ENERGETICS OF FOOD
The physical and emotional connection of food has been well established throughout history in nearly every culture, yet when did you last consider the energy of your food in the Standard American Diet and its ability to nourish your mind, body, and soul?
Paying close attention to how you feel, what you crave, and the energy your food provides might just be a the missing key to your health!
With so many healthy diets and gimmicks on the market, it can be hard to discriminate what is actually beneficial for our bodies. And so it makes sense to reach into tried and true principals that have been used for centuries, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which focuses on using food to prevent and treat disease, rather than characterizing foods by how much protein, fat, or calories they contain.
TCM focuses on the quality of your food, the energy it provides, and the characteristic properties that either balance and nourish our bodies or create imbalances that contribute to higher risk of disease and sickness.
Food energetics is a tenet of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), yet we rarely consider this in Western Culture and the Standard American Diet (SAD). Increasing your knowledge of food energetics can help you build a stronger sense of health and well-being by selecting foods that have unique benefits for your body.
Still not on board and a bit confused? Think about the fall season…Even those living in warmer environments will typically shift their eating patterns to include grounding, more comforting foods, such as beans and root vegetables.
Here’s your cheat sheet of basic food energetics:
EATING AROUND THE ENERGETICS OF FOOD REQUIRES…
- Knowledge of the qualities each food possesses
- Recognition of the seasonal foods available in the local area
- Understanding of how to prepare each food
- Choosing the right foods to be neutral, connected, and harmonious
- Plugging into your emotions and the circumstances in your life
GETTING CONNECTED: FOOD IS MEDICINE
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, food is divided into five natures: cold, cool, neutral, warm and hot, and the nature of food is determined by their the effects they have on a person’s body after consumption, rather than the temperature to which the food is prepared. For example, watermelon and lighter summer greens have a cooling, medical effect during hot days because of its hydrating properties. Alternatively, heartier vegetables like carrots and squash grow more abundantly in the wintertime, and have a warming effect on the body.
Best practices for balance? Eating from your own garden or buying produce from the local farmers’ market will leave you feeling more connected. When you eat seasonally and locally, the body is more in touch with the natural order of things and able to maintain balance from the inside out. Foods that are whole, organic, and local create a balance in your mind, body, spirit.
EATING FOR EMOTIONS
Yet, sometimes, we eat driven by emotions and total imbalances in life. We all do it, and we all say it…”I’m an emotional eater.” Eating for emotions passively prevents us from dealing with life’s challenges. The texture, chemistry, and qualities of a food all interplay with our emotions and how our bodies respond to the world.
Imagine eating from a place of balance and a place of empowerment in which you took the valuable time to identify the circumstance or person driving your emotion? Understanding the qualities of a food and its relationship to your emotions allows you to take action, rather than allowing food to drive your emotions.
Recognize your craving and the corresponding emotional relationship can unlock the key to getting in touch with your n
- CHIPS: Salty and Crunchy foods: You are typically feeling frustration, stress, fear and anger
- BREAD/CRACKERS: Wheat, gluten, and grainy foods: Exemplified by sadness and the need for comfort and safety
- SWEETS/BAKED GOODS: Sugary foods: You crave happiness and excitement
- SODA/COFFEE: Carbonated beverages, caffeine: You seek liveliness, creativity, and fun in your life
- MILK/ICE CREAM/CHEESE: Dairy (milk, ice cream, fatty cheese): You are driven by the need for love, comfort, and acceptance
- CHOCOLATE: You seek pleasure and physical relationships
- ALCOHOL: You need to feel acceptance
Understanding your cravings and identifying a physical need to eat or your more hedonic, emotional hunger to eat allows you to change behavior and the ability to choose healthier food options that fulfill the need. Wouldn’t it feel better to realize your frustration with a relationship, address the issue, and eat an avocado for its healthy fats than to down a carton of ice cream?
SINCE IT’S THE FALL SEASON
And speaking of a warming and comforting effect, with fall upon us, it’s time to think about warming foods that are grounding, such as root vegetables, including yams and sweet potatoes.
People use the terms yams and sweet potatoes interchangeably, but they are different vegetables. While they are both starchy “tubers”, yams are not as sweet as sweet potatoes and have rougher skin and flesh. The orange sweet potatoes make a delicious side dish and are good sources of fiber, vitamin A, and potassium. Yams contain fiber, potassium, manganese, copper, and antioxidants and they can often be made the same way as sweet potatoes. Here are ideas for both yams and sweet potatoes.
- Sweet Potato Toast. Slice sweet potato into ¼” slices. Insert slices into toaster and toast until tender, approximately 6 minutes. (Check and retest until flesh is soft.) Top with your favorite toppings! Get creative!
- Roasted sweet potatoes. Roasted sweet potatoes will yield a crispier texture than sweet potatoes, making them a perfect side dish to grilled fish, chicken or burgers. Clean the skins and slice a few sweet potatoes into wedges. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle seasoned salt, cinnamon, and cumin over them. Roast them for 30 minutes on 375 degrees. Japanese yams are also delicious for roasting. You can interchange them with this recipe.
- Mashed sweet potatoes with ginger. This is an excellent side dish for holidays or fall dinner. Peel 4 large sweet potatoes and cut into 2” chunks. Boil sweet potatoes for 25 minutes or until soft. Drain the water and add ¾ cup orange juice, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1 Tbsp. grated ginger or ginger paste. Mash the sweet potatoes mixing the ingredients in. More juice, cinnamon or ginger can be added if desired.
