Chinese Medicine: Seasonal Eating for Autumn
6 Minute Read: Chinese Medicine, holistic health, seasonal eating, seasonal alignment, eating right for fall.
As days grow cooler and autumn enters the atmosphere, my heart embraces the shift. This season is my favourite. And the one I missed most while living in lands home to year-round summer.
It’s a time of returning to Chinese Medicine school (or, this year, launching Alchemist Academy!!). It’s also occasion for bundling up in (mostly grey:) socks, scarves and sweaters.
This will be my very first fall in Victoria, and while I miss Nelson dearly, I’m excited and curious to see how it feels here.
Many things are changing – including how I eat. (Get the specifics on that by signing up for my newsletter and checking the monthly “What I’m Into Lately” series.)
Seasonally though, heavier, denser choices are replacing light, summery fare. Soups and roasted root veggies are back on the menu.
In Chinese Medicine, eating and living with the seasons is an important part of staying healthy.
For each season, Chinese classics offer sage guidance for what to cultivate in our lives...and what to put on our plates.
Fall is a time for pulling in scattered energy, focusing efforts, and tying up loose ends.
During autumn, the Chinese classics counsel us to go to bed early and rise with the sun. They also say it’s an excellent time of year for regular breathing exercises.
We’re extra-vulnerable to dryness this time of year – and sadness. Breathing helps on both counts. Emotionally, we should cultivate a calm, peaceful state.
Pulling back from the distraction and dispersion of summer, we prepare for an inward-focused, reflective winter.
What’s this have to do with food?
A lot, actually. In Chinese Medicine, we don’t separate food and eating from the rest of life...or from wider patterns of living and being.
What’s on our plate in autumn is part of the bigger picture of seasonal attunement. This attunement – in all aspects – supports health and vitality throughout the year.
In autumn, as in every season, individual factors come into play too. In other words, eating seasonally is just one variable to consider when crafting your optimal diet. When I work with clients one-on-one, I take many variables, including personal goals, into account. That said...
Five sage guidelines for autumn go this way...
1. Autumn is a time to introduce heartier, denser food.
Excellent choices include roasted root veggies, stews and bone broth. For me, this means the slow-cooker comes out of storage and gets regular use.
Throw in some grass-fed beef or pasture-raised chicken, roughly chopped veggies, spices and water...and a pot of nourishing goodness awaits by morning.
2. Cook foods for longer duration at lower temperatures.
Longer cooking at lower temperatures makes foods more warming.
By warming, I’m not talking about whether foods are hot or cold to the touch. Rather, I mean their intrinsic thermal nature and influence on the body after eating. As the weather gets cooler, more warming foods are called for.
Autumn’s also a time to let go of raw foods and salads. In general, I recommend at least lightly steaming or sautéing the majority of your veggies. As the weather cools, roasting’s a great option too.
3. Incorporate yellow-orange veggies, tubers and gourds.
In Chinese Medicine, these are tonics for the digestive organs. They bolster them for the winter ahead (plus are in abundance this time of year).
Think pumpkin, winter squash, yams and carrots – especially slow-cooked, roasted or in soups.
4. Add a small amount of sour food, followed by bitter and salty.
Sour flavour’s contracting quality supports the gathering in of our resources, protecting them from the colder months. It also collects a scattered mind, helping concentrate our spirit and focus.
Bitter and salty move down and in, further preparing us for the sealing and storing of winter. With all these additions, a little goes a long way. Take care not to overdo.
5. Add moistening yet warming foods.
Autumn tends to be drying, so consider foods that moisten while also warming (or cook them with warming spices).
Good choices include spinach, apple and pear...warmed by cooking plus the addition of cinnamon, cardamom, cumin or ginger.
Bonus tip: Lean into herbal support!
Perhaps more than any other time, the transition between seasons can leave us feeling slightly off kilter. This is natural – our bodies and minds want to move toward balance…but need a minute to adjust.
Chinese herbal formulas are a fantastic, easy way to smooth the transition and support seasonal alignment:
PSL leave you with an upset tummy? Try Digestive Harmony.
Back-to-school season make you super stressed? Consider Emotional Balance.
Looking to prevent colds and flu? Immunity Support has your back.
Chilly weather mean achy joints, back and knees? Joint Vitality is the one!
Hormones out of whack with shifting schedules? Women’s Formula restores regularity and harmony.
Choosing a formula that’s right for you will complement dietary and lifestyle attunement, helping you feel your best this fall and beyond. Use the code DANA at checkout for 10 percent off.
Making these changes this fall? Or have other seasonal tips? Please share in the comments!
Oh, and if you’re interested in online courses in seasonal eating + living, sign up over at Alchemist Academy to hear first about new launches + receive special coupons!
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