What does a human being need to thrive? A person's needs match those of the ecosystem: air, water, protection from harsh elements, food, energy and inter-relationship. Carbon, water, nitrogen, oxygen — the same materials that comprise the Earth, also make up our own blood and bones, our breath and our brains. Our shedding hair, skin, tears, and eventually our entire bodies are all returned to the Earth where they break down again into these same materials.
Since our bodies are literally made from earth, we can use them directly to gain an understanding of the way earth works. For any system to achieve true stability, resilience, and health, meaningful connections must exist between the diverse elements of the system. This stability principle is as applicable to humans as it is to a garden. As a whole system, the body is a microcosm of an ecosystem.
Just as a natural environment is a combination of plants, animals, insects and fungi in collaboration, the body is a blend of water, bones, organs, and bacteria working together. Each participant contributes something valuable to the composition of the guild or body. For example, fungi recycle plants and transform them into rich soil. If not for mushrooms, the earth would be buried in debris and life would soon disappear.
By the same token, the bacteria in our bodies digest food to produce waste. This waste nourishes the same soil that returns our food to us. By aligning our bodies with the earth's body, we can maintain the connections necessary to thrive and let our healing also become the earth's healing. Since these systems are always changing, it is important to observe seasonal changes, internal physical shifts, and respond to them. We can use centuries-old systems of food as medicine in order to maintain this resiliency.
Energetic Qualities of Food
A food's energetic quality is inherent to it. Cooking can modify it, but only to a certain extent. A cooling food like fruit, even when cooked, is still relatively cooling. Ginger or cinnamon can be added to an apple to increase its warming quality, but the fruit's original cooling effect remains.
As we prepare for winter, we can eat warm and warming foods to prevent illness and strengthen ourselves for the colder months to come. Foods rich in protein and fat have more calories and thus are more warming. Vegetables that grow more slowly are also more warming. For example, cabbage is more warming than lettuce and root vegetables are warmer than peppers or tomatoes. The fire element is related to heat in the body. Metabolism and circulation depend upon this stimulating quality to transform food and body chemicals into functional substances and circulate them throughout the system. Foods that are hot, both in temperature and spice level, increase metabolism and circulation.
Warming Foods for Colder Months
Eat plenty of whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds and slow-growing vegetables for protein and vital energy. Increase fats from nuts and seeds, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, olive and/ or sunflower oil. Steam, bake or roast vegetables (use coconut or sunflower oil for roasting) and garnish with oil and garlic. This practice helps the body assimilate fat soluble vitamins like A and D, which are also found in whole milk, dairy, and eggs. Enjoy bean-based stews, root dishes, and spices, whole grain porridges as winter comfort foods that are both heating and healing. Try this recipe for Immune Soup.
- Start heating a pot of cold water
- A handful of astragalus root and/or Codonopsis root
- A handful of fresh or dried shitake or maitake mushrooms
- 2 inches of rinsed kombu seaweed
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 carrots, chopped into quarters
- 2 stalks celery, chopped in half
- 1 onion, whole with peel removed
- 1 head garlic, whole with peel removed
- Cover the pot and bring to boil; lower the heat and simmer for 1 to 2 hours.
- Remove herbs, any dried mushrooms and roots from the soup.
- Parsnips, turnips, mustard greens and leeks — these reduce congestion.
- Orange vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and winter squash — these are rich in carotenoids, which support immunity and respiratory health.
- Spices such as thyme, black pepper and oregano — these are anti-microbial and reduce risk of contracting a viral or bacterial infection.
Simmer the soup until everything is tender, then add more fresh garlic and ginger if you like. Taste for salt. Serve with a drizzle of your favorite oil and a whole grain. Delicious!
- Five Immune-Supporting Herbs And Spices For Late Winter
- Immune-Boosting Snacks for the Whole Family
- Three Immune-Boosting Broths For The Fall
- Elderberries for a Strong Immune System
- Our Immunity Formulas: What's What, When to Use Them
Writer Lisa Mase is a culinary medicine coach, food writer, translator, and folk herbalist living in Vermont. For articles and recipes, visit Lisa at www.harmonizedcookery.com.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.