Spring in Wisconsin is, at best, a time of sometimes turbulent change. Warm and sunny one day, and 10 inches of snow the next. That’s how the seasons change from winter to spring in this part of the world. In Oriental Medicine, we are reminded to transform our eating patterns to prepare our bodies to stay strong and balanced through the spring time.

Spring Time and Your Organs

The Liver is traditionally the organ associated with spring. It is associated with new growth and the upward movement of plants as they break out of the earth and reach towards the warming sky. According to Oriental Medicine, your liver can easily be obstructed by outside stressors; creating aches, pains, headache and the like. You should also think about the wind and allergies, and the need to fortify our immune system against the last onslaught of cold weather diseases.

Spring Time Diet

There are a few things we can do with our diets to counteract the external forces of change and move easily into the warmer weather to come. Here are a few simple guidelines.

  • Eat lighter foods. No more of the heavy stews, fatty foods, sweets/sugary foods that we think of as the “stick to your ribs” kind of fare we eat in the cold of winter.
  • Foods should be fresh, neutral, slightly pungent (neither cold nor too spicy) and bitter or slightly sweet. (Note here on “sweet” in dietary terms. Sweet is NOT SUGARY. It is a natural sweetness, like that found in sweet potatoes, beets and carrots; fruits like apricot, fig, grape, or plum. Grains and nuts are sweet as well.)
  • Leafy greens are great to add at this time of year. Their slightly bitter nature keeps the Liver clear and circulation moving in the body. Don’t just think salads here. Add chopped spinach to scrambled eggs, wilt some kale in a pot of soup or lightly sauté some chard with onions and just a bit of bacon.
  • More good foods for spring include: beef, black sesame seed, cabbage, celery, eggs, duck, honey, kidney beans, kohlrabi, olives, oysters, peanuts, pineapple, pork, potato, string bean, shiitake mushroom and sunflower seeds.
  • Ginger and green onion help us to be balanced in the windy nature of the spring. Onion, leek, and saffron are helpful flavors to add to foods.
  • Avoid heavy damp foods (dairy, frozen confections, too much raw food), rich and fatty foods, and excessively sour foods until the weather warms for good and the changeability of the outside world settles down.

Of course, each of us needs to be mindful of our individual constitutions when choosing food (sensitivities or allergies or tendencies toward dampness, etc.), but in general a lighter, fresher diet is appropriate for this time of year. It’s like spring cleaning for the diet. Just as we look forward to shedding the heavy clothes required in the last few months for a lighter, easier to move-in wardrobe; our diet should become lighter and easier to move through the digestive tract.

Let’s all be ready for the long, warm, sunny days to come – and feel awesome when they get here!