Here’s What Chinese Medicine Says You Should Be Eating During Each Season

Eating in tune with the energy of the season can have a huge effect on your health.

chinese medicine diet
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Changing seasons are more than just giving your house a wall-to-wall dust and hunkering down with a long list of binge-worthy shows. Each new season is a time of growth, rebirth and new beginnings, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) says that eating in accordance with the season will reap you serious benefits. 

Based on the ancient concept of Yin and Yang—which make up the life essence known as Qi—half of certain organs and meridians are governed by Yin and the other half by Yang. When Yin and Yang are out of balance in the body, you are not achieving optimum health, and, you guessed it, dietary choices play a huge factor.

Here’s what TCM says you should be eating for each season:

Spring

chinese medicine
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is considered a time of rebirth and growth. The liver and the gallbladder are the organs of the season; meaning that a diet tailored to support these two is going to be the best choice for spring.

The thinking is that when the liver functions smoothly, physical and emotional activity throughout the body also runs smoothly, which lend itself to optimum health. Of course the liver is responsible for detoxification within the body, so incorporating foods that contribute to this process is ideal.

Foods to focus on:

  • Leafy green vegetables like kale and chard
  • Bitter greens like dandelion, endives and parsley
  • Milk thistle tea for its cleansing properties
  • Sour foods like lemon, lime and grapefruit supports the liver’s naturally sour flavour
  • Radishes as they help to move Qi around the body
  • Sprouts like alfalfa, mungbean and sunflower make delicious, nutritious additions to every meal

Summer

chinese medicine diet
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

According to TCM, summer is the most ‘yang’ (which represents fire) of all of the seasons, and this can quickly lead to imbalances if not treated carefully. Because of the hot, drying weather, the best foods for summer are cooling, sweet, hydrating and neutral.

Here’s what you should be incorporating:

  • Neutral foods can help to counterbalance the heat, so things like rice, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and salmon can make healthy choices during summer
  • Hydrating foods like cucumber, strawberries, lettuce, celery, and pears really help to temper excess yang in the body and are especially good in dry heat
  • Sweet foods like sweet corn, carrots, sweet potatoes and cooked grains
  • Light broths and soups to keep portions smaller than during other seasons
  • Cooling foods like coconut, apples, tomatoes and chilli are great in hot, humid environments

Autumn

chinese medicine diet
Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

Autumn is a season of distinct transition from the yang-heavy summer to yin-laden winter. Warming, pungent foods are the best picks and methods like slow-cooking or braising make for delicious meals that will support your emotional and physical health, and focus on the season’s organs—the lungs and large intestine.

Foods to focus on:

  • Seasonal fruits and vegetables like pears, figs, pumpkin, apples and brussel sprouts
  • Onions, peppers and cabbage are great to incorporate during autumn or prepare and preserve for oncoming winter
  • Ginger, leeks, cinnamon, coriander, turnips, mushrooms, garlic and radishes will all help to nourish the lungs
  • Quinoa, rice and oats are the perfect grains for this transitional season

Winter

chinese medicine diet
Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash

With such high levels of yin (water) energy at play during winter, your diet needs to be tailored in order to support the kidneys—which in TCM, is the root of all of our energies. Unsurprisingly, foods should always be cooked and warm (see ya later, morning smoothies—unless you fancy trying a warm one).

Foods to incorporate:

  • Spices, spices, spices! Warming ones like cardamom, cinnamon and ginger will help to stimulate digestion
  • Black beans and lentils reinforce kidney energy
  • Ginger tea will nourish body and soul
  • Potatoes, pumpkin, Brussel sprouts, beets, parsnips and turnips are great for roasting or including in slow-cooked soups and stews
  • Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach and other collard greens

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