The Autumn season brings cooler weather and shorter days. As with any season, the world adjusts accordingly. Plants begin to go dormant, animals start scrounging for food to help get them through the upcoming winter months and humans start winterizing everything. Heavier clothing becomes more commonplace.
As Autumn descends on the land, it reminds us we need to start cutting back on the numerous cooling foods that are consumed during the summer months. Things like raw foods, salads, juices and fruits need to be decreased because they can create too much cold in the body. This is just one principle followed by Traditional Chinese Medicine.
There are many facets to TCM and nutrition is one of the most important. The ancient Chinese observed what took place in nature and followed those cues accordingly. So when the season changed to Autumn and the amount of daylight decreased and the temperatures cooled, the Chinese began to eat what was available. This is what it means to “eat for the season.” By eating according to the season, we can avoid many illnesses and diseases. If we continue to eat raw, cold foods during the cooler fall and winter months, then we set ourselves up for digestive problems, colds, sinus infections and even painful joints.
When a person eats seasonally, they will inevitably notice certain foods are no longer abundant or available. In the Autumn, we should fill our cupboards with dried foods, heavy grains, seeds and roots that can help move the body’s energy or Qi (pronounced “chee”) inward.
Autumn is also a time to slow down. This means we should cook food for longer periods of time on lower heat. How we cook food will affect how the body tolerates it and how the energy is utilized. Some examples of how to cook for the season of Autumn include making soups and stews, using a slow cooker, roasting and baking foods. These methods create a deeper warmth and supply greater energy from the food.
Foods that are nourishing to the lung are very important during the autumn. Since many people get sick during these months, lung tonifying foods can be very beneficial. This includes foods like ginger, onion, garlic, pears, walnuts, miso, navy beans, almonds asparagus, broccoli, apricots, bananas, apples, plums and grapes.
The dryer weather can also cause chapped lips, a dry nose, an itchy throat, rough skin and even dry stools. To counter these issues, it is recommended to eat foods that promote the production of bodily fluids, such as nuts, seeds, pears, pumpkin, honey and a traditional Chinese porridge known as congee.
Animal products tend to be warming and grounding by nature. And for those who eat meat, increasing the intake can be beneficial during the cooler autumn months. As mentioned before, roasting, baking or stewing the meats is the most beneficial.
When we follow the cues given to us by nature, we can maintain a very healthy existence. To learn more about eating according to the seasons in Traditional Chinese Medicine, contact your local acupuncturist or TCM practitioner.