Are you a sandwich or salad addict? Do you find yourself reaching for a cold fizzy drink in the afternoon?
If the answer is yes and it’s summer, then fine (and only if the drink is fizzy water!). But if you still keep your sandwich and cold drink habit in winter, then you could be making life a bit hard for your body.
In Chinese Medicine the diet plays an important role in your overall health. Common sense tells us this; we all know how rubbish we feel after a few days of eating unhealthily, but did you know that you can affect your health by making a few simple changes to your diet? Cutting right down on sugar is the obvious one but I often talk to my patients in my acupuncture practice about the temperature and nature of their food.
The Chinese believe that all food has an impact on the energy / Qi in our bodies and contains certain qualities. Food is categorised according to temperature (hot, cold, cooling, warm or neutral), the organs it affects, the actions (e.g. move Qi, nourish blood), and the flavours that link to the five elements (sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter).
We are almost in winter in the northern hemisphere, which in Chinese medicine / culture is a time of yin, with a focus on the kidneys, bladder and the element of water. It is important to place an emphasis on warming the Yang energy in our body and increasing blood and Qi circulation. All meals need to be warm in temperature an warm in nature. If it’s difficult to heat your lunch then come up with a plan – take a flask of soup! Eat plenty of ginger, lamb and turnips (a Chinese tradition!) but don’t overdo the spices or you could generate excess heat.
Here’s a recipe which is perfect for this time of year. The ingredients have been chosen especially to ensure your body is warm…from the inside.
Warming Black Bean & Aduki Vegetable Soup
Full of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and protein; this soup will warm you up and start you off on the right foot for a healthy and warm winter season!
1/2 a butternut squash, peeled and cubed (or any other winter squash)
400g broccoli florets and stems, chopped (fresh or frozen)
200g cooked black beans (or kidney)
1 tin of aduki beans
2 shallots or 1/2 small onion, finely chopped 2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
OPTIONAL: 1 tbsp chickpea tahini
1 pint water, broth or leftover bean cooking liquid 1-2 tbsp ghee, olive oils, sesame oil, or coconut oil GARNISH: 2 spring onions, thinly sliced
Prepare vegetables as directed. In a large soup pot, heat oil until hot, then add cumin seeds. Heat until fragrant,turn heat to medium-low and add spring onions. Fry until tender, then add coriander and ginger, and stir. Add butternut and fry for 2-3 minutes. Then add liquid and cook until butternut is almost tender. Add cooked beans and broccoli, and simmer until all vegetables are tender. Add tamari if using and adjust seasonings to taste. Serve hot, and sprinkle with thinly sliced spring onions.
How it helps:
Squash – warming, sweet flavour influences the spleen and stomach (promoting good digestion), improves Qi circulation. High in vitamin A
Broccoli – cooling (helps balance the soup), brightens the eyes, more vitamin C than citrus, enters the spleen, stomach and bladder channels (supporting digestion and purification)
Black beans – warming, beneficial to kidneys and reproductive function, builds yin fluids and blood. Used for low back ache, knee pain and infertility
Aduki beans – neutral, influences the heart and small intestine (aids in circulations), tonifies the kidney-adrenal system, detoxifies the body, disperses stagnant blood, reduces swelling. Useful for damp conditions as it is drying
Onions – lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, decreases phlegm and inflammation of the nose and throat, inhibits allergic reactions, induces sweating and is a cure for the common cold
Cumin – warming, helps diminish flatulence in bean dishes
Coriander – warming, drying, useful for damp conditions. Aids the digestion of winter squash
Ginger – acrid and hot, warms the center and dispels cold, helps diminish flatulence in bean dishes. Dried ginger feeds the properties of foods and herbs to the lower extremities – the colon, kidneys, ovaries sexual organs and legs
Ghee – according to Ayurvedic medicine ghee (clarified butter) enhances the ojas, an essence that governs the tissues of the body and balances hormones. Ojas can be compared to the jing essence in Chinese medicine which is eternally connected with our kidney energy. Also promotes the healing of injuries and gastro-intestinal inflammations such as ulcers and colitis and increases “digestive fire”
Olive oil – enters the lung and stomach channel. Can help to moisten the lungs
Sesame oil – neutral, enters the live and kidney channels. Moistening
Coconut oil- warming, enters the spleen, stomach and large intestine channels, moistening