is limited by what we fail to notice.
And because we fail to notice
that we fail to notice
there is little we can do
until we notice
how failing to notice
shapes our thoughts and deeds.” —R.D. Laing
Everyone has different theories about what a nutritious diet is…. and, even in our culture, this has changed dramatically since I was a child.
Notice how it makes sense to eat foods that are in season (and I’m not talking stale sugar-laden Halloween candy!).
An Introduction to Eastern (TCM) Nutrition: Preparing for Cold Weather
Unlike Western Nutrition that is based on Macro and Micro nutrients (vitamins, minerals etc) Calories, Fats and Carbohydrates; Eastern Nutrition as viewed through the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), describes food in terms of taste, temperature, channels entered and effect on the body’s qi.
The essence of TCM nutrition is that individuals eat according to their constitution, the season, and in respect of any health issues/imbalances the individual may be experiencing. Thus stated foods that are nourishing and easily digested in summer months are often not appropriate for consumption during the colder autumn and winter seasons.
The idea of eating for the seasons is one of several considerations that are generally ignored by Western nutrition “experts”. As I conducted an internet search for foods to boost immunity or foods to fight colds; most websites were promoting eating “plenty of fresh raw fruits and vegetables”. From a purely western view point this is good advice. Many of the fruits and veggies recommended were high in micronutrients such as vitamin C and rich in antioxidants. Surely these are the foods to keep one functioning at optimal health. But are they?
According to TCM dietary theory, cold and raw foods may cool the body’s interior allowing susceptibility to a cold wind or cold damp invasion (catching a cold). In the inter-season (just after summer but before autumn) we need to start adding warmer foods such as soups, stews and slow cooked meals to our diets. Instead of eating raw cold fruits one should begin eating lightly cooked and warm yams, carrots, turnips, pumpkin and peas. As the weather cools small amounts of pungent/acrid foods such as onion, black pepper, ginger, garlic and cinnamon should be added to ones cooking. Cinnamon is especially effective and can be added very easily to various foods and beverages.
Modifying ones eating habits to the seasons should be done gently and is to be sustained over a period of time. “Bingeing” on seasonal, warm vegetables and spices for a few days or a week is not going to produce the desired effect of optimal health. Only in short term acute conditions (ie cold or flu) should strong dietary “tilts” be utilized.
To learn more about TCM dietary therapy you can easily locate Bob Flaws The Tao of Healthy Eating and Henry Lu’s Chinese System of Food Cures. Although eating to the season is common to TCM, the Chinese do not hold exclusivity to seasonal theories of eating. Most native/traditional cultures adhered to these principles. There are several good non-TCM sources one can easily access for more information. Full Moon Feast by Jessica Prentice and Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon are two very good, easy to read books that are easily available online or in bookstores.
Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,
the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back
from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere
except underfoot, moldering
in that black subterranean castle
of unobservable mysteries - roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This
I try to remember when time’s measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn
flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay - how everything lives, shifting
from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.