5 Spring Super Foods to Eat This Season & What They Heal
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It’s finally Spring -YAY! The winter can seem so LONG here in New England so the first sign of spring is such a welcomed sight. Plus, spring means it’s time to dig those hands back into the ground to kick start your garden to grow fresh vegetables and herbs. Yum! But whether you garden or not, there will be so many delicious vegetables popping up at your local farmer’s market soon enough – including what I consider many spring super foods!
Of course eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is great for your overall health, but did you know that eating certain foods each season can target specific ailments you want to heal?
Food is medicine and can be a tool for healing. We can identify and select super foods for healing each season by looking at the five phases of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Seasonal Changes & the Five Phases in Traditional Chinese Medicine
According to Traditional Chinese medicine, the change of seasons follows a cycle of five phases of energy and matter. Each season corresponds with one of the five phases (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water) with the season of late summer also being the transitional phase between each of our four seasons.
Each of these five phases aligns with a specific organ system in the body and influences the health of that organ system. So eating specific foods and preparing foods in a certain way aligned with the season is a powerful and easy way to keep you healthy. (Read more about eating with the seasons here).
Spring and the Wood Phase
The spring season is aligned with the Wood phase which corresponds to the liver organ system. At this time of year, we can add specific spring super foods into our diets to strengthen the liver and its functioning as well as treat any health conditions stemming from a liver imbalance.
The liver, according to Traditional Chinese medicine, serves many functions and has several responsibilities in the body regarding our physical and emotional health including:
Ensuring the smooth flow and circulation of energy
Regulating and storing blood
Filtering and detoxifying blood
Moistening and nourishing the eyes, nails, tendons and connective tissue of the body
Balancing our emotions and regulating anger and impatience, and
Influencing our ability to plan our life and find purpose with direction
If the liver is unbalanced and not able to perform these functions, this could lead to numerous health conditions such as constipation, migraines, bloating and stomach pains, premenstrual cramps, irregular menstruation, floaters in the eyes, tight neck and shoulders, ligament or tendon injuries and more.
It’s possible to prevent and/or treat these issues by adding certain spring super foods into your diet. Here is a list of 5 spring super foods that you can eat right now to support your liver.
5 Spring Super Foods to Eat This Season
1. Beets: A Spring Super Food to Build Blood
Beets have such a beautiful color, don’t they?! Are they purple? Are they red? We just call them magenta in my house since it’s my daughter’s favorite color. Because of their gorgeous, deep, dark color, beets are an essential blood building and blood purifying super food.
You may want to add this spring super food to your diet if you are experiencing any liver blood deficiency signs such as tendon or ligament damage, muscle spasms, numbness, floaters in your vision, dryness of the eyes or vagina, or light or irregular periods.
In addition to being a blood building super food, beets also assist the liver with storing blood, moving blood and regulating menstruation. They also strengthen and detoxify for the liver and help to circulate energy and moisten tissues.
2. Spinach and Leafy Greens: Spring Super Foods to Detoxify the Liver
During spring, we start to move away from the heavier, nutrient dense foods of winter toward foods that are more detoxifying for our system. Just as we spring clean our homes, our bodies need a bit of spring cleaning as well this time of year.
If toxins are able to build up and cannot be cleaned out of the liver it becomes “stuck.” A stuck liver can lead to feelings of irritability and contribute to constipation, tight neck and shoulders, muscle cramps or premenstrual symptoms – all conditions resulting from energy unable to freely circulate. To help move this stuck energy and address these symptoms, we need to eat foods that help detoxify the liver.
The color associated with the Wood phase and the spring season is green and it’s a time when many of our leafy greens begin to sprout and grow! These leafy greens are great detoxifiers for our bodies. Dandelion greens, watercress, mustard greens, lettuces and others all carry this detoxifying superpower but my favorite is spinach.
Spinach is nourishing to the liver as well as detoxifying and cleansing because of its chlorophyll which gives it it’s amazing green color. Because it is rich in both iron and chlorophyll, spinach is also a great blood building food as well, making it a must eat spring super food.
3. Carrots: A Spring Super Food to Strengthen the Eyes
It’s not just bunnies that loves carrots. Your eyes do too! Rich in anti-oxidant beta carotene and Vitamin A, carrots are a well know super food for eye health. Since the liver system controls and moistens the eyes, eating carrots during the wood phase of the year can assist with night blindness, dry eye and overall eye health.
Because of their large amounts of silicon, carrots are also an important spring super food to strengthen our connective tissues, keeping them supple and well nourished.
4. Vinegar: A Sour, Spring Super Food to Improve Digestion & Circulation
Each of the five phases in Traditional Chinese medicine is also aligned with a particular taste. During the Wood phase and spring season, the predominant taste is sour. Sour foods help to circulate liver energy and prevent stagnation of the blood and stagnation of the emotions.
Eating sour and pungent foods in the spring helps to cleanse the body of fats and heavy foods required in the winter months. They also counteract the effects of eating rich, greasy foods which can congest the liver and impact healthy digestion.
Vinegar has a sour taste and is a great addition to the spring diet. Try adding a splash to a glass of water in the morning for a refreshing, detoxifying wake-up call. Or, mix it with some olive oil to make a light salad dressing for all those leafy greens you’ll be eating as well.
According to Paul Pitchford, author of Healing with Whole Foods, “the most powerful common remedy for quickly removing liver stagnation and the accompanying depression and indigestion is vinegar…It’s effect is improved by mixing it with honey – one teaspoon of each per cup of water.”
5. Collagen: A Spring Super Food to Strengthen Tendons & Prevent Injury
One of the most important roles of the liver system in Traditional Chinese medicine is nourishing the body’s connective tissue including your tendons, ligaments, fascia, cartilage and muscles. If the liver system is undernourished, our joints and muscles can become less supple and more difficult to move or may even feel locked. Undernourished connective tissue is also more prone to injury or tearing.
Collagen is a spring super food that can strengthen our connective tissues and keep our joints moving smoothly. It’s also very easy to add into your diet. If you were drinking bone broth during the winter months, continue drinking it into the early spring as it contains collagen and is very nourishing to your connective tissue. Instead of or in addition to a cup of bone broth, you can also add a collagen powder supplement to a smoothie, sprinkle it on food or simply mix into a glass of water or juice to help keep your connective tissue supple in the spring.
Not all collagen is created equal however. Be sure to buy a reputable brand that sources the collagen from grass fed cows and does not include any unnecessary fillers. This is my preferred brand.
What spring super foods do you make sure fill your plate this time of year? Let me know in the comments below.
New Video Series on Chinese Medical Nutrition!
Looking for easy to use, practical advice on foods to eat and recipes to cook each season? Check out the spring season video or the entire 6-part video series on eating by the season by Ancient Roots Nutrition. These videos teach you how to use real food, common kitchen herbs, vegetables, fruit, spices, and proteins to bring your body back to optimal health each season. They are a great deal and yours to keep to review each and every year as the seasons change.