For those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, the scents, sounds, and sensations of Spring are upon us again. The Sun is beaming longer, warming up the earth and our bodies as we are transition away from contraction, welcoming the feeling of expansion. Here to help us bridge this shift in season, we have TCM Food Therapist Kimberly Ashton on the podcast, chatting with Mason and taking us on a journey through the energetics, foods, and flavours of Spring; The Wood Element, and Liver Qi.
As a healer, Kimberly Ashton's work centres around the power of functional food, Chinese medicine, the 5 Elements, food energetics, emotional anatomy, and energy medicine. When talking about the energy of Spring, Kimberly describes it as, "A season of transition, ideally, one that we ease our way into patiently and enjoy at its own pace". Observing our master teacher (Nature), we look around and see everything right now is in a moment of birthing; Slowly emerging from hibernation, gently transitioning in movement, reflection, and animation. Is your body craving some Spring regeneration? Can you feel a bit of Liver stagnation? Tune in as Kimberly brings her depth of food wisdom forth with a breakdown of the foods, herbs, flavours (and desserts) that cultivate the distinct energy in the body required to support Liver Wood and its function in this season.
Mason and Kimberly discuss:
Who is Kimberly Ashton?
Kimberly Ashton is a Holistic Wellness coach that focuses on the 5 Elements, Food Therapy and Chinese Medicine. She spent over 18 years in Asia and Shanghai, 8 of which she co-founded China’s first health food store & plant-based nutrition cooking studio. Now back in Australia, she launched Qi Food Therapy in 2020, a platform offering e-books, online courses, and coaching for “balancing life energy” through food, food energetics & emotional wellness. In 2019 she published her second book “Chinese Superfoods” in Mandarin, which encourages new generations of food therapy enthusiasts to explore Asian traditional foods, everyday ingredients & get back in the kitchen. It has sold over 7000 copies in China. Her approach is centered on cultivating an intuitive relationship with food and helping people understand their energies through food choices, cooking techniques, the 5 Elements, emotional & energy practices.
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Check Out The Transcript Here:
Kim, welcome to the podcast.
Kimberly Ashton: (00:02)
You got a lovely IGTV live chat, is that right? Back on-
Kimberly Ashton: (00:09)
Gosh. Was that in-
Kimberly Ashton: (00:11)
Yeah. It was months ago.
Kimberly Ashton: (00:14)
Yeah. I think it was well before winter.
I think we had the arrangement, the intention, to have a winter diet, food, ingredient, cooking technique podcast, but then things happened. I don't know what these things are, haven't been watching the news. Don't know what's going on in the world, but something happened out there and people aren't moving around for some reason.
Kimberly Ashton: (00:34)
That's all right. We hibernated in winter and now it's a chance to change the season.
Springtime, your favourite.
Kimberly Ashton: (00:43)
It is my favourite. Yes.
Why do you think that is?
Kimberly Ashton: (00:48)
Lots of reasons. A, I love the colour green. Predominantly my five elements, numbers, or predominant elements are wood. I've got two words. The beginning, out of the three numbers, the first and the third number are both wood energy, so I don't just like spring, I love spring.
Are you still facilitating people to run through their... I don't know what to say. Their details in order to hone in on which element is dominant for them in their constellation?
Kimberly Ashton: (01:20)
Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, there's two main ways you can do it. One is go see a TCM doctor and they'll do a diagnosis and tell you what's your constitution, but also condition, what's happening. Which is a great way to just understand more about your body and what's going on, and your health tendencies, as well as food preferences. And then the other way is a system that I use, called Nine Star Ki. It's based on astrology, but I take the food, personality, emotion side of it. So, that's what I mean when I say the three numbers. So, my predominant number is a three, tree, which is the branches of a tree, which goes in 10 directions at the same time.
It's like I, for some reason, there's certain things where my slight dyslexia comes in, and that's a lot of the time in, for lack of a better word, my diagnosis. I definitely get big vibes of where someone's at within their elemental journey, but honing in on the constitution, for some reason it alludes me because I go in so many different tangents. And the acupuncturist I was working with for years spoke to me about the fact that sometimes it's elusive to him, because in fact where what's coming up and emerging is dominant, is just where we're at on the journey and tracking back and finding where the truth is... He used to call it, true deficiency lies, and that's where you are. So, he's about far more pessimistic, and so I take it that basically your constitution and what dominates is your biggest weakness, and what's eventually going to kill you as long as you stay unbalanced-
Kimberly Ashton: (03:01)
Absolutely agree. So, I mean, our conversation today is all around spring and wood elements and everything that goes with that. We'll get to lots of food and yummy stuff later. But absolutely. So, when I say, wood element is my predominant element, my liver and my gallbladder, they're the first to go. And we can talk with emotions, we can talk with food, so it's absolutely your best friend, but it could be your worst enemy if you're not aware of how to balance that, or how easily you get out of balance. So, it's really important. It's being factual probably, not so much pessimistic.
factual is very- But then I think I'm more just in the sense of like, I'm such a romantic in the sense of that maybe that where the weakness is, but my goodness, the opportunity and the dance and the lessons, cosmic and both the practical that you're going to be able to learn from that deficiency. Maybe it's not a deficiency after all. Maybe it was your greatest strength. I'm too much of a... Never want to grow up and face the music of the reality of the world. So, I like to balance it out with all the romantic language, but I remember he was like, "Cool. Whatever. It's still the thing that's going to kill you." All right. Good.
Kimberly Ashton: (04:19)
And then he sticks the needles in you.
Then he stabs you right in the back.
Kimberly Ashton: (04:23)
Yeah. Springtime. I'm excited. I'm going to come, and I think I really want to have a session with you as well. And just make sure that everyone listening knows that I've been. It's great to have you on the podcast finally. I can send everyone your way so that they can get that insight, it's a beautiful offering for our community. So, yeah. I hope a few people can send a few people your way and-
Kimberly Ashton: (04:49)
I would love that. Thank you.
And springtime. It'd be great to do this seasonally with you, but I'd love for you to take us on that journey and the distinction around why particular foods are going to come into the diet, outside of just seasonality. And what the energy of spring is, and what it is in the liver wood function that we're actually attempting to support through our diet and cooking techniques.
Kimberly Ashton: (05:14)
Yeah. There's so much to talk about and to share. And I'll start with the energy of the season, of the external, and then we'll bring it into the body. But the wood element, or the springtime energy, is all about transition and shifting. And a lot of us, whether they're as passionate about spring as me, or even yourself, we rush into it. We're like, oh, it's warm weather, the sun's out, and we take off the clothes and we go for ice cold drinks and ice cream and salads and cold beverages. Nothing against that.
Kimberly Ashton: (05:50)
We do rush and there is also this emotional energy in the wood element of impatience. So, we get quite excited, myself included. It's like, oh, it's beach time. And we start thinking of all these beautiful activities or foods or lifestyles that we want to jump into. It could be summer. A lot of people are more of a fan of summer. So, spring is like a big step towards summer and the expansive openness of that. So, it really is a transition season, and ideally we ease our way into it, patiently, and enjoy it at its own pace, rather than rush to do everything that we want to do. The other thing that can happen is that we over organise, or over control things, and that's the element of the liver and gallbladder expressing themselves as well. And then we just want to do, do, do more and we can get pretty tired very quickly. We don't make it to summer.
Yeah. I mean, that's the nature. It's a transitory season, yet it's its own entire season, like summer and like winter, which obviously are pinnacles, but a transitory season like spring is just as important and has the same amount of impact as those two are going to have as well, because so many people get sick at the change of season. And funnily, it's like it's from jumping from the waters of winter, straight up into the wood of spring. And as you said, we get impatient and we forget that there's earth between the seasons, and you need to step onto the soil and ground yourself in order to not get sick. Have you got a couple of tips at the moment, because maybe people are listening and recognising that, yes, I've done that again this year. And over the next five years, because you get a new opportunity every single year, and it also impacts day to day as well. We get to spring and we get a wood season every single day-
Kimberly Ashton: (07:40)
Every morning, yeah.
A couple of easy tips, especially since you're such an expert of jumping into spring and getting so excited as well. Just little things that help you ease in so that you don't burn yourself out too soon.
Kimberly Ashton: (07:52)
Yeah. Absolutely. I mean, physically, you can not strip down to, depending where you live of course, where you are it's a lot warmer, but physically easing yourself in, whether it's appropriate dressing, doing too much as well. So, we go from hibernation in winter and sitting on the sofa or doing less. I didn't, that's my biggest problem is actually stopping in winter. I'd have no problem going in spring, but it's actually the season before. So, paying attention, as you just said, into what you're doing in all seasons, so that there is that element of balance. But definitely in spring, not rushing, in terms of your thought process, keeping your mind too busy, packing in your schedule. Sleep is a really important one too. We tend to think, oh, there's more hours of sunshine in the day, so I'll just...
Kimberly Ashton: (08:44)
A lot of people cut off from winter to spring. It's just this big change, rather than a gradual transition. But the biggest thing for me is movement and exercise in this season. So, I tend to find I have more energy to want to move and do things, so do that. I work with a lot of people in my coaching practise who don't move enough, and there is a lot of liver stagnation and then it gets to spring. I'm like, "Come on, let's go." So, there is an element of that. So, definitely moving appropriately and then eating. I mean, all seasons are important to eat, but spring's a really lovely opportunity to add new ingredients and flavours and move with the season and energy.
So, what are you... Because I mean, it might seem like an obvious thing... I guess, even for myself, it seems obvious that I'm going to have a look at what is more of an appropriate diet. We live in this incredible world where we've cultivated particular vegetables. Maybe some of them a bit hybridised, others not, but we've got this widespread availability of foods. And across that repertoire, yes, there's wild foods in the environment, which are going to be endemic and obviously going to be seasonal, which is a great anchoring. But going to the farmer's markets, it's just always such a great reminder to remember, yes. There are going to be those staples and things that you always base your diet on, but there's going to be particular foods that you can start to get a little bit more creative and a little bit more intentional in bringing that particular energy in the body, to support the liver wood and its function in this spring. So, I'm like, yeah. I'm looking forward to hearing what we're getting onto, and how we're preparing as well.
Kimberly Ashton: (10:26)
Yeah. Absolutely. And of course it depends where you're listening from. If you're in a tropical place like Thailand or Singapore, then your spring energy is not as excitable as it is for us in a four season climate, where the prevalence of green vegetables really will come out now. Tropical places have an abundance of what I'm about to share, all year round. And that is another factor and problem as well. I find that people will say, "But I can eat greens all year round. It's not just springtime." But yes, there's a lot more of them and we can, as you just said, intentionally look for these foods.
Kimberly Ashton: (11:07)
So, whenever I talk about vegetables I categorise them, because people just think of vegetables as one big group. But there's many more than three, but I will break it down into leafy greens, and in there we'll put sprouts and leeks and chives, and I'll talk about those. And then round and ground vegetables, which are all the onions and pumpkins and sweet potatoes, cabbages, that are very earth element like. And then the root vegetables, carrots, parsnips, all the radishes, beetroot, burdock, arrowroot. So, this season is all about the upward energy and the leafy greens and that whole category, so I like to talk about food in terms of arrows and energies. So, it's pretty much like asparagus, it's like the best arrow I can think of, which I love.
That's always for me like it's first on... For me, it's always, for some reason, not saying that this is the most important, but for me, when I'm like, okay, cool. Spring. It's upright. It's upright, it's got a firmness to it. I'm thinking asparagus, and I always think of rosemary.
Kimberly Ashton: (12:18)
It's just such an over... I've got a tendency towards rosemary over thyme. Even to an extent, or even in a more of a yin... I'm like, oh yeah, there's the yang, really upright rosemary. And then other times it will be a little bit more yin, a bit more creepy.
Kimberly Ashton: (12:34)
There we go. Yeah. Yeah. I haven't thought about the herbs in that way, but yeah. Absolutely. So, asparagus is, in terms of purely energy of food, that's the perfect example. And closely followed by leaks and anything in that family. So, chives, spring onions. Again, it's not to say that you can't eat them in other seasons, but this is the season energetically, and when it's ripe and when it's going to taste the best. The other thing is, in terms of green vegetables, really anything that's leafy and green. I always go to the Asian greens because there's just so much more choice. But of course, the more Western green vegetables are great too. And then sprouts, it's really sprout season. I know people eat sprouts all year round. I tend not to, and I really save them for spring and summer on salads and other-
I'm with you there. It's such an eventful food, I find. I mean, there's a celebration in spring and I find if I continue to do sprout something that's so vibrant for me, when I used to have them sporadically, becomes a bit of a bore.
Kimberly Ashton: (13:53)
Can't put them on everything. Some people do, but I don't tend to put them on everything.
And going on the greens. I mean, I know not necessarily the ones that are available to everyone, but just if you get the opportunity to get the chicories and the dandelions at this time, how do they go for you?
Kimberly Ashton: (14:11)
Absolutely. So, a lot of the vegetables that you just mentioned and a few others that I'll mention, we can have them in their sprout form or in their more salad leaves form. But then save the root for autumn or winter. So, as a dried tea. So, it's nice to use the whole vegetable, especially if it is a root vegetable with the leaves. Another example is beetroot. Fantastic now if you can get beetroot, most people can. Eat the leaves, so a lot of us are throwing the leaves away. I'm sure you aren't, but a lot of people do. Even at farmers markets-
I swear. Again, I get my little dyslexic things that pop up every now and then, and diagnosing where someone's actually on a constitutional level with their elements and whether it's... Is it beetroot or radish leaves that I can't eat? I can't, just for the life of me, I just can never nail it in my memory. I constantly need to go and Google. So, yeah. No. But the beetroot leaves, I know Tarny uses them every time, just when we're doing a little juice.
Kimberly Ashton: (15:16)
Yeah. So, it's that energy. So, if the beetroot was under the ground and that's a good root vegetable, then go for the leaves as well. And a lot of people don't eat carrot leaves, radish leaves, daikon leaves, beetroot leaves. Yet it's really a nice addition in the season to start adding in the leaves of vegetables that we're used to eating. So, don't waste that. I'll keep going with the greens and the green theme, but I do want to come back to something called liver qi as well. So, a lot of people will say, "Well, beetroot is purple, it's not green. Why are you talking about beetroot?" But there is an element of nourishing the blood in chi, and there's a separate list in Chinese medicine just for that. They're not necessarily green foods or vegetables, but yeah. It's really an important element of this discussion as well.
Kimberly Ashton: (16:03)
So, a few other examples would be pretty much all the mustard greens and collard greens. You mentioned dandelions. I love [inaudible 00:16:11] or rocket, depending where you live. That's a really nice one. It's got a slight bitterness to it, but it's got that beautiful energy. And fennel. I'm a huge fan of fennel. If you just look at the way that fennel is grown, it's just this... Not so much upward, but up and out energy, and the leaves again, the leaves are just huge. People don't have the opportunity, depending where you live, if you're shopping in a supermarket, for example, you'll just see the poor little fennel bulb, and you won't see the full expression of a fennel.
That's beautiful bringing that back from the markets and trying to fit it into a crisper. I'm like-
Kimberly Ashton: (16:47)
You've got to eat it fast. Celery is a great example too, of this energy. And then there's a few other things, herb's and tasty things like parsley, any type of basil. You mentioned rosemary as well, which is lovely. And nettle. I've really gotten into drinking nettle tea, like just organic tea leaves lately. Beautiful, really nice and cooling. If you're in Asia and you're listening to this, green tea is lovely. So, I start to switch my warm drinks in the morning to more of a matcha. Whether it's a smoothie or a hot latte or something like that, anything green you can get your hands on. And then there's the raw food community, and they get very excited about wheat grass, spirulina and chlorella at this time of year as well. But more greens in there.
They're always excited about wheat grass and chlorella and spirulina.
Kimberly Ashton: (17:47)
That's true. But now's a good time to bring that on if you're really weaving in Western nutrition and Chinese medicine, they do share the same concept of the liver and spring being a detoxing, cleansing, uplifting season. And you can definitely do that really well in the kitchen.
Yeah. I mean, yeah. As an ex raw foodist it was definitely an exciting time, when you're like, ah. I'm energetically aligned right now.
Kimberly Ashton: (18:18)
And then in autumn, you're just like, la, la, la. All external stimuli.
Kimberly Ashton: (18:27)
Beautiful. All right. Let's crack on.
Kimberly Ashton: (18:29)
Yeah. So, I'd like to mention a few liver qi building foods, because that might be a concept that... Actually, even in China or in Asia, a lot of people, they understand green vegetables are good for them, and especially in the spring season, but there is an element of nourishing the liver. We can talk about yin and yang, but the qi, so the yang side of things, and really having enough blood and energy more functional from the liver. And it's really important for men and women, but especially for women with menstruation as well, like a strong liver is needed to start that process. So, sweet potatoes, again, not green, but sweet potatoes have a very blood nourishing liver qi function. And the leaves of sweet potatoes are delicious just sauteed as a green vegetable. Beetroot and beetroot leaves, as I mentioned. Mushrooms, I know you love mushrooms, but all mushrooms are really yin nourishing, blood nourishing, and wood ear fungus is something that I've been adding in more of lately. Wood ear mushrooms or black fungus.
Sauteing those or doing them in a soup?
Kimberly Ashton: (19:39)
All of the above. So, I get them fresh, but also I always have dried ones in my kitchen cupboards. So, if you're using dried ones, just rehydrate them for about an hour. So, I would put them whole in a stir fry, or I like to slice them really thin and put them in noodle soups or even fried rice. And then more Western dishes you can... I'm not sure how many people listening are familiar with seaweeds or sea vegetables, but RMA. If you get some RMA and then also the black fungus and slice them up really small, you could put that with some lentils or meat, and make a pie or a pastry filling or Shepherd's pie.
Kimberly Ashton: (20:23)
So, you get quite creative with how you use black fungus. You don't need to just make an Asian noodle soup or in a stir fry. You can put them into Western dishes as well. But, yeah. They're ideally rehydrated or used fresh. So, they're really good for nourishing the liver as well. And then good old red dates, or jujube dates. They're good for everything in Chinese medicine. I know you have them in quite a few of your blends as well, but I just eat them as a snack, or I chop them up and steep them in hot water as a tea.
Are you sourcing them... Because I remember, it was... Oh gosh. At the markets I used to be up at Frenchs Forest Market, we got a grower, a local grower, who used to come and-
Kimberly Ashton: (21:08)
There is one here, yeah. I get them from them.
Is that who you get it from?
Kimberly Ashton: (21:11)
Yeah. They're called Pickle Hill.
That's an appropriate name. Pickles as well-
Kimberly Ashton: (21:18)
I think so. I think they have a lot of citrus, and then they have plums. And then I don't know when, but more recently, but I think it's been a few years, they have the jujube dates and a lot of them. And they're delicious and they'll go and... Yeah.
Chinese red date, citrus, and then a stone fruit. That's pure spring qi, liver qi contributor. They're like pickled liver hill.
Kimberly Ashton: (21:45)
Yes. No wonder I like them so much, but yeah. It's been really good to get more local produce, as much as possible. So, those are good for building the liver. So, if anyone listening is having liver issues, whether it's liver qi stagnation or menstrual issues, look at the liver for sure. In any season, but now's a good time to really nourish that.
I mean, just quickly just catch everyone up. I think there's a few distinctions around why the recommendation is there if you just get a little reminder of the basic function of... Into the liver wood system and the liver organ. One of them being the storage of blood, and there's a lot of damage that comes to the liver qi, the flow of liver qi, when there's [inaudible 00:22:33] and no blood. Qi is pushing along and there's not actually enough in there, and especially for women being run by blood and men run by qi. Still for men, it happens for us in other ways. But, yeah. So, I guess you're talking to jujube and there's other elements of this diet which are blood building. But it is always nice to remember that the spleen contribution and the kidney contribution is always there and building the blood so that the liver isn't deprived. And then it's the natural cleansing of the blood. And so, that the blood isn't toxic, which I think everyone can just be like, yeah, of course. All these things that you're recommending are beautifully cleansing to the blood. I guess the chief factor is, if your liver qi is stagnating or interrupted, the liver is responsible for distributing and for the smooth flow of qi being distributed to the rest of the body.
Kimberly Ashton: (23:29)
To the whole body. Yeah. And if people are wondering, how do they know if their liver is blocked or stuck, apart from the obvious things or even more Western views, like fatty liver or there's lots of Western nutrition and diagnosis. But then there's the Chinese physical, but also energetic. So, I heard you recently talk about bamboo and being adaptable, so it's more like when people think of a tree in this season, it's like a big, old tree trunk, that's stuck and stubborn, which we can be, but ideally we're creating more of a soft supple bamboo wood element, rather than being too fixed. And that goes into diets as well. We don't want to get too stuck in a box of, oh, Mason and Kimberly said, I've got to eat this, this and this. It's not that kind of approach in Chinese medicine. But definitely not in the spring season. We want to listen to the body and see what it wants and what it feels like. If it wants salad or if it wants steamed greens, or if it wants stir fried greens.
Kimberly Ashton: (24:34)
There's many ways you can cook your food and I'll get to that as well. But definitely there is a softness to it. And the next thing I want to share is also the liver heat, because that can be a big problem to getting blockage in the system, in this season as well. So, whilst we said not to jump into too many cold things or cool things at the beginning of the session, if we need to, then we need to look at things like peppermint, nettle, as I mentioned, green tea and also rose bud or rose petal tea is very, very nice in this season. And for anybody, men or women with any liver issues or anger issues or frustration issues, could be physical, it could be emotional. It's a very soothing, calming, cooling ingredient. So, there's so much to draw from in terms of food and flowers and herbs in this season. We can really utilise them.
And the only other one flower really jumping out at me right now in that list is the chrysanthemum-
Kimberly Ashton: (25:41)
Yeah. That's good too.
...just draining the heat down. And so that the liver isn't just sending it up.
Kimberly Ashton: (25:48)
Yeah. A funny story, a true story about chrysanthemum. When I first started getting into Chinese medicine and food and herbs, back in China, my TCM doctor would say, "You need to eat these foods." And she didn't mean go and eat a bucket of them, but that's what I... Chrysanthemum was one of them.
Kimberly Ashton: (26:07)
Okay. Yeah. So, with chrysanthemums, it was in the height of summer in Shanghai and it's very, very hot and humid there. So, whatever she said, I would take in large doses. And she didn't think to tell me how much. With chrysanthemum I've overdosed on chrysanthemum. I would take like a whole handful and drink a cup a day, and it made my spleen and stomach a little bit too cold. So, everything in moderation, including all the food that I mentioned.
One of the symptoms, have a freezing hand, and just too much heat strain from it.
Kimberly Ashton: (26:38)
I did. I think the heat did go away. It was great. But yeah, just causes a little bit of sensitivity in the gut, and a little bit of diarrhoea, susceptibility to different things. So, chrysanthemums are great. I save it personally for summer, and enjoy it a lot. But it depends on the person. So, absolutely.
I love hearing... I mean, because chrysanthemum, it does fall into that category of a tonic herb, and I love how classical Chinese medicine, but especially regimented, a westernised traditional Chinese medicine, there's a lot of stagnancy and there's a lot of distrust in people going about and engaging in herbalism on their own accord. The practitioner controls it, but I love... The role of the practitioner is to help to eliminate disease and for the longest term possible, so therefore it's lifestyle based. And a tonic herb there like chrysanthemum, and for you at that time, you're like, cool. Like whiz bang, great.
You said chrysanthemum, I'm going to go hard and charge hard. And sometimes that pays off for you. And then in this instance, you've just gone and done some cooling, got some diarrhoea, so what happened? I knew I put basically in too much and that's what happens, and I know the ramifications. And it's a tonic herb, so it's not relative, it's not toxic. You can't do too much damage, as long as you've been somewhat sensible. And you learned about your body, you learned about respecting a herb, understanding the energetics. And so, I can just sense, for you, you've developed a relationship there and an insight in yourself, and it's something I try and make sure everyone remembers when it's on the journey of tonic herbalism, whatever. Or diet, and you do something wrong. Like damn. It's like, no. Look. Look at what you've got now. You've got more experience. You've gained insight. You understand nuance a little bit more. So, I just always like reminding that, because sometimes people can be like, why isn't this working exactly the way that I want it to straight away? It's like, because it's a dance.
Kimberly Ashton: (28:45)
Yep. Absolutely. And to add to that, you need to feel it. I mean, my world is with food, so don't just trust what I say and say sprouts are good or leaks or asparagus are great. When you eat, feel what it's doing for you, and later that day or the next day, and then if it's not working for you, then stop. We've lost a lot of this listening to the body or the stomach or different organs. If I drink peppermint tea, I enjoy it, and I'm like, oh, it's cooling me, I can feel it here. And maybe it's taken a lot of time, and as you've said, different experiences, but it is an opportunity. Every meal is an opportunity to feel into the body and listen to what it needs or how it reacts.
Kimberly Ashton: (29:31)
And then I do want to also mention another good ingredient at this time. It is green, it's mung beans, a fantastic ingredient at this time of year. It's very cooling, very high in protein. It's so versatile, you can do so much with it. So, I want to make sure to mention, if you're going to eat mung beans, now's the time, spring and summer. Really good in Western cooking, obviously Indian dahls and curries as well. And in China, it's pretty much green bean soup. That's about the only way they know how to do it, but I mash it. I cook it and make it into a burrito filling. Or you can do it with Indian spices. Just be careful of Indian spices at this time, because a lot of them are quite warming, so not for everyone. But, yeah. Also a really good ingredient to add in. So, get some mung beans. Anything green and mung beans.
Anything green. I mean the other... You know what I get attracted to, I can't remember what book I read it in, but it was just like, look at the greens, look at things that are growing on vines. Look at how, this time of year, the vines explode. And I'm like, oh yeah. That's the wood element right there. And so, yeah. I'm always... Like the peas and beans and snow peas this time of year. I think you might have mentioned some of them already, but just want to reiterate.
Kimberly Ashton: (30:49)
Absolutely. So, in the peas and beans section, yeah. Anything that's... Whether it's a green pea... And most people have frozen peas, not that I'm encouraging frozen foods, but definitely anything that's green. Edamame as well is really nice, fava beans. Again, it's energetic so watch what nature is naturally producing. If you're fortunate enough to grow your own food or have a veggie patch, then you would have hopefully planted those and you'll reap the benefits of that coming to fruition now. Yeah. So, those are the main foods. I also wanted to talk about foods, because it's TCM and there's always yin and yang, and two sides to the story, so you can eat as much kale or leek or asparagus or fennel. I forgot artichokes by the way, which is actually my logo, but that is what I love.
Kimberly Ashton: (31:40)
That's also a really good one for liver qi, and yeah, it's so high in fibre and flavour and all of it. So, it's a short season that we can get them here anyway, but I highly recommend them. But foods not to eat are really important. I did a post on this, I think it was a few weeks ago, and I had so many people write because the first one I put, or maybe it was the last point, was peanut butter. And so many people wrote to me complaining, going why can't I eat peanut butter? And going [crosstalk 00:32:10] exactly. But going back to your point on feeling, I'm like, I didn't say you can't eat peanut butter. I was just saying, feel into it and see if your liver likes the peanut butter. So, any of these nut butters, anything with lots of oil or fat. So, that includes deep fried foods, heavy cheeses. Not that anybody listening would be eating fried chicken, but you never know.
Every now and then, maybe in the middle of travelling, you go to a really great Korean restaurant.
Kimberly Ashton: (32:39)
Absolutely. That's the place to have it. But, yeah. So, just watch out in the spring season as well. So, don't overburden the liver. You can have all that rich, oily, comforting, nourishing food, more in autumn/winter. That leads into different ways of cooking as well. But definitely be careful if your liver is having issues. If your liver is fine, then go for the peanut butter or almond butter, it's up to you.
Yeah. Well, I mean, I was never keto, but I used to enjoy going down the route of more of a high-fat raw food diet. And this would always be the season where it fell down, and I could see my bowel movements weren't as great. I don't think I was willing to admit to myself that the excess coconut oil at the time, and even now, just with... Maybe it's the buttery tonics, a huge amount of avocados, a huge amount of olive oil that I used to eat as well. All those things, I just watched my digestion slip at this time. And I think that was the first time I started opening up to the variants of the way my diet worked, because going into winter, it feels really great for my protein and my fat intake to go up.
And then it's just a matter of being adaptable enough to not drag it into this stage. I think this is where a lot of people... This is the season where a lot of people want a hardcore keto diet, or a carnivore diet, that kind of... Or even just a ketogenic style, raw food or vegetarian or whatever it is, you can see and you can undeniably feel that little bit of queasiness that can emerge and gives you a little bit of a ugh, like your body can't handle that fat. And so, just really good advice. I've just got to say, it's palpable at this time of year.
Kimberly Ashton: (34:36)
Yes, absolutely. So, just noticing those small things, and it's just a small adjustment. I don't think I said alcohol as well, just to finish that section up. But I'm just noticing and feeling into the body. Okay. Maybe before summer and party season and more alcohol, or moving out of winter and heavy cheeses, or nut butters or whatever it is, just to make that small adjustment, just to get the body through this transition season of spring.
Liver cops a lot and it's going to cop the excess, so it's recreational-
Kimberly Ashton: (35:14)
It's all the excess.
...drugs, pharmaceutical drugs, coffee. They have lots of fat, lots of protein, sugar, booze, any of those, if you hit them, if you keep on going in excess, it's a good time to reevaluate if you're leaning on any of them and doing them in excess, and try and pull it in. And then balance out with the greens, the fibres, the array of colours on the side of that dominance of green. It's a really good season for that.
Kimberly Ashton: (35:38)
Absolutely. Yeah. And so, this idea of detox in Western nutrition is a great time for exactly what you just said with all that excess, but in Chinese medicine, it's never eliminating one. It's also about adding in and rebalancing on our nourishing. So, definitely we can use Western terms like alkalizing or cleansing or that kind of thing.
Kimberly Ashton: (36:01)
But we can, but we can apply it to food and TCM concepts. I like to bridge them together. And on that note as well, with some functional foods, I'm a big fan of functional foods. I'll just mention two great ones for this season. One is shiitaki mushroom, and one is daikon radish. If you can get dried daikon radish, even better.
What daikon, sorry?
Kimberly Ashton: (36:28)
Daikon radish, but dried.
Kimberly Ashton: (36:31)
Yeah. So, it looks like... It's like an off beige, or off yellow, off white colour. So, those two are really cleansing. I use the words melting fat quite loosely, but it actually can help with the liver and the gallbladder, release or melt.
I mean, because we've talked a lot of bitterness within the greens. Within Chinese medicine, we're looking at... It's like a sour flavour though, being associated with liver. And hearing you talk about the melting of the fat, that's always... I feel that contribution comes in from those bitter greens and that cleansing and getting that roughage in to support that process. But when you bring up... For some reason, when you bring up daikon, the reason I then go and start associating with sour is because I used to pickle. I used to ferment my daikon. And when I think about it and when I think about lemon and lime and citruses during this time and that sourness, I can always feel that contribution of them, just going in and helping that fat to melt away, or just being contributed to... It's taking it along in this process in digestion.
Kimberly Ashton: (37:51)
Yeah. Yep. Absolutely. And I know daikon is more of a metal element vegetable, but yeah. We could, as you said, have some pickled or all the other beautiful radishes as well. Or if we need more functionally or medicinally in a detox or spring diet, a little bit of the dried radish and the dried shiitake can just add, purely on a functional level, to help the liver and gallbladder along their way of processing all the oils. And then, I definitely want to touch on the flavours of the season. So, sour, and then we can wrap up with cooking styles, my favourite. But definitely the citrus, I'm a huge lime fan. Lemons are okay. Grapefruit is really wonderful in this season. We really like the ruby grapefruits at the moment. But, yeah. If we can start getting in more of that, whether it's just consciously buying them and snacking on them, or putting them into a salad, or getting creative with the juices of them as well.
Kimberly Ashton: (38:57)
And I always like to remind people, in every traditional diet, whether it's German or Japanese or Italian or whatever it is, there was always some sort of radish or lemon or parsley or coriander, to help digest a meal. And we've also lost a little bit of that, I feel, in modern food culture. We don't have these herbs and functional ingredients to help us build a meal, digest a meal, cleanse after a meal. And traditionally all food, all dishes, had five flavours, in maybe not one dish, but in a meal. So, it's great to say yes, sour is good for the wood element, but it doesn't mean to say that we have vinegar or lemons on everything. I could, I actually really enjoy it.
Me too. I can put it in and go all over everything.
Kimberly Ashton: (39:44)
Me too. The food is just the carrier for the vinegar actually.
It's just the delivery system for the vinegar that I truly crave.
Kimberly Ashton: (39:53)
You must have a strong word element as well.
Yes, I do.
Kimberly Ashton: (39:58)
Yeah. So, definitely looking at apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, any vinegar really, but starting to get that into... A little bit. Again, everything in moderation.
God, I'm excited. One thing is champagne vinegar, white wine vinegar.
Kimberly Ashton: (40:11)
Oh gosh. I'm like, yes, yes. You're speaking my language. And just bringing up that element, that sour element, like the side, whether it's a radish and Tarny... We just get the radishes and just shave them and make quickles with them. It's like no time at all for you to have that at the start of your meal prep, and by the end of it, you've got some really decent pickles and they'll sit there for a couple of weeks and be that side.
Kimberly Ashton: (40:41)
So, do you feel that way in spring, like the nattos, even in a kimchi, or even getting misos and kefirs and [inaudible 00:40:53] and all those kinds of things, do they fit in at this time of year for that flavour profile?
Kimberly Ashton: (40:58)
Absolutely. Yeah. For those short-term pickles, like you said, the quick ones, quickles. I like that quick pickle, medium pickle, or long pickle, absolutely. For a long pickle, that'd be more in winter because we're also adding more salt. So, salt is very yang and more of a winter element. But absolutely, it's a nice time. Something we also do, it's a little bit more on the Japanese side, is called a... Like a pressed salad, similar to what you just said. So, you could just get some cabbage or any veggies, but cabbage works well, a bit of vinegar and you just massage it with your hands, and then you let it sit for while. Very similar to what you just said with the shave. So, trying to get a little bit of raw vegetables, a little bit of sourness, but again, building it slowly, rather than saying here's a bowl full of vegetables with vinegar on it, ease our way into that.
Kimberly Ashton: (41:50)
But definitely starting to add a little bit of the kimchi as well. Again, depending on your digestion and whether you want the chilli or not. But definitely starting to have some sourness through... I'm not a big lemon water person, where you drink lemon water all day, everyday, but now would be a good time to maybe a couple of times a week start to have a bit of that. I prefer just to eat grapefruits and all the citrus fruits. But definitely, yeah. Adding them in where you can. If you wanted to take it to desserts as well. I love raw food. I love lime cheesecake. It's my favourite thing. So, starting to even change your desserts, and flavours, and making them a little bit lighter and fresh with those citrus flavours.
Change the rules and just say, cashews are good at all times during the year. They are the base of those raw cakes. That was a time... That was the other thing about being a raw foodie. You're like, it's healthy, it's a healthy key lime cake, or it's a chocolate cake. What's the base? Just a shit load of cashews.
Kimberly Ashton: (42:57)
Yeah. So, if you have liver qi stagnation, not too many rich, nut based desserts, because the first thing an acupuncturist will say, if you have liver qi stagnation is how many nuts and seeds? Seeds not so much, but nuts can be quite heavy in those quantities. Yeah. I actually prescribe desserts to people. I'm like, you need to eat more desserts. They're like, "What?" Because there are a lot of people with... I mean, I deal a lot with spleen and liver energies. I actually have an ebook just on liver qi stagnation, by the way. It's the first one we wrote with some recipes in there, no raw desserts in there, unfortunately. Or fortunately.
Fortunately for the liver.
Kimberly Ashton: (43:36)
Fortunately for the liver. But we do tend to have a lot of salt in our diets, or a lot of sugar, but we don't tend to have good quality, relaxing, sweet flavours or sweet vegetables even. And that can impact both ways with the liver as well. So, that can contribute to stagnation and tension, frustration and anger.
I mean, sorry to interject again, the use of relaxing desserts and tying in with what you said then around the liver stagnation and that frustration. Then that anger and the liver, I guess another function we haven't talked about is the liver being responsible for helping smooth muscle, remain smooth and the peripheral nervous system not being tight.
Kimberly Ashton: (44:25)
Yeah. And fascia and tendons.
Fascia, tendons, yeah. Can you talk to us more about relaxing desserts?
Kimberly Ashton: (44:35)
Yeah. So, the opposite of the sour would be sweet, which is why it works really well in many dishes and cuisines. But a lot of us use sugar in terms of a stimulant, and I'm talking white refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup and all those bad things, which are in a lot of commercial desserts, pastries, beverages, ice cream, things like that. But it's really the body craving something to relax, to let out a sigh, or calm down after a busy day at work, or social media or whatever it is, looking after the kids. We get a lot of tension built up and the spleen, stomach really just want to relax. So, we can do that with desserts. We're just eating, for the most part, the wrong desserts, for lack of a better word.
Kimberly Ashton: (45:24)
Whereas if we have things that are soft and creamy and things like tofu pudding or creme caramel, or there are a lot of fantastic Asian desserts, like bean soups, bean pastes. Smoothies to an extent as well, just no ice. That can be a better option. Then lots of chocolate, which is heaty and with refined sugar, for example, like commercial chocolate. Or ice cream, which shocks the spleen, or too many dried foods like cakes and muffins. So, it's more about getting healthy sweeteners and healthy ingredients. So, like a carrot juice is actually really relaxing to the body, compared to another beverage or a dessert.
This is always where dessert... I don't know where to sit on it. My body generally doesn't enjoy it, probably because it's cold or it's heavily... Heavy amount of sugar. As well as just in my mind, it's like at the moment we've got good seasonal fruits. It's the time of berries and there's grapes and then all the pit containing fruit, so plums and apricots and peaches and nectarines are a natural choice. And putting them on top of a meal that's got a little bit of... I guess we haven't talked about protein yet, but springtime for me, I like having a little side of protein since that's such a building part of the liver that it's an appropriate amount, not excess meat.
Not excess beans or legumes or anything like that, but a nice little side. And then putting any sugar on top of that... Have you got any little combination techniques? I know there's alcoholic drinks, digestives that have been taken around that time, but maybe that aren't cocktail based that we can just help that, I don't know, that process of... Or maybe just bring some further distinction around putting natural sugars even, like berries, on top of a meal that contains proteins and fibres.
Kimberly Ashton: (47:25)
Yeah. I definitely don't suggest eating them together, and I'm actually... As much as I love desserts, and I was just saying to prescribe them or to encourage people, I like to have them in between meals. So, if it was late afternoon, it's actually a really good time to have... Afternoon tea is actually energetically or even the 24 hour Meridian clock system, is a good time to have something, if that works for you in your day. Or if it's after dinner, which I'm assuming more on top of a meal is what you're referring to, I wouldn't actually have it on top of a meal or right after. Leave a bit of time. Let the body digest because definitely having all those... As amazing as nectarines and berries are, a lot of fruit on top of beans or chicken or whatever, is not going to work so well in digestion. So, yeah. I would separate them just purely by the time.
Moving dessert to afternoon tea is such a revelation. I'm like, of course. Of course.
