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(5 pages total)

Page 3 - Eating in Harmony with Daily Energetics


Breakfast comes after we arise from our natural death­like slumber. This is the springtime of the day, and at this time we recapitulate our infancy, moving from lying to crawling (out of bed) to standing to walking. Morning has the yang­rising energy of springtime. The cold, moist, material yin­Qi is fading as energetic yang­Qi begins to rise.

In the early morning, our digestive system is as sensitive as that of an infant. Thus, the textures and nutritional values of mother's milk or infant food are most appropriate. Interestingly, whole grains have a protein to carbohydrate ratio and sweet flavor that virtually duplicates human mother's milk. This suggests that soft grain porridge would be a particularly suitable staple food around which to build a Natural breakfast. In fact, traditional Chinese medicine has determined that the Stomach is the organ most active between 7:00 and 9:00 a.m., the time when we commonly consume breakfast. The Stomach likes warm and moist foods, and dislikes dry foods. Thus, to harmonize with the morning energy, it may be best to take the advice of your grandmother and have warm porridge rather than dry toast or cold cereal.

Many Americans are used to having fruit and sugars on their cereal. However, sugary sweet foods, including fruits, generally have a yin, condensing, cold energy, according to Chinese herbalists. This energy is just the opposite of the tendency of morning­Qi and thus there are not particularly appropriate foods for the first meal of the day. The cold and damp nature of sweets or fruit may be temporarily stimulating, but can in fact put a damper on the digestive "fire" of the Spleen entirely, leaving it unable to transform more nourishing foods into Qi. This may lead to the all­too­ common experience of mid­morning, low energy "Blues", and cravings for stimulants, or more sweets, to offset a dietary depletion of Qi.

The principles of traditional Chinese medicine suggest that the attempt to use sugary­sweet or fruit­laden breakfast foods to tonify the Spleen is a poor substitute for regular staple use of grains at all meals. These more substantially sweet foods nourish the Spleen­­ and thus Qi­­ at a much deeper level than the superficial stimulation afforded by sweets. For breakfast, oats, barley, millet, and rice are particularly suitable for porridge.

To harmonize with morning­Qi, it is important to have more yang, ascending, warm energy foods with a mildly pungent taste. These may be fresh or prepared by steaming or fermentation, both of which are techniques which have an en­lighten­ing energy. Steamed greens fit this bill, as do sprouts, salt­pickled (not vinegar pickled) vegetables­­ especially pickled pungent greens, radish, or onions­­ and fresh or dried chives and parsley. Things that sprout or grow upward help us to rise to the challenge of a new day.

No one would think of feeding an infant bacon, sausage, steak or other such foods. According to traditional Chinese medicine, digestion of these sorts of foods is difficult, and they may be best eaten in small quantities at a time when our digestive fire is stronger. If flesh foods are taken in quantity at this time when we are attempting to re­awaken, the result may be that, before we know it, we are digesting ourselves back to sleep!

Example: Soft porridge, garnished with a small amount of sprouts, or fresh or dried parsley or chives. Steamed greens. Salt­pickled vegetables.

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