The Body Ecology Diet (BED) Column
......with Donna Gates
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Tuesday, June 14th, 2011:
Top 5 Foods for Summer to Improve Your Health
According to the Chinese lunar calendar, summer began on May 6th.
This is mid-way between the vernal equinox and the summer solstice. In China, the day is celebrated with the Dragon Boat Festival, also called the Duanwu Festival. In Chinese culture, the dragon is masculine and coincides with the lengthening of days and the masculine, or yang energy of the sun.
Chinese Medicine and the Five Elements
Foods that are bitter and nourish the heart are called for during the summer season, as bitterness has a tendency to cool heat and is often draining. The heart, in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and the spleen are both organs that control their own respective channels of energy in the body. The heart belongs to the element of Fire. The spleen and stomach belong to the element of Earth. Both Fire and Earth elements have an important role during the summer season.
Foods that support both the Fire and Earth elements are not only cooling. Oftentimes, they are also detoxifying, can improve digestion, and support weight loss buy nourishing the five elements.
Inflammation can rapidly age the body.
The Body Ecology Diet is a system of eating that cools the inflammatory response in the body. It does this by healing the lining of the gut with an emphasis on fermented foods and beverages. Body Ecology also promotes healthy food combining techniques and urges us to watch our bodies carefully for any immune response flare-up after eating, especially after consuming grains.
In TCM, detoxifying and cooling foods, when eaten in proper amounts and combined well with other foods, have the added bonus of helping to reduce inflammation in the body.
Foods, like herbs, work incrementally in the body.
Everything that you put into your body adds to the total picture and has an overall affect on how you feel and how your carry yourself through life.
In western medicine, we talk about the gut-brain axis and how the state of the gut affects the state of the brain, and vise versa. In TCM, the spirit of the heart, called shen, is similar to the western concept of the mind. The shen has a very close relationship to the spirit of the Earth element, which is ruled by the spleen/stomach and governs the digestive force of the body.
Interestingly, using the five elements, TCM acknowledges what western medicine calls the gut-brain axis.
Here are the top 5 foods for this summer season that nourish the Fire and Earth elements, cool inflammation, and detoxify the body!
1. Fermented Watermelon Juice: According to TCM, watermelon is cool and sweet. It also is said to promote urination and lubricate the intestines. It cools the energetic channels in the body that are dominated by fire, which are the heart and small intestine. This means that according to TCM, watermelon is therapeutically helpful in cases of urinary tract infections. The juice is also reported to be beneficial for conditions of hypertension and hangover.
Watermelon’s sweet nature means that it is definitely not suitable for Stage One of the Body Ecology Diet. Even for Stage Two or for those not strictly following the Body Ecology Diet, one of the best ways to enjoy the cooling properties of watermelon is to ferment the juice in the same way that you would ferment coconut water to make coconut water kefir. The taste is delicious, cooling, and refreshing!
2. Mung Bean Broth: The therapeutic value of mung beans is not in the bean itself, but in the water that you boil the bean in. In TCM, this liquid is so cooling and detoxifying that it has been reported useful in treating drug and alcohol poisoning. Most commonly, mung bean water is good to cool inflammation, especially acne and other red eruptions on the skin.
All of Body Ecology’s fermented beverages are made with mung beans! This means that CocoBiotic, Dong Quai, InnergyBiotic, and Whole Grains Biotic all offer the powerful and therapeutically cooling properties of mung beans with the added bonus of being fermented.
3. Cucumber: Many of us are familiar with the cooling properties of cucumber. Bite into one, and you will instantly know why! Cucumber is commonly found in face tonics and used during facial treatments.
According to TCM, this is another food that helps relieve acne due to its cooling nature. Chinese medicine also uses cucumber to cleanse the blood and clear internal heat from the body. Remember, internal heat often equals inflammation. Cucumber is thirst quenching and, therefore, is sometimes used to treat a sore throat. It is also detoxifying and, like watermelon, promotes urination. Its draining nature means that it supports the spleen by pulling dampness out of the body.
If you have ever tried squeezing lemon on cucumber and liked the combination, try mixing slices of cucumber with your cultured veggies. The tartness of fermented vegetables parallels that of a lemon. Delicious!
4. Purslane: Purslane is a rare and special plant. Well, rare in its qualities. It is actually so common that the FDA considers purslane a beneficial weed. What is unique about purslane is its omega 3 EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) content. This is extraordinary for a land vegetable, as most omega 3 EPAs come from oily fish and microalgae.
Like the other top summer foods, in TCM purslane is excellent at cooling inflammation in the body. It is a potent detoxifier and reduces internal heat. It has been reported as effective in treating conditions like dysentery and enteritis, which is inflammation of the small intestine. In TCM, the small intestine is related to the heart and falls under the element of Fire. Chinese medicine considers purslane to be effective in treating infections relating to the gums, lungs, bowels, and urinary tract.
Is it any surprise that an excess of omega 6 and a deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids in the diet are associated with inflammation? Another excellent source of omega 3 fats is microalgae, in particular Spirulina. Body Ecology offers a product called Potent Proteins. In addition to providing all of the 8 essential amino acids, Potent Proteins is 50% fermented spirulina! The fact that it is fermented means that it is easier to digest and gives a boost in beneficial microflora.
Make an omega 3-powerhouse salad by adding purslane to your favorite greens. Arugula’s bitter nature makes it a particularly fitting choice for the summer, as the taste of the Fire element is bitter. Next, add 1 – 3 teaspoons of Potent Proteins to your basic oil and lemon vinaigrette. Sprinkle with a pinch of Celtic sea salt. The result: a rich, green salad dressing and a complete meal full of omega 3 fatty acids!
5. Aloe Vera: If you have ever sliced an aloe leaf open and smoothed it over a sunburn, you know about its cooling nature. In TCM, aloe vera reduces internal heat and can strongly promote a bowel movement. For this reason, when used discriminately, it can effectively treat constipation.
Looking for new ways to enjoy coconut water kefir? Try blending 4 - 6 ounces of coconut water kefir with ½ cup ice and ½ an aloe vera leaf (cut out from skin). Add 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice, a squirt of Body Ecology Liquid Stevia Concentrate, and ½ a pinch of Celtic sea salt.
What To Remember Most About This Article:
According to traditional Chinese medicine, foods that are bitter and nourishing to the heart are most beneficial in the summer season. This bitterness will cool down internal heat and naturally flush the body. When you eat foods that support the Fire and Earth elements, they will cool and detoxify your body, improve digestion, and even offer weight loss benefits!
Body Ecology’s Top 5 Summer Foods:
1. Fermented Watermelon Juice: Watermelon is cooling, promotes urination, and lubricates the intestines. Enjoy fermented watermelon juice in the same way that you would ferment coconut water for a refreshing summer treat.
2. Mung Bean Broth: Mung bean broth is cooling, detoxifying, and can even relieve inflammation caused by acne.
3. Cucumber: If you want to be as cool as a cucumber, add slices of cucumber to your cultured veggies to cleanse the blood and cool internal inflammation.
4. Purslane: Purslane effectively detoxifies, cools inflammation, and can even treat conditions like dysentery, caused by inflammation in the small intestine. This plant is also an excellent source of omega-3 EPAs!
5. Aloe Vera: Aloe vera can be used to cool a sunburn and reduce internal heat. When used in moderation, it can also relieve constipation.
1. Lu, Henry. Chinese Natural Cures. Black Dog & Leventhal: New York. 2005.
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