My love for juicing fruits and vegetables began in my culinary school days as we were taught to make sauces and soups from the fresh juices of various produce. This evolved into drinking fresh pressed juices on extremely hot days while working the line in restaurants. Simple juices like watermelon with lime or carrot and green apple always seemed so refreshing. But as my journey with DAO Labs and taking a food as medicine approach that’s consistent with Chinese dietary therapy, I’ve come to learn that these “cold” juices, with their “cold ingredients”, might be working against my broader digestive health
For some time now we have been surrounded by the idea of juicing for good health or as a detox or a reboot to get your taste buds and body ready to eat healthy and I am fully on board, although in the last several years as I have been immersing myself in Chinese medicine theory I have become aware that there is a little more to it then I initially may have realized.
Chinese dietary theory focuses on eating to your constitution and eating foods that aid and support your digestion by keeping your stomach at 100 degrees (it’s a beautiful and powerful concept that I’ve written extensively about). Foods that are more cooling would harm your digestion and foods that keep your stomach warm would help your digestion – these are key components of what ultimately became the Middle Burner Diet by DAO Labs that I created earlier this year.
An Overview of Supporting Your Middle Burner
Overconsumption of raw, cold foods and liquids will put out your “digestive fire” and in turn cause contraction and obstruct the flow of blood and energy, this may occur in muscles and joints but even in body organs including the stomach. “Cold” (though both the lack of preparation of food, along with their “internal characteristics”) can also penetrate in the form of a pathogen such as a virus and if not driven out can become chronic. “Cooling ingredients” certainly have their place as their cooling nature makes them effective against internal heat and people with hot, dry and yin deficient conditions especially benefit from eating more fruit.
Overconsumption of raw, cold foods and liquids will put out your “digestive fire” and in turn cause contraction and obstruct the flow of blood and energy, this may occur in muscles and joints but even in body organs including the stomach.
Most ingredients that you typically reach for to make a juice or smoothie in Chinese dietary theory would be considered cooling. They are the usual vegetable-juicing suspects such as:
- Spinach (or other lettuce)
And many fruits are considered cooling as well, such as:
- Lemon & lime
Other typical juicing fruits such as kiwi, mango, melon, orange, pear, rhubarb, strawberry, tangerine and watermelon should also be included on this list.
The Antidote to these Cooling Juice Ingredients – Add “Warming” Ingredients
While following a Chinese medicine/therapy diet is all about adjusting the foods we eat to align with ones’ constitution, for the purposes of the Middle Burner Diet by DAO Labs, we’ve made some conscious simplifications (we encourage you to talk with an acupuncturist for more insight). But for simplicity purposes, by simply adding warming ingredients to your juice, you can help bring the post digestive thermal temperature into balance. These ingredients include:
- Bell pepper
- Pumpkin or blackberry
- Orange peel
- Grapefruit peel
There are some foods which are considered “neutral” from an energetics stand point. Examples of such foods are: beet, carrot, sweet potato, yam or cabbage, also apricot, fig, grape, papaya, pineapple, plum and pomegranate.
What About Dairy & Other Spices?
Dairy is interesting as yogurt (cow’s milk) is cool but milk from goat and sheep is more warming. Almond milk and coconut milk are more neutral as are flax and hemp. Additional warming ingredients that you can add are walnuts or pumpkin seeds. Some herbs and spices that are warming and useful to blend with cooling ingredients are: basil, cayenne, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, turmeric, black and white pepper. Mint is interesting as peppermint is more cooling while spearmint is slightly warming.
Hot and pungent ingredients disperse stagnation and promote circulation of energy and blood, sending energy upwards and outwards while stimulating digestion. Some hot pungent foods are so extreme that they will eventually cool the body via sweating, it is a mistake to think that hotter is always better, if we heat ourselves so much that we sweat, then energy is lost and we begin to cool as Yin and Yang convert into one another at there extremes.
Grilling Your Fruits and Veggies Always Helps (…Your Taste Buds Too)
The temperature of foods can be influenced by cooking methods as well, oftentimes I will grill cooling ingredients like watermelon, peaches, oranges or cantaloupe. I used to do this with regularity at the restaurant because I liked the flavor it imparted. If we can start with ingredients that are room temperature rather than juicing straight from the refrigerator and try to add some warming ingredients to balance the cooling ingredients used, our digestive systems will be better off. A simple example of this that you are likely already doing is adding kale and ginger to a juice of apple, cucumber, celery and lemon or a less obvious idea would be to add fresh fennel juice to a pear smoothie.
Keep in mind that there will be times that using all cooling ingredients will be beneficial, certainly during the height of summer most of us will benefit from a cooling juice or smoothie.
It is best to eat a variety of foods and include all temperatures, always eat based on your individual needs and lean your diet in one direction or another as appropriate. The more extreme the imbalance the stronger the corrective diet. In most cases a slight thoughtful change in diet will be enough to bring you back into balance as food is powerful, remember that most Chinese medicine doctors will incorporate western medicines only if dietary treatment has failed. Once we have an understanding of our present constitution and our presenting patterns we can begin to choose foods appropriately and customize our diet for our personal energetic needs.
The recipes on The Way are intended as an East meets West look at food and its relationship to health and nutrition. Food is powerful, and every bite can either greatly benefit your system or effectively work against it. In Chinese Medicine, each grain, vegetable, meat, fruit, and spice has unique properties that can be harnessed to help us achieve and maintain balance in our bodies. Our recipes seek to incorporate some of the age-old principles of Chinese medicine into the culinary practices more familiar to the West.
Ask Travis about DAO flavors or his other recipes at firstname.lastname@example.org