Nourishing Your Qi for Autumn
As the leaves change and the air turns crisper, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) emphasises the importance of aligning our diets with the rhythms of nature. Autumn, according to TCM principles, is a season of transition, a time to harvest the energy cultivated during the summer months and prepare for the winter ahead. To maintain balance and harmony within the body, it is recommended to incorporate specific autumn foods that support the body’s natural processes during this season.
Recommended Autumn Foods in Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Root Vegetables
- Sweet potatoes, carrots, and parsnips are staples of the autumn diet in TCM. These grounding vegetables help stabilize and nourish the digestive system, which is particularly important as we transition from the expansive energy of summer to the more introspective energy of autumn.
- Pungent Foods
- Garlic, onions, leeks, and ginger are considered pungent in TCM. They have warming properties that help disperse cold and dampness that can accumulate in the body during the cooler autumn months.
- Nuts and Seeds
- Walnuts, chestnuts, and pumpkin seeds are highly recommended in TCM during autumn. They are rich in healthy fats and provide essential nutrients to support lung and kidney functions, which are vulnerable to dryness during this season.
- Fruits with a Slightly Sour Flavour
- Apples, pears, and persimmons are all considered beneficial in autumn. Their slightly sour taste helps stimulate the appetite and aids in digestion. Additionally, they help nourish the lungs, which are susceptible to dryness in autumn.
- Dark Leafy Greens
- Vegetables like kale, spinach, and Swiss chard are abundant during autumn. They are rich in chlorophyll, which helps replenish and cleanse the blood. These greens also support the liver and promote a healthy immune system.
- Shiitake, maitake, and reishi mushrooms are excellent choices for autumn. They are known for their immune-boosting properties and can help strengthen the body’s defenses as we head into flu season.
- Whole Grains
- Brown rice, quinoa, and barley are highly recommended in TCM for their nourishing properties. They provide sustained energy and support the digestive system, helping to prevent the accumulation of dampness.
Autumn Recipe: Ginger-Infused Butternut Squash Soup
- 1 medium-sized butternut squash
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-inch piece of ginger, grated
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 can coconut milk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional toppings: toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped scallions
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Cut the butternut squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place the halves on a baking sheet. Roast for about 45-50 minutes, or until the flesh is soft and easily scoopable.
- While the squash is roasting, heat the coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, and grated ginger. Sauté until the onion is translucent and fragrant.
- Once the squash is done, let it cool slightly, then scoop out the flesh and add it to the pot with the sautéed vegetables. Stir well to combine.
- Pour in the vegetable broth and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes.
- Use an immersion blender to carefully blend the soup until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, carefully transfer the soup in batches to a regular blender.
- Return the blended soup to the pot and stir in the coconut milk. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes to allow the flavours to meld. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve hot, garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds and chopped spring onions if desired.
Foods and Cooking Styles to Avoid
In TCM, it is advised to reduce or avoid foods that contribute to excess dampness and cold in the body during autumn. This includes:
- Cold and Raw Foods
- Avoid excessive consumption of salads, raw vegetables, and cold beverages as they can weaken the digestive system and lead to stagnation.
- Dairy Products
- Dairy can be mucus-forming and contribute to dampness in the body. It is recommended to reduce or avoid dairy during the autumn season.
- Excessive Spicy Foods
- While pungent foods are beneficial in moderation, excessive consumption of spicy foods can lead to excess heat in the body, disrupting the body’s balance.
By embracing the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine, we can nourish our bodies and support our overall well-being during the autumn season. Incorporating the recommended foods and avoiding those that may disrupt our body’s balance can help us transition smoothly into this season of harvest and reflection. Enjoy the flavors of autumn and the benefits they bring to your health and vitality.
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