February 24, 2012
We get most of our energy, or qi (that’s pronounced ‘chee’), from our food. In East Asian Medicine, the main pathways to gain qi are from food and from breathing the air. Although air quality does have a significant impact on our energy (as a quick visit to Beijing or Mexico City will attest) we will focus here on the energy we can get from food since this is an aspect that we have some control over.
There are a couple of things that you should consider when choosing what you eat. The first is the freshness of the food. Did you just pick it from your yard, buy it from a farmers market or has it sat in cold storage for a month before being sold at the grocery store? I have been pouring over my gardening books lately and learned that the vitamin content of older food decreases the longer that it sits out (Markham, p1) . In other words the fresher the better! Processing also damages the qi in food. This means that although an energy bar can have a great amount of protein, calories and vitamins and minerals, because of the processing it has a lower amount of qi then the equivalent caloric/vitamin/etc apples or bananas.
Freezing, drying or canning food can be a good way to preserve the qi of the food. You do lose a bit, but not much. Just be sure to use fresh ingredients and to not let things get too old before you dig in! Freezing and low temperature drying are the best options to preserve the most from your food. Canning can be intense and damaging, but your homemade cans are much better then store bought!
Processing is a separate and more intense process than cooking and should be thought of differently. Cooking your veggies, fruits or grains lightly can help increase their digestibility by starting the digestion process. During the winter season, it is especially good it eat cooked foods because of the cold temperatures outside. You may as well enjoy your food warm!
The second interesting aspect is that wild foods are more potent in their effects then domesticated foods. For example, foraged mushrooms with have more damp draining (you might need this if you have issues like foggy headedness or sinus problems or even just live in the Pacific Northwest) attributes then their cultivated cousins. This can even be true for the same kind of mushroom, for example wild chanterelles are stronger, more powerful then farmed chanterelles. This is a wonderful attribute that is also seen in Chinese herbs. As with any wild/foraged resource, and especially so because of their powerful characteristics, these plants and animals should be used sparingly. This helps maintain balance in your own body as well as prevents them from becoming an exhausted resource.
Eat up and enjoy!
Markham, Brett L. Mini Farming, Self-Sufficiency on a 1/4 Acre. Skyhorse Publishing: 2010, New York, NY
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