Heart Healthy Foods


Here’s another article I wrote for the Tacoma Food Co-op.

Welcome back to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) nutrition class! In the past few months we have gone through Chinese medicine self-diagnosis and an overview of how to alter your diet according to your Chinese medicine constitutional diagnosis/type. In the upcoming months, we will explore more deeply how you can eat according to your type.

In this month’s article, let’s look at ways to nourish the Heart through your nutrition. The Heart is the main organ of the Fire element and Fire rules summer. And so as we head into summer, let’s focus on the heart organ complex.

As you may remember from previous articles, the Heart’s emotion is joy and the emotion that drains Heart qi is anxiety. The Heart rules over the movement of Blood and also the mind. The ability to think clearly is a function of a healthy heart. The Heart can’t handle a lot of heat, which anxiety can create, which in turn can disrupt bodily patterns such as sleep. Bitter is the flavor of the Heart and a little bit of that is usually all that is needed. Bitter drains heat, nourishes the Heart and can also boost metabolism – like the taking bitters for your digestion.

Bitter foods and herbs specific for the heart include:

bitter greens, asparagus, celery, coffee, kohlrabi, longan fruit, radish, dandelion and bitter chocolate.

I’m sure that you noticed the coffee and the chocolate! It’s true that the bitter of both of these nourish the Heart and in turn can bring us joy, but what we must watch for is the amount of sugar that often accompanies that coffee and chocolate. Again a little bit of bitter on a consistent basis is all that is needed.

Western medicine has something to say about heart health as well and here is a link to a WebMD article on foods that build heart health, with blueberries and salmon on that list.

As we really get into the heat of summer, we will talk about foods to keep us cool during the summer months (or weeks here in the Pacific Northwest!).  See you next month.

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