Now the sun is here, if you're like me, you can't wait to start eating lots of glorious rainbow-colored salads! But for our long-term health's sake, we shouldn't jump into the cooling foods so soon. Here’s why; and a few tips on how to make sure your spring salad is deeply nourishing, too.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, every food has an energy. Yin food is cool and expanding; Yang food is warm and contracting. Think of a shell of iceberg lettuce (Yin), and now a chunk of beef steak (Yang), and you will instantly recognise this meaning.
Eating too much of either Yin or Yang upsets the body balance. Yin and Yang body balance is also created through our activities (sitting still is Yin, exercise is Yang), and our environments (a cold weather climate and a sleepy country town is more Yin; a hotter climate and busy city is Yang).
What I really want to share with you is this. Though our mind thinks all sunny blue skies from now on as our thoughts turn to summer, our bodies still feel the damp in the air and the cold nights. Often April and May offer a cold snap, and whilst our wee brains may be in denial, our bodies aren’t! By embracing a diet suited to summer too quickly we create an imbalance: we’re overdosing on Yin. Too much Yin, according to Paul Pitchford, MS, author of Healing With Whole Foods, leads to a damp and moist constitution, perfect breeding ground for candida and other fungal infections, as well as water-retention and personality traits of lethargy, depression and listnessness. Who wants to feel this way as we head into the sunshine season? No, thank you!
So how to have your light Spring meals and enjoy them healthfully, too?
1. Add some Yang foods.
Most animal protein is considered Yang, especially red meat, as are eggs. Other foods with strong Yang energy include root vegetables, and the bulb veggies onion, garlic and ginger.
2. Same ingredients, different preparation.
Cooking a food—for example, lightly sautéing the tomatoes and red pepper you usually toss raw into a salad —increases it’s Yang energy. And fish—a Yin food—becomes Yang when it’s smoked; consider adding some smoked salmon or haddock for tasty balance. Roasting is the most Yang way to cook a food and—what could be more delicious than roasted (broiled) root veggies among tasty salad greens?
3. According to Traditional Chinese medicine, bitter, pungent foods are drying, too.
Spices with these properties, such as turmeric, fenugreek, and oregano give great pep to a fresh dish and decrease it’s Yin energy. In addition, “bitter greens” such as kale and collards dispel damp and make a delicious salad, raw or cooked.
Armed with these delicious tweaks, we can easily celebrate the coming of Spring and care for the balance within, too! What are your favorite Spring dishes you already incorporate Yang foods into?