With autumn settling upon us I got thinking about the changing of the season. The leaves changing colour, the nights closing in earlier, the cold crisp air snapping against the sunny blue skies; all cosseting us in the warm glow of pre-winter. I love the fashion of autumn; I love extracting my scarf collection from the depths of the wardrobe for this time of year. The colder air also reminds me it is time to take extra care with our bodies. My knees need a little more warming up before a run and my belly needs a lot more hot food.
It is this food requirement that has prompted me to seek out my Chinese Medical Nutrition books. With esoteric sounding titles like ‘Recipes for Self-Healing’, ‘Reclaiming the Wisdom of the Body’ and ‘Helping Ourselves‘ I remember my first foray into Chinese Nutritional Medicine. Previously I had not given much consideration to the nutritional elements of Chinese Medicine.
While I have had the fortune to experience some wonderful caring practitioners of Acupuncture, none of them had ever delved into the food element with me. Possibly they thought there was no need as they were talking to a Nutritionist however there is always more to learn. I’m a believer in ‘the more you know, the more you realise you don’t know!’. My Masters degree provided the opportunity to discover more. During these lectures some lovely, knowledgeable and inspirational people taught me about the ‘Energetics’ of food, the ‘Yin and the Yang’ of it. At first I thought they were a bit barmy but after the original dust settled on these thoughts it finally resonated and shook a tune within me.
Let’s take a look at it and see what you think.
There are 3 main elements to Chinese Medical Nutrition;
- Temperature of food – it is hot, warm, neutral, cool or cold. This measure of temperature of food tells us whether it warms us up or cools us down. It is said we will instinctively know the temperature of food. For example a salad will cool us down in summer while a root vegetable stew will warm us up in winter.
- Flavour of food – salty, sour, bitter, sweet, pungent. Each flavour affects a particular organ. A little of one will have a very positive effect on that organ while a lot will have the opposite effect. For example the salty flavour will increase the quality of the blood and assist the kidneys to function optimally, however too much of the salty flavour will dry the body, overworking the heart and kidneys.
- Routes and Actions of foods – a food is said to enter particular meridian pathways, therefore having therapeutic, or detrimental, action on certain areas of the body or conditions.
Putting this into practice we can choose foods that help maintain our status quo and our health. We can remove toxins with seaweeds, increase our immune system with mushrooms or boost our energy with fish.
This description is very simple to a practitioner of Chinese Medicine however to some of us these simple principles are enough to remind us that there is more to eating than food simply being a fuel to feed the furnace. That furnace needs nourishment through choosing and preparing foods that are full of life-force and energy. Be kind to your food and it will be kind to you.
What can you cook tomorrow that will keep the fire burning in your belly?
See below links for some fantastic books with delicious recipes and information: