More and more of us are discovering that certain foods and lifestyle habits may be good for some, but they aren’t good for everyone.
Isn’t it interesting, that the Paleo diet works wonders for some people, but other people try it and end up needing their black beans and brown rice to feel most vital. Each of us has a unique biochemical makeup, heredity and metabolism. And, as if this puzzle of individual constitution weren’t difficult enough to figure out, the changing air temperatures and moisture level throughout the seasons also makes the task of achieving personal balance challenging.
Let’s first talk about warming vs. cooling foods. According to macrobiotics (the Asian diet and lifestyle philosophy), various types of foods, and the way in which they are prepared, have either a warming, neutral, or cooling effect on our bodies. The cooling, cleansing foods that grow in the spring and summer are best if we’re feeling too hot due to warm weather, or hormones, or our body type. And vice versa, the warming, building foods that are naturally produced in the fall and winter are best to eat when we’re feeling cold, deficient or weak.
One of the most important aspects of this philosophy, is that some of us inherently tend toward always being too warm or too cold. This is because of the widely varying amount of congenital chi (life force) that we inherit from our parents. For example, some people have strong, robust constitutions, with loud voices, reddish complexions, and a tendency toward having too much internal heat and excess body weight. These are the people who kick the covers off at night and may have a hard time loosing weight. On the other end of the spectrum, some of us have weak, deficient constitutions with quiet voices, cold hands and feet, pale complexions, and a tendency to have internal coldness and difficulty gaining weight. People who embody this deficient, cold end of the spectrum usually have to be careful with their diet & lifestyle early in life, as they don’t have a lot of extra energy to expend on being careless with their health.
According to macrobiotics, everyone’s constitution falls somewhere between these two extremes of excess/hot and deficient/cold, so each of us need different foods and lifestyle practices to maintain balance. This is why some people (usually excess, robust types) can eat processed and fast food, smoke, drink, and dance the hoochie coo til they’re 90, and hardly ever feel sick, while some of us have to be careful from a very young age with what we eat and with our lifestyle choices.
Eating what grows seasonally and regionally often helps us maintain balance. Below, I’ve listed the breakdown of which foods and cooking methods have either a warming or cooling thermal effect on our bodies according to macrobiotics. You can use these guidelines to help you warm up or cool down to either balance your constitution or to deal with the weather.
This is just one path, and I encourage you to experiment with several different paths, one at a time, to discover which path (or combination of paths), works best to help you feel your best. For example, the basic diet and lifestyle guidelines for your particular body-mind type according to Ayurveda (the diet & lifestyle philosophy of India), may work really well to give you a higher level of vitality. If that doesn’t work, consider trying the blood type diet, then metabolic typing, or, take Dr. Joseph Mercola’s nutritional typing test. And, there’s always time to see if cutting out all sugar, dairy, commercially raised meats, and even all grains, or at least all processed/packaged food gives you more vitality.
Remember to be patient with the process, and be flexible when you body tells you it’s time to change your diet and lifestyle. You’ll need different foods when feeling overweight, toxic, and wanting to cleanse, than when you’re feeling weak, or pregnant and nursing. This could mean quieting the mind and tuning in to your body daily. I like the calm of early morning to sit quietly, and let the insights come to me, about what will serve me best that day.
Maintaining balance through the seasons
For a cooling & cleansing effect, eat these spring and summer foods:
- spring veggies/greens: bok choy, mustard greens, turnip and radish tops, green beans, lettuces, sprouts, summer squash & zucchini
- fruits: grapes, berries, melons, stone fruits & tropical fruits like banana, mango & pineapple
- grains: millet, corn, quinoa
- quick cooking methods which impart a cooling thermal nature into food: fruits & vegetables eaten raw, lightly sauted with some water, blanched, or steamed....use stainless steel
For a warming & strengthening effect, eat these fall and winter foods:
-fall and winter veggies: root veggies, winter squash, sturdy winter greens like kale, collards, Brussel’s sprouts and cabbage
- grains: wheat, rye, kamut, amaranth
- more high quality fats and animal proteins
- winter fruits like apples, pears and kiwi
- slow cooking methods which impart a warming thermal nature into food: bake, pressure-cook...use cast iron