Embracing the Natural Spring Diet

Embracing the Natural Spring Diet
by Elizabeth McMillan

Spring is sprouting all around us. This is the time of year for a new beginning and the scenery around us has a youthful appearance. This holds true to the foods that we eat. After a long winter filled with dense foods, we start to crave crisp greens and youthful plants. We naturally eat less to cleanse the body of fats and heavy foods of winter. It is believed that the sight of the green color naturally nourishes the soul and therefore decreases appetite. This allows for a time of cleansing.

In harmony of cleansing, Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that spring is the time of the year that our diets should be the lightest and filled with young plants, fresh greens, sprouts and immature grains. This is also the season for tending to the liver and gallbladder.

The liver is the main organ for detoxification because it alters toxins of the body to excretable water substitutes. This is a chemical process that is crucial to the body. Ideally, our livers are working hard to detox daily. Unfortunately, modern society is filled with many toxins that we encounter regularly. Often the liver can become congested or stagnant, especially after a winter filled with heavy holiday foods, alcohol and hearty meals.

Embracing the spirit of spring with a lighter diet and incorporating some liver-loving foods is an easy way to initiate the natural detox reactions in the body. Many spring foods are sweet and pungent, which allows for increased digestion. Some common spring herbs include:  honey, mint, basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill and bay leaf.

Raw and local honey is widely known for its medicinal properties including helping with allergies, enhancing the immune system and promoting restful sleep. Mint has many different varieties, but the most common is peppermint, the sweet mint. Peppermint can ease irritable bowel symptoms. Basil is the youthful herb known to neutralize free radicals that increase aging. Fennel, as a vegetable, herb and a spice, is anti-inflammatory, as it soothes the digestive tract and improves estrogen balance.

Sprinkling marjoram on your foods may help prevent and even decrease incidences of Alzheimer’s disease, blood clots, all cancers, fungal infections, heart disease, detoxification of pollutants and indigestion. Rosemary is known for its powerful mechanisms against cancer causing agents. It is also active in improving the cellular structure of the liver, plus many have labeled rosemary as nature’s Prozac.

Caraway acts as an antacid and helps control blood sugar after a meal. Dill helps to promote digestion, relieve gas, diarrhea, and it is a diuretic helping to cleanse the kidneys. Finally, bay leaf is filled with many antioxidants that can help with the healing of cancer, arthritis, infections and poor digestion. It is also known for its ability to help decrease blood sugar.

These foods can easily be added to a dish toward the end of the cooking process or mixing some into a lovely dressing. It is important to remember that dried herbs are generally more potent than the fresh herbs. Typically, recipes require three times the amount of a fresh herb as the dried form.

During the springtime, it is also important to decrease salt because it causes a heaviness feeling. Food preparation should be simple or even raw. Sprouting is another raw food technique that embraces the spirit of spring. Sprouting involves soaking nuts, seeds, legumes or grains for several hours, followed by rinsing them to allow them to sprout. Ayurvedic dietary principals believe that this encourages quickness, rapid movement and outward activity. In keeping with nature, this is the thought to why animals are energetically scurrying around.

By focusing on spring foods and eating locally we can promote cleansing of the body. This is a time of new beginnings and it can also be a time of challenging oneself to embrace new dietary approaches to promote cleansing of the liver. A healthy liver establishes a soothing flow of energy throughout the entire body, creating less stress and tension. This is opposed to a stagnant liver, which causes overheating and a slowed metabolism. Allowing for a physical detox can also promote cleansing of the mind and allowing us to see things in a new clearer light.

Elizabeth McMillan, MS, CNS, LDN, is a clinical nutritionist at Rose Wellness, in Oakton, VA.  Visit them online at RoseWellness.com for more information and sure to check out the free seminar series.

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