Over the weekend I had the pleasure of staying at the world class Golden Door – Elysia health retreat in the Hunter Valley. What a gorgeous setting to cleanse your system and rejuvenate your mind!
As the guest speaker on the Saturday evening, I presented on the topic of eating seasonally and the medicinal properties of seasonal foods. Below are my notes from the evening which were requested by some guests. If you would like any more information, just leave your question in the comments section below.
Golden Door Talk
Eating seasonal produce will give you health benefits you never imagined. Give it a try and you’ll see what I’m talking about! If you’re not sure where to start, just have a chat with your local fruit and veg shop staff who will be happy to point you in the right direction. I personally try and go to my local farmer’s market every Sunday morning and buy local organic produce. The taste blows my mind, and the nutrients keep me feeling strong and well. You can also be sure that if it’s local then it’s in season and will provide your body with exactly what it needs to maintain homeostasis (balance).
5 Seasons & 5 Elements
Spring – Wood element
Diet should be light. Cleanse the heaviness of winter. Avoid heavy and salty foods
Raw food. Salads and sprouts.
Short cooking methods. Eg light steam or stir fry.
Cooling nature. Benefits spleen and pancreas to improve digestion. One of first Spring fruits to appear.
Moistens lungs and generates body fluids.
Rich in silicon and Vitamin C – for arterial and connective tissue repair.
Cut strawberry in half and rub on teeth to strengthen teeth & gums, and remove tartar. Leave on for 45 mins then wash off.
Cooling nature. Diuretic.
Dries dampness like oedema.
High in silicon. Can start or increase breast milk production.
Contains the sedative lactucarium which relaxes nerves without disrupting digestion.
Leaf lettuce is higher in nutrients than head lettuce, especially cholorphyll, iron, and vitamins A & C.
Slightly warming nature.
Contains the diuretic asparagine, which helps it eliminate water through the kidneys.
Can treat kidney issues, but should be avoided in cases of inflammation.
Cleanses cholesterol from the arteries, so can be useful in hypertension and arteriosclerosis..
Too much asparagus can irritate the kidneys, so use with caution.
In chinese medicine, the tubers are used to help fertility and menstrual problems. They also promote a compassionate nature (feminine qualities)
Very cooling nature. Builds yin fluids and relieves dryness and thirst.
Purifies the blood and detoxifies the body in general.
Encourages digestion, so good for people with a small appetite.
Relieves Liver heat, with symptoms such as red eyes, high BP, headaches.
It’s an acidic fruit, but becomes alkaline in the body, like lemons. Can be used for rheumatism and gout. (avoid in arthritis though due to calcium disruption)
Green tomatoes that ripen later off the vine can weaken the kidney-adrenal function. Always get vine ripened.
Summer – Fire element
Bright coloured summer fruits and veg. Create a dazzling display.
Match the climate to feel comfortable.
Cook lightly and add pungent spices.
Hot drinks to induce sweating and cool the body.
Sweat decreases minerals, so eat a varied diet.
Cold food and drink will weaken the digestive system, they contract the stomach.
Create a cooling atmosphere and eat salads, sprouts, fruit, cucumber etc.
Best fruits are apple, watermelon, lemons and limes.
Hot spices and drinks bring heat to the body surface to be dispersed, which cools the body.
Heavy foods will cause sluggishness.
Very cooling nature. Treats heat stroke and “summer heat”
Can be used for lots of inflammatory conditions like mouth ulcers, UTI.
Not appropriate for people with weak digestion, anemia, or excessive urination.
The seeds contain cucurbocitrin which dilates capillaries and lowers blood pressure. Use dried seeds in a tea, or fresh ones – chew well!
Cooling nature (so not appropriate for winter, even though they’re available to us all year)
Moistens dryness and cools heat in the lungs (great for dry coughs in summer)
Protects the lungs from cigarette smoke
Malic acid stimulates digestion, they also inhibit growth of fermenting bacteria in the digestive tract.
Contain pectin which reduces cholesterol, toxic metals and radiation residue.
Cooling nature. Treats summer heat conditions.
Good for eye inflammation and nearsightedness.
Contains lots of pantothenic acid and vitamin A which is good for rough skin.
More vitamin C than citrus
Cook lightly to retain chlorophyll which will counteract the gas formation that results from its sulfur content.
Not a good food for people with thyroid conditions or low iodine.
Cooling nature, useful for inflammatory conditions.
To control a large appetite, eat celery at the end of the meal or between meals.
Celery juice and lemon juice is a remedy for the common cold when fever is more predominant than chills.
High in silicon and therefore good for joints and connective tissues.
Can be used safely to treat high blood pressure in pregnant women.
Cooling nature, even when cooked. Often added to soups in Asia.
The juice can treat sunburn when used topically.
Also good for inflammatory conditions like conjunctivitis, sore throat, acne, stomach inflammation etc.
Known in the west to be great at relieving red and puffy eyes when placed on the skin.
Can be used to destroy intestinal worms, especially tapeworms, thanks to the digestive enzyme erepsis.
Late Summer – Earth element
Eat harmonizing foods that represent the centre eg mildly sweet foods, yellow foods, round foods.
Less seasoning than in Summer.
Simple recipes with less ingredients.
Tonifies the stomach to aid digestion. Rich in the digestive enzyme papain which helps digest protein, breaks down deposits on the teeth, clears mucous, and destroys intestinal worms.
Contains carpaine which is a compound that has anti-tumour properties.
Dissolves accumulations such as stones and tumours. It’s also a western herbal remedy for treating and preventing cancer.
One of the richest sources of beta carotene (provitamin A) – great for night blindness.
Great for inflammatory skin conditions.
Ripen measles and chicken pox.
Autumn – Metal element
The season of dryness. Nature contracts and moves inwards.
You might crave the warmth of baked or sautéed food. They thicken the blood for cooler weather.
Sour foods – sourdough bread, sauerkraut, plums, cheese, grapefruit, lemons, green apples. Only need small amounts as they’re strong.
Low heat cooking for a longer time.
Pears specifically affect the lungs – great for coughs.
They reduce excess mucous as well as moistening the lungs in dry coughs.
Can be used to treat alcohol intoxication.
Also good at reducing fevers, however it is often best to let a fever run its course, except in extreme cases or with children.
Grapefruit seed extract – a potent natural antibiotic. Discovered after observing that the seeds don’t decay in nature with microbial action.
Used to treat protozoa, amoebas, bacteria, viruses, and at least 30 types of fungus.
Can be taken daily to prevent traveler’s diarrhoea.
Also useful around the house to sterilize laundry and clean surfaces etc
Great for people who have had a high fat or high protein diet, as it destroys the bad gut bacteria that may have developed.
Also benefits the liver, which is why people suggest starting the day with ¼ lemon squeezed into warm water.
Antiseptic and antimicrobial actions make lemon great for colds, bad breath, dysentery.
Can dissolve congealed blood, such as with tumours, or fibroids in the uterus.
Also able to stop bleeding.
Useful for bleeding haemorrhoids.
A rich source of bioflavonoids which renew arteries and prevent strokes and other haemorrhages.
Should be eaten sparingly by pregnant women.
Builds the blood and stops bleeding, so is useful for people who get nosebleeds.
Great for cleansing the blood to treat skin disorders that have inflammatory signs.
Has a “sliding” nature, which makes it a good treatment for constipation or difficulty urinating.
Not good for people who are prone to kidney stones.
Winter – Water element
The last of the seasons. A time to be more receptive and introspective.
Cool the surface of the body and warm the interior.
Rest, meditate, store physical energy with slightly more weight, but maintain some activity for joints.
Eat warm, hearty soups, wholegrains, roasted nuts, dried foods, small dark beans, and steamed winter greens.
Cook foods longer at lower temps eg slow cooker.
Salty and bitter foods promote a sinking and centering quality, which cools the exterior and brings heat deeper and lower.
Being cool on the surface, you notice the cold less.
Potato is a great winter vegetable which will balance the other salty foods in the winter diet with it’s high potassium content.
Helps establish beneficial gut bacteria.
Has an earthy Yin nature, which makes people crave it after flying as a jet lag treatment.
All members of the onion family (chives, garlic, leeks, onion) promote warmth and move energy in the body.
Reduce blood stagnation and blood clots.
Rich in sulfur which is a warming element that purifies heavy metals and parasites.
Now that you know the medicinal properties of foods, will you use them to help your health?
Credit: Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pritchard.