Before I decided to go to acupuncture school, I was drawn to eastern wellness philosophies because I understood how my own disconnect from nature was contributing to my chronic issues. What I was experiencing was no different from what many others have also been through, so I wholeheartedly believe schools of thought like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda can be of value to everyone.
So, let’s talk about what we can do to become more in sync with Autumn.
One of the biggest lessons from Chinese medicine during Autumn is to reflect our natural environment. At this time of year, plants go into a resting state and animals go into hibernation. We can reflect nature by doing calming activities like Qi Gong, yoga, meditation and long walks. Western culture is big on pushing ourselves to the limit, no matter the obstacles, which has both positive and negative results. It’s important to strive to achieve goals but to preserve your health. If that means eating healhier and doing less intense exercises, so be it. If that means choosing to limit your social life so as to go to sleep as the sun goes down and wake when it rises, why not? If that means choosing to let go of certain material possessions, past hurts and poor eating habits at this time, go for it! This practice of “letting go” reflects how the trees let go of their leaves. The changing seasons give us the opportunity to become more in harmony with nature.
Western nutrition during fall sort of starts a downward spiral with the onset of the holiday season. It’s common to see a surge in decadent holiday sweets at this time of year, which are considered “cold and damp” (cold and damp foods are basically a nightmare for the digestion in Chinese medicine). How to remedy this? Try integrating some healthier warming treats into your traditional Holiday fare. For example, opt for a modest apple crumble (use nuts in place of some of the butter and flour, pure maple syrup instead of refined sugar) instead of a heavy apple pie. Or, if you are having apple pie, nix the vanilla ice cream (you can’t get any more cold and damp than ice cream!). Eastern nutritional advice can seem daunting and complex, but I believe it is actually quite forgiving. There are so many ways to eat healthier, and balance out your weaknesses, without feeling restricted by unreasonable guidelines. The best advice I can give is to loosely follow an Eastern paradigm so as to enjoy this time of year while also being mindful of the dietary choices you make.
A perfect example of mixing in some Eastern dietary recommendations into a savory Fall dish is the following recipe. It is a random concoction of ingredients inspired by my voracious craving for protein, the juicy lemons that have finally found their way into our lemon tree, and two hefty spaghetti squashes brought home by my husband. Lemons and squash=Chinese food therapy wins for the Fall!
There’s really no way I can properly title this dish, so I have affectionately dubbed it “spaghetti squash, tuna, avocado, carrot and tomato lasagna salad.” And believe me, this is worthy of the minimal effort it takes to make.
- One can tuna
- Spaghetti squash, roasted (I roasted a halved squash for about 50 minutes on 460. I used about half a squash for this recipe but you could make do with less.)
- Can diced tomatoes
- One avocado
- One cup chopped carrots
- Juice of one lemon
- One tablespoon mustard
- One tablespoon garlic
- One teaspoon smoked paprika
- One teaspoon onion powder
- Splash of balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Sprinkle of salt/pepper, onion powder, paprika, garlic for tuna, to taste
Combine the tuna, half of the avocado, mustard, and a sprinkle of the spices for the tuna). Mash together wth a fork.
Combine everything else in a casserole dish. I did a rough chop of the carrots and avocado. Then, mix in the tuna salad. Serve cold. You may try serving this dish warm if you live in a colder environment; I served it cold since we live in the desert and it was pretty warm out when I decided to make it!
I tell you, this dish is easy to make, high in protein and fiber and low in fat. It is positively booming with flavor.
Some of my favorite seasonal items that I believe promote health and overall wellness.
- Snacking on Granny Smith apples: Granny Smith apples are my go-to for apple pies and crumbles, and they are lower in sugar than other apples, making them a nutritional powerhouse of tart flavor (sour flavors are encouraged during Autumn in TCM. The sour flavor is said to “astringe” or retain, yin, which is important during this particularly dry part of year). I love chopping a GS apple into tiny pieces, warming it in a saucepan (or microwave) with stevia and cinnamon, and serving with a dollop of Greek yogurt for a snack.
- Leisurely walks: In TCM, each season is represented by a host of different factors that enable us to take command over our health. For example, the lungs are the representative organ for Autumn. That might be why going for a stroll in the autumn weather is so pleasant and refreshing!
- Pumpkin everything: I don’t think it’s just the traditional treats that make us crave pumpkins at this time of year. Pumpkin and other root vegetables have a very warming and grounding effect on us when cooked in stews and porridge, which encourages us to rest and restore. Again, Autumn=hibernation, preserving yin…rest, retain, restore.
I hope you are enjoying your Autumn and spending quality time with your families during this special time of year! 🙂