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The acupuncture office of Deborah Hutchinson, PhD, LAc, DiplAc (NCCAOM)®. Located in downtown Lexington, Kentucky, offering acupuncture and moxibustion according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles

Dietary Therapy

Nourishing Transition: Eating Right for Late Summer & the Spleen

image of food with text that reads "eat for late summer"

Late Summer is a time of transition, when we move from the most Yang time of the year to the beginning of Yin time. The earth is preparing for its next season. In Chinese Medicine, the Earth element correlates with the Spleen and Stomach, which are considered primarily digestive organs. Digestion, as a functional concept, represents the central axis around which everything else revolves. We should strive for optimal digestion all year round, but these transitional times between seasons are fantastic opportunities to strengthen this ‘central axis’ by slowing down and  simplifying our diet while making sure it’s as nutritious as possible. The Spleen has some requests regarding what we eat. First, keep things simple. It is important to shed complexity and avoid extremes. Find your goldilox zone when it comes to taste and temperature and quantity of food. Not too hot, not too cold, not too sweet, not too spicy etc. and not too much food at once. Stop eating before you’re full.

 

In that goldilox zone we find that warm foods are preferable. This helps to maintain that simple balance of temperature but also assists the spleen qi in maintaining the digestive fire. Excessively cold food (like ice cold drinks or ice cream) can extinguish that essential fire and must be avoided especially during the season change. Start to transition to cooked foods if you’ve been doing more raw fruits and veggies in the summer. Warm ginger tea, bone broth and mild spices like cinnamon and nutmeg can help gently fan the flames of dying embers.

 

The other threat to our digestive fire are foods that are considered ‘damp’ in nature. Greasy/fried foods, refined sugars, and excess dairy and gluten can slow down metabolism, weigh down the body energetically and eventually physically. We can see the down-river result of too much damp foods manifest in the body as weight gain, sore joints, a foggy-head, loose stools, and issues like candida and edema. Keep the spleen happy and the digestive fire burning with warm, ‘dry’ foods.

 

The spleen also likes sweet flavors, but again, we keep balance in mind. Think slightly sweet and naturally sweet. Foods that fit the bill are fruits like figs, plums, and apples, vegetables like beets, carrots, parsnips and squash. Rice, potatoes and mushrooms are considered slightly sweet as well (along with whole grains which are okay for those without gluten sensitivities). Lentils and legumes can be added in for their protein and fiber which help to regulate the blood sugar. Avoid fruit juices, as they lack the fiber to balance the sugar.

 

To round out your meals, feel free to add some (free-range organic when possible) meat, nuts and seeds and leafy greens for balance. Soups and stews are a great way to bring together a few simple ingredients in a spleen-friendly way. Just don’t forget: slow, simple, balanced, warm, dry, and slightly sweet.

 

How we eat is often just as important as what we eat. In our fast-paced society, everything feels rushed. Yet it is so important to take the time to generate better awareness around mealtime. In simple terms: CHEW your food. Take a moment before eating to look at your food, appreciate it, and then ..enjoy the taste…slowly. Ask your body to receive it with love, while minimizing potentially stressful distractions. Make it a meditation. Or at least a moment of gratitude.

 

Follow these basic principles of nourishment during times of seasonal change and you’ll find yourself transitioning with ease.

 

Come in for a late summer tune-up with acupuncture to better harmonize with the transitional season, strengthen digestion and support your body through seasonal changes. We’re here for you!

How to Eat Dandelions

In most parts of the country, as your lawn greens, it also turns yellow—yellow with dandelions. For such a beautiful flower, dandelions can cause a lot of homeowners dread. But did you know that your lawn’s enemy is your health’s ally? Dandelions are a great source of nutrition, but few people eat them. Dandelions have been a central herb for Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM) for thousands of years, too.

Native to the Mediterranean, this incredible flower’s medicinal qualities were also known to the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks. Originally, these groups found dandelions to be beneficial for ailments including fevers, toothaches, constipation, arthritis, diabetes, gallbladder problems, heartburn, and skin irritations, as well as generalized liver, stomach, and kidney disorders…to name a few! Often the roots and leaves of the plant were rendered into a tonic to remove toxins from the bloodstream. Modern science also proves that this bright yellow superfood is incredibly nutritious and full of vitamins.

 

What are the health benefits of dandelions?

Many people know that dandelions are great for detoxing, but that is just the beginning. The roots are a fantastic liver tonic. The leaves are a digestive bitter and support your circulatory and lymph systems. The flowers are great for your skin. Even the sticky sap is useful — it can erase warts, corns, and calluses. The entire plant is packed with nutrition. Dandelions are high in vitamins A, B, C, and K. They contain a lot of minerals, including calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and manganese. Controlling your blood sugar is easy with a dandelion meal. They are a low-calorie, high fiber, and high protein food. Dandelions are also recommended for many health conditions. People with bone health concerns, liver disease, diabetes, urinary disorders, skincare, acne, weight loss, cancer, jaundice, gallbladder issues, anemia, and high blood pressure all benefit from eating dandelions. The nutrients found in dandelion greens may help reduce the risk of cancer, multiple sclerosis, cataracts, and stroke. And on top of all of these benefits, dandelions are anti-inflammatory and may offer benefits to people with inflammatory conditions.

 

Image of dandelion up close with text reading ‘how to eat dandelions’

So how do you eat dandelions?

In short: any way you’d like. There are so many ways to eat dandelions. A quick internet search will provide lots of recipes and suggestions. The entire plant is edible — leaves, flowers, and roots. As a rule of thumb, use the leaves in the same ways you’d cook with spinach and the roots the way you cook carrots or radishes.

The flowers and roots can be both meal and beverage. Boil or stir-fry both the flowers and roots as a cooked vegetable. You can even make wine with the flowers and roast the roots for a coffee substitute!

Dandelion leaves are the most common part to eat. They’re wonderful both both cooked or raw. In addition to steaming, boiling, or stir-frying the leaves, try tossing them in a soup or combining them with kale, lettuce, or cabbage in a hearty bowl. Use raw dandelion greens in salads or on sandwiches. Dry the greens and use them for an herbal infusion. You can even juice the leaves or add them to a smoothie.

With all the great benefits and ways to fix them, I seems a shame so many people spend so much time, effort, and money getting rid of them!

Here’s a recipe for dandelion pesto I recently came across. Gather some dandelion greens (make sure from a pesticide free lawn and clean them like you would other garden greens) to make some pesto. Serve the pesto with some crusty bread, delicious cheese, and fresh spring-time fruits. Enjoy your meal while looking at your weed-free lawn.

Dandelion Pesto

Makes 2 cups

  • 12 ounces washed and cleaned dandelion leaves
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 6 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 1/2 ounces Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated

1.     Put one-third of the dandelion greens in a food processor or blender with olive oil and chop for a minute. Add remaining dandelion greens in two batches until they’re finely chopped.

2.     Add garlic, pine nuts, salt, and Parmesan. Process until everything is a smooth puree.

3.     Taste and add salt as needed. Thin with olive oil or water if needed.

(Some people substitute sunflower seeds or sesame seeds for the pine nuts.)

Storage: The pesto can be refrigerated in a jar for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 2 months. To prevent the top from darkening, pour a thin layer of olive on top.

Serving ideas for Dandelion Pesto

  • Spread over pizza with cooked potato slices and bake.
  • Smear on crostini over a layer of fresh spreadable cheese.
  • Dress a potato salad.
  • Toss with whole wheat pasta, and add chicken or roasted vegetables. Use the pasta water or butter to smooth the sauce over the noodles.
  • Mix with a salad of farro or wheat berries.
  • Swirl it into a bowl of Soupe au pistou.

Recipe from: David Lebovitz http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2011/03/dandelion-pesto-recipe/

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