Episode 63: Food as Medicine
Photo credit: Jessica Hill Photography
Ellen Goldsmith, author of “Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine”, and co-founder of Pearl Natural Health, spoke to us about the ancient Eastern wisdom of food as medicine. Learn about the concepts of Chinese medicine - from the yin and yang, and the thermal nature of foods, to what you should be cooking this winter - to actively improve your health by doing something as simple and enjoyable as eating.
Ellen first got introduced to Chinese medicine when she was a dancer interested in building up her energy, vitality, and health. When she started to feel significantly better after eating with Chinese medicine concepts in mind, she felt compelled to study the philosophy behind the 3000 year old practice.
While both Eastern and Western systems seek to relieve suffering and sooth symptoms, they differ in their approach. Western medicine treats disease instead of health. Whereas the paradigm of Chinese medicine is rooted in the synergy of nature and how everything works together.
How do we put this into practice when eating? Ellen says you can start by just observing the climate, the seasons, and if it’s hot or cold outside. You want to eat foods that can help you counter what’s outside to achieve balance in your body. You can tell if a food is cooling and warming for your body by observing how you feel, which is different for each individual. For example, melons that take a lot of sun and heat to grow hold a lot of water, could have a cooling effect. Red meat contains fat and has complex proteins to digest, which makes it more warming. Cooking methods can alter the thermal nature of foods too. If you fry something you are heating it up by adding fat, spices and fire to it. A cucumber that is cooling in nature, could be neutralized by sautéing it. Observe yourself and see what works for you. Do you feel cold and low in energy? Do you run hot and get irritated easily? Those are some simple things to consider.
We talk about the flavor of foods: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter. In the Western world, we think of flavor only as a function of taste, but in Chinese medicine each flavor can create movement in your body. The bitter will detoxify, the pungent will wake up your senses, the sour will hydrate, the salty will have a positive effect on kidney functions, the natural sweetness of whole foods will be nourishing and calming. Ellen encourages us to have all five flavors in every meal to allow yourself to be satiated.
Tune in to hear Ellen share some of her favorite dishes for the winter, including a nourishing lamb stew. Get the recipe here! She gives us tips on what to eat when you’re sick, how to shop for Chinese medicine ingredients, and how to stock your kitchen. Maybe you can’t get Chinese bitter melon at the typical grocery store, but you can solve for that bitter flavor in foods like radicchio, hearts of romaine lettuce, or dandelion greens.
For more of Ellen’s tips on how to take charge of your health, check out her podcast Health Watch.