Change is on the Horizon:
What to Eat for Seasons of Transition

‘Eating with the seasons’ is something you may have heard before. In Chinese medicine, it is an important facet of dietary wellness. What many may not realise, is that Chinese herbal medicine and Chinese traditional home cooking are often intertwined. This means that there are many medicinal herbs used in meals to keep the body nourished and strong, and that food is often at the core of healing from illness and stress.

In order to stay healthy throughout the changing seasons, we can focus our attention on how the food we consume contributes to our health. Most of us do this to some extent already.

In the summer, we tend to eat more cool, watery foods like watermelon, cucumber, strawberries, and lettuce. These foods keep us stay cool and hydrated, so they are an obvious choice in the warmer months.

When the weather gets cooler, we opt for warm, nourishing foods like casseroles, soup, and spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. These foods help warm our bodies and keep us feeling more resilient against cold and illness.

These eating concepts are simple to understand because they help us to avoid or cope with physical experiences of discomfort and illness, when the weather is at its extremes.

But what about the transitional seasons – Spring and Autumn?

Now depending on where you live, of course, the weather variations throughout the year may be subtle, or they may be turbulent. But for most, there is a notable shift during the transitional seasons and it can often trigger changes in both the body and the mind.

Many of my patients report feeling something like uncertainty, apprehension, and excitement, all wrapped into one. Like the moment before a rubber band snaps. Like that feeling of simultaneous regret and delight as you approach the first peak of this rollercoaster you didn’t really even want to get on in the first place – but here you are.

I think in the current global situation, we can all commiserate over that particular kick-in-the-guts feeling, to some extent.

Let’s just say – it can be uncomfortable. So to support that, dietary options during these seasons should do two main things:

  1. Nourish the body
  2. Comfort the mind/spirit

In the Spring, opt for fresh foods that are green, fibrous, and are the leaves, flowers, or fruit of the plant. It is recommended to limit raw foods and instead opt for roasted or steamed vegetables. Suggestions for ‘Spring’ foods might include spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, legumes/pulses, okra, and stone fruit.

In autumn, roasted, stewed, stir-fried or grilled foods provide warm, comforting nourishment to body and mind. Suggestions include pumpkin, squash,  zucchini, mushrooms, nuts and seeds, sweet potato, carrots, turnips, apples, and pears.

As we dive into the current transitional season (autumn here in Melbourne), I would love to share with you this delicious recipe that is focused on supporting the emotions and spirit during seasonal change – or any change!

This ‘Seasonal Transformation Soup’ is nourishing without being heavy and is suitable for both Spring and Autumn. The star ingredient is the lesser-known lotus seed, which is known among Chinese medicine herbalists to “calm the heart” – in this case, meaning the emotions and the mind.

Nutritionally, lotus seeds offer protein, b-vitamins, omega fatty acids, magnesium, potassium, and manganese. They are also quite tasty and have a lovely soft texture when cooked!

*If the weather feels too warm where you are for soup, you can drain off the liquid and save it in the freezer for later. Or it can be strained and drank as a savory tea. The rest of the meal can be eaten as it is, or served on rice or quinoa.

“Seasonal Transformation Soup”

1kg chicken pieces, legs/thighs preferred (Vegan option: Double mushrooms and lotus seeds, add one cubed potato WITH skin, and 1 heaped Tablespoon of miso paste.)

5-6 mushrooms, sliced. Shiitake preferred. If you are using dried mushrooms, soak in warm water for 30 minutes before slicing.

1.5 cups chopped pumpkin

2 cups chopped bok choy or other leafy green

30g (around 30) lotus seeds – can be found in any Asian grocery store

3 slices of ginger, 1cm thick

1 Tablespoon of rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1/8 Teaspoon of salt

Set aside:

2 spring onion, finely chopped

Soy Sauce

  1. In a large soup pot, place chicken pieces in 4 litres of water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Skim off any fat, oil, or debris that floats to the top.
  1. Add mushrooms, pumpkin, lotus seeds, ginger, and vinegar to pot and bring to a boil.
  1. Lower heat and cover with the lid slightly ajar. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add bok choy/greens and simmer another 10 minutes.
  1. Remove ginger pieces and check that lotus seeds are soft.
  1. Serve and add soy sauce and spring onion to taste.

Enjoy this soup whenever you need support during any transitional phase in your life.

Be kind to yourself!

Dr Sarah Hennessey (TCM)

I am a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and an AHPRA registered acupuncturist and herbalist.  
I run my clinic, South East Natural Health in Carnegie, Victoria, with a focus on postnatal care and women’s health.

If you feel like you need immediate support, please contact:

South East Natural Health

at Summer Healing Yoga

Level 2, 61 Koornang Road

Carnegie, VIC 3163

Entrance on Rosstown Road

0490 520 054

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South East Natural Health

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