In english its called Chinese New Year, and in pinyin (anglicized Chinese) Chūn Jié, the literal meaning being “spring festival”. While the cold and rain make it feel like its still very much winter, signs of spring are apparent if you observe closely. Already the days are getting longer with the sun rising higher in the sky. In the next couple of weeks, the trees will start to bud, and shoots will begin to come up out of the ground. So if you missed or didn’t start some of your New Years health goals back at the beginning of January, this is an excellent and even more appropriate time to plan on revisiting them, as the body is ready and willing to shed excess and be renewed.
Sitting between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, we move from the yin of cold and dark to the yang of warmth and light. In the TCM five element system we are coming to the end of winter, which is the water element, and about to enter spring, the wood element. Those heavy, rich, and salty foods we ate all winter put on extra pounds, bring us inward, kept us warm, and nourished us through the winter are no longer appropriate at this time of year, and may even be detrimental. They congest the body, contribute to mental and emotional stagnation, and exacerbate mental and mood disorders like anxiety, depression, or insomnia. The wood element is associated with the liver and gallbladder, the emotion anger, and its energy is ascending and expanding. The liver’s job is to cleanse the body. When we modify the diet it assists this process, and is essential to harmonize us with the season.
The spring is announced by growth, as seen in plants sprouting shoots and buds. Sweet and pungent foods have a rising quality, and trigger the body to respond in kind. At the farmers market one can find lots of fresh, young spring crops: beets, carrots, lettuce, and other vegetables thinned from the crop. Pungent herbs such as basil, fennel, rosemary, dill, onions and garlic (best raw if tolerated) cleanse the liver. The bitter and sour flavors, encourage the liver to reduce the excess stored in the body from the heavy winter diet.; crops like spring grasses of rye and wheat, romain lettuce, asparagus, alfalfa, radish, and greens like dandelion, lightly dressed with the bitter and sour flavor of vinegar promote this activity in the body, making us feel lighter, energized, and rejuvenated.
Lighter and smaller meals are also advised. Start your morning with chamomile or mint tea. Eat some raw or sprouted foods, thin soups made quickly with fresh ingredients, and lightly sauté food with small amounts of fresh oils. Eat less animal protein (3-4 ounces per serving), switch to fish or lean chicken, or eliminate meats, eggs, and dairy entirely for a week or two. Adding these foods, while reducing salty, sugary, fatty, and oily foods, will assist the body to cleanse and shed those extra winter pounds.
For further information and recipe’s for the season, check out Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford. Wonder if you may be suffering from more than just spring fever? To get an individualized assessment of your health, and to recommend best dietary practices for your constitution, book an appointment and consult with me soon.