer.
Sweat is the fluid of the heart; excessive sweating scatters heart-qi and weakens the mind causing symptoms like being easily annoyed, low spirit, restless and sleeping difficulties. Foods with sour and salty flavors help to ease these symptoms. Summer is hot and rainy in some regions, which disturb the fluid and electrolyte balance of the body and lead to lethargy, weakness, fever, thirst, lack of appetite and possibly loose bowels.
Some foods are recommended for keeping the body cool and balanced, such as bitter gourd, watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes, mung beans, cucumber, wax gourd, lotus root, lotus seed, Job’s tears, bean sprouts, duck and fish. In general, the daily diet should contain more vegetables and fruit at this time so as to stimulate the appetite and provide adequate fluids. Warm and cooked foods ensure the digestive system work more effectively; too many greasy, raw and frozen foods can damage the digestive system and lead to a poor appetite, diarrhea or stomach upset. It is a Chinese tradition in summer to make soups for clearing summer heat, eliminating dampness and promoting digestion.
Things begin to fall and mature in autumn. TCM believes that autumn correlates with the lung system, which dominates the skin, respiration, body fluids metabolism, blood circulation, immunity and melancholy emotion. Since the vigorous summer has over, TCM holds that everything needs to turn inwards so as to prepare for the harsh winter. Foods are important to ensure that the body adjusts to the changing seasons. The dry weather usually causes an itchy throat, a dry nose, chapped lips, rough skin, hair loss and dry stools. We need to eat to promote the production of body fluids and their lubricating effects throughout the body. Beneficial foods for this are lily bulb, white fungus, nuts or seeds, pear, lotus root, pumpkin, honey, soy milk and dairy products. It is advisable to eat more food with sour flavors and reduce pungent flavors as such things like onion, ginger and peppers induce perspiration, while sour foods like pineapple, apple, grapefruit and lemon have astringent properties and thus prevent the loss of body fluids. The body needs extra fluids to counteract the dry environment, and it is a Chinese tradition to eat porridge for breakfast and soup for dinner that is made with the above ingredients.
Note: This article has been generously contributed by www.shen-nong.com. For more information on this subject: http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/lifestyles/food_diet_advice_season.html