In ancient eastern philosophy spring is associated with the Wood element, the season to plant seeds for the future and determine our direction for the year ahead. In the body, the Wood element is associated with the liver and gall bladder, the organs of clear vision and strategic planning. When in balance these organs help us to make decisions easily and move forwards towards our goals on a clear a path. But when the energy through these organs is blocked, it can leave us feeling stuck giving rise to irritability, frustration and anger.
The liver is the second largest organ in the body and has many roles relating to digestion, immunity, metabolism and the storing of nutrients. It acts as a reservoir to store blood and it creates a smooth flow of energy or Ki throughout the whole body. It nourishes the tendons creating flexibility, as well as the eyes ensuring good vision. It also creates strength and evenness in the nails. Emotionally, the liver governs expression, so when our liver energy is moving well, emotions are easily expressed but when the liver is blocked it can be the cause of stiffness and pains in the muscles, as well as premenstrual tension or painful menstruation.
The trick is to know how to work with the liver and not against it and the way to do this is through the food we eat. The liver loves foods with an opening quality, which makes sense given that spring is all about opening and moving after the hibernation of winter. Such foods include naturally fermented pickles and vinegars, lemon juice and citrus fruits, green vegetables, radishes, sprouts, leeks, chives, lighter grains such barley, wheat and rye and vegetable proteins such as mung beans, haricot beans, cannellini beans, tofu and tempeh. Lighter cooking styles are also favourable such as steaming, blanching stir-frying or pickling, as well as the selection of lighter desserts such as stewed fruits and jellies.
What we don't want to do is stock up on foods, which congest the liver including too much meat and eggs, hard cheeses, bread or flour products, as well excess oil, alcohol or sugars. Keep things light and nourishing with plenty of vegetables, lighter proteins and grains and small amounts of good quality fats. This way your liver will say thank you and will keep you feeling energised, creative and in full pursuit of your goals and aspirations!
To get you in the spring time step and inspire you with a liver enhancing recipe, here is one of my favourite soups to get you started. The combination of peas, coriander and chilli is a great way to move your energy upwards and outwards, while the coconut nut milk provides a rich, smooth quality which is comforting but light and uplifting. Sometimes I eat this soup for breakfast, which might sound a little strange but i'm a big advocate of soup in the morning. Its warming without being heavy, so actually its the perfect way to start the day especially at this time of year. I hope you enjoy this recipes as much I do.
Pea, Chilli and Coriander Soup (serves 4)
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 cloves garlic
1 green chilli
4 cups peas
1 x 400ml can coconut milk
2 tbsp fresh coriander
Salt and Pepper
Method: Heat oil in a saucepan and add the onion, garlic and chilli. Season with salt and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the peas, coconut and water, bring to the boil then turn down to simmer for 5 minutes. Add the coriander and blend.
Variation: For a purer, more sattvic version, omit the coconut oil, garlic and onion. Simply add the peas to a saucepan with coconut milk and water and continue as above.