Foods to Eat to Balance your Liver this Spring: A Seasonal 5 Elements Approach
Like every season, it is easy to figure out what foods will be beneficial for us right now by looking out at nature.
And what do we see sprouting up all around us?
Green! Just little, little bits; but soon more, and then more, until it is virtually an explosion in green!
Usually, at the beginning of growing season, I traipse off to Farmer’s Market, only to be disappointed that there’s no “good stuff” yet. All I see are tables and tables filled with different kids of lettuces and culinary herbs, along with the season’s esteemed poster-child, the asparagus shoot. “Why aren’t there any tomatoes?”, I’ve been known to privately lament…
But this year is different. Being the first year that I focused on eating primarily locally, until a couple weeks ago when I saw some cold-weather spinach at the Farmer’s Market, I hadn’t put a bite of raw greens in my mouth since last fall.
And it turns out, absence indeed has made the heart, or should I say, LIVER, grow fonder…for I’d never been so excited about a simple bag of spinach as I was that day I saw it in the market. After happily paying the farmer, I carefully tucked it into my canvass tote and protectively drove it home like it was a beautiful newborn baby in the back seat.
Before this winter respite, I had never really appreciate greens, no matter how good they made me feel or how much I liked them. I guess knowing in the past that I could have them whenever I wanted made me take them a bit for granted…and isn’t that the way these things go!? But for the first time this spring, I cant WAIT for those Farmer’s Market tables to sag with the weight of crispy greens!
The most miraculous thing is to realize that the foods that grow during each season are magically the ones that will keep us balanced, barring any individual health concerns which necessitate the healing properties of other foods.
How to know what to eat throughout the changes of the year
If you want to know what foods you should be eating at various times of the year, rather than shopping at the supermarket where everything is available all year round, visit the farmers market and see what’s available.
If there’s only root vegetables and winter squashes, chances are, that’s what we should be eating. Even in winter, the preservation methods of salting and pickling foods serve to draw our Qi deep inside where we want it safely preserved during the colder months. Now that we’re in Spring when the abundance of green is everywhere, sure enough that is what will help our liver–the organ related to springtime–stay balanced.
Why are greens beneficial?
- Leafy greens stimulate the liver, preventing stagnation and encouraging a healthy flow of our Qi. One of the most important jobs of the liver is to keep our qi flowing smoothly, so we prevent locked up muscles, stress and anxiety, headaches, constipation, bloating, menstrual cramps…and many, many other symptoms.
- They help to detox our liver, so if you’re wanting to do a spring cleanse but you know you’re depleted and shouldn’t be fasting, try adding in a huge serving of leafy greens every day. (I’m talking, like an entire bunch of kale or chard every day for 10 or so days).
- They nourish our “liver blood”; helping anemia, insomnia and stress/agitation, nourishing the eyes for floaters or blurry vision, preventing cramps, and keeping our hair, skin, and nails lustrous.
How to prepare, depending on if you’re more cold or warm:
- If you are on the cold or depleted side, be sure to cook all your greens before eating them. Focus on the greens that are tougher and need to be cooked, like kale, chard, stir-fry mixes, and collards. Throw into soups and stir-fries, and on hotter days when you don’t want a warm soup, you can just find recipes for chilled soups that are still cooked first.
- If you tend to be warmer you can start eating more cold salads with dark lettuce greens, along with the hardier, cooked greens.
Which Greens are Best?
One last thing, because I know I’ll get many questions about this. ALL green vegetables are beneficial for your liver, especially if they are in season locally. However, there is something truly magical about the medicinal effects of eating dark, leafy greens.
I have literally felt waves of euphoria rushing through my body after eating a heaping pile of steamed greens, which makes sense, because when the liver is dosed up on what makes it happy, we are happy.
Try it for yourself, and if this happens to you too, I’d love to hear about it! In fact, I’ve been so amazed by this effect that I’ve meant, for 2 years now, to put this out to my patients as a challenge… Something like “The Greens-how euphoric can I get!?-Challenge”. :-)
Maybe that will be my next week’s “Wisdom”…one that you can all participate in!