- Black bean and sweet potato salad. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Peel and cut 1 lb. of sweet potatoes and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle 1 Tbsp. olive oil over the sweet potatoes. Season with ½ tsp. ground cumin, cayenne (optional) and salt. Roast sweet potatoes for 25-30 minutes. In a separate bowl, whisk together 2 Tbsp. lime juice and 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add 1 (15 oz) can black beans (drained and rinsed), ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro and ½ chopped red onion. Add roasted sweet potatoes to beans and toss to coat.
- Chili Queso Stuffed Sweet Potatoes. Bake sweet potatoes and layer with leftover, prepared quinoa, drained, rinsed and seasoned black beans or canned organic black bean chili, avocado, cilantro, salsa, and vegan Siete cashew queso on each potato to taste. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and season with salt, pepper, and Mexican seasonings (chili powder, garlic powder, cumin).
- Garlic roasted sweet potatoes with Nutritional Yeast. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Dice 1 lbs. of cleaned sweet potatoes into 1” cubes. In a small bowl, mix 1 Tbsp. canola oil, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 tsp. dried thyme, and 1 tsp. oregano. Add the diced sweet potatoes and toss to coat. On a large baking sheet, place the sweet potatoes and bake for 15 minutes, then toss and bake another 15 minutes. Once out of the oven, sprinkle Nutritional Yeast (vegan and with great health benefits) or 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese over the sweet potatoes and serve.
- Sweet potatoes pancakes. This is a great way to use mashed sweet potatoes or you can start from scratch. Peel, clean and cut 1 lb. of sweet potatoes. Boil for 15-20 minutes until soft. Set aside. In a medium mixing bowl, add 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, ½ cup whole wheat flour, 3 ½ tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. cinnamon. In a separate bowl, mix sweet potatoes, 2 eggs, 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 cup milk together. Blend the flour and sweet potato mixture together. Using a griddle or non-stick skillet, drop a ¼ cup of sweet potato batter to cook the pancakes. Serve hot with maple syrup or honey.
- Sweet Potato Waffles Mix 1 lb. sweet potato, skin on, grated or spiralized with 2 beaten eggs, ½ tsp Pink Himalayan salt, ½ tsp chili powder, ½ tsp cumin, ½ tsp garlic powder, and ¼ tsp cayenne pepper. Divide potato mixture evenly into four portions of waffle iron. Allow to cook 8 minutes, until slight crust forms on sides and the waffle begins to lift in one piece. Serve with your favorite toppings or try with my avocado salsa!
- Maple rosemary sweet potatoes. You’ll love the savory/sweet combination. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. Peel and cut 3 large sweet potatoes into 1/2″ slices or 1” chunks and place in a mixing bowl. Add 2 Tbsp. organic canola oil, ¼ cup real maple syrup, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. black pepper, 1 Tbsp. dried rosemary. Toss the sweet potatoes to coat them, then spread out on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes until golden. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary and your favorite condiments.
- Sweet potato hash browns. Clean and grate 1 lb. sweet potatoes and place in a mixing bowl with 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. black pepper. Mix the ingredients together. Heat a medium cast-iron skillet with 4 Tbsp. avocado oil. Using a 1/3 cup measure, scoop the sweet potato mixture and fry it in hot oil, flipping to brown both sides.
- Roasted sweet potato and kale salad. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Clean and cut 2 large sweet potatoes into 1” cubes and place in a bowl with 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Toss sweet potatoes to coat, then roast on baking sheet for 20-25 minutes until sweet potatoes are soft. Set aside to cool. In a large skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil and cook 1 sliced yellow onion, 3 cloves minced garlic and 1 bunch cleaned, ripped kale for about 10 minutes until onions are caramelized and kale is wilted. Place kale mixture in a bowl and place in frig to cool for about 30 minutes. Combine sweet potatoes and kale mixture and add 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar and 1 Tbsp. dried thyme. Toss to coat and serve.
- Chili with sweet potatoes. Using a large soup pot, prepare 2 cups lentils according to package directions. Add 1 small chopped onion, 2 cloves minced garlic, and 1 large diced yellow pepper. Add 1 Tbsp. chili powder, 2 tsp. cumin, and 1 Tbsp. salt and cook for 3 minutes. Add 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced, 2 cans dark red kidney beans (drained/rinsed), 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes and 3 cups water. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes until sweet potatoes are fully cooked. Season with cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes.
- Green eggs n yams. Heat 2 Tbsp. avocado oil in a large skillet. Add 4 cups grated yams, 1 clove minced garlic, ¼ tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. oregano. Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add 2 cups chopped fresh spinach leaves and cook 2 minutes until greens are wilted. Using a spoon, make 4 wells in the yam mixture. Add 1 egg to each well and cover the skillet. Cook eggs for ~5 to 7 minutes until eggs set. Eggs can be cooked longer if harder yolks desired.
- Slow cooker yam and black bean chili. In a crockpot, combine 1 medium chopped red onion, 1 chopped red bell pepper, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1 Tbsp. chili powder, 1 Tbsp. cumin, 2 tsp. cocoa powder, 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes with green chilies, 2 cans black beans (drained and rinsed), 1 large yam, peeled and diced and 1 cup water. Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Sweet Potato Brownies! I’ve saved the best for last! Click on the link for the full recipe…it’s worth the extra effort!
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