Ah, it’s finally Spring! After cold weather in some areas left us feeling cooped up inside, and comfort foods appealed to our appetites, so many of us begin to take stock of where we are and where we want to be in mind, body, and spirit. This is the second part of a two-part series on the Holistic Holiday at Sea blog. Check out the first part here.
In this post, macrobiotic counselor Warren Kramer and registered dietitian Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT give us their tips for awakening the body and feeding what we crave.
Subtle Shifts: The Liver
Warren Kramer is a macrobiotic counselor, lecturer, and cooking teacher. He says, “In traditional Chinese medicine, early Spring (February 4), is when we begin our adjustments for the changing season. Making subtle changes at that time helps the body to adjust to the warmer weather on the way, as well as support the paired organs that relate to the season: the liver and gallbladder. It is what also builds a strong immune system as we align with the environment better that way.”
Warren explains that women’s health is influenced by the liver more than any other organ in the body. Symptoms of an imbalanced liver include: irritability, excess heat in the body, skin rashes, headaches, grinding the teeth at night, difficulty losing weight, fibroids, thyroid issues, trouble digesting fats, eye issues, hip pain, and so many more. “Spring represents an upward rising energy and that is what supports the liver as well.”
- Eat plenty of upward-growing leafy greens, lightly cooked, like kale, collards, bok choy, and Napa cabbage. Both tempeh and mung beans, as well as other high-quality plant proteins are great support for the liver. The cooling effect of sea vegetables are also of great benefit to take heat out of the liver. Wakame in miso soup, kombu in bean dishes, dulse on salads, and nori eaten as a snack or used to make vegan rice rolls with avocado and vegetables.
- The sour taste in our food also helps to release stagnation in the liver. Lemon, sauerkraut, sour green apple like Granny Smith, brown rice vinegar, and small amounts of umeboshi vinegar also help to open the liver up.
- Grains like spelt, kamut, barley, hato mugi, oats, rye, and wheat berries in small amounts are wonderful for the light energy they give to the liver.
- Blanching, steaming, quick sauté, light pickling, raw, and light soups, like a brothy miso soup with a garnish of scallions and greens, make the liver very happy.
- The liver and gallbladder are able to cleanse when we eat less. Minimize eating past 7 p.m., sit down to eat, and chew well.
- One of the best ways to cleanse the liver is to reduce oil in the Spring. This includes the use of nuts, nut butters, and seed butters like tahini.
- Due to the heavy nature of baked flour products and of course animal proteins, they are best avoided or minimized to support the liver. Eating less volume of food has amazing results when trying to help cleanse the liver.
- Spending time around green in nature is so helpful as well as expressing our creative self as the liver relates to creativity. We need to find ways to gently release the pressure that can build up in our body and the liver. Certainly laughing, singing, and dancing can help that. Practicing forgiveness and having compassion are both so healing for the liver, not living in the past. Gently massaging your liver which is just under the rib cage on the right side of your body is also be helpful.
Jumping Back In
A registered dietitian, Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, is a talk show host, international lecturer, and author of The Vegiterranean Diet, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition, and The Permanente Journal’s A Physician’s Guide to Plant-Based Diets. When asked about her advice for spring cleanses, Julieanna replied, “I don’t recommend cleanses, per se. Instead, I recommend people try to incorporate healthy habits into their daily lives. If things get in the way, such as travel, holidays, or stress, I recommend jumping back on the program as soon as you can.”
While some people attempt to quickly make up for months of poor diet and lack of exercise by undergoing extreme cleanses, Julieanna advises, “Instead of dramatic or even dangerous detox regimens, aim to eat plenty of vegetables (especially leafy green and cruciferous varieties), fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds every day.”
The Six Daily Threes
Julieanna offers an easy way to remember how to follow a balanced diet. “Use the 6 Daily 3s as a guideline: Consume three servings each of leafy green veggies (one serving equals one cup raw or 1/2 cup cooked), other-colored veggies, fruits (a serving is one medium piece of fruit or one cup), nuts and seeds (one serving is 0.5 ounces a day), legumes (one to one and a half cups), and include movement (one serving is 20 minutes).
As you shift your diet this season, we hope it brings you energy, joy, and peace. As Warren Kramer concludes, “Springtime means time to lighten up, get in nature, eat less, and have fun.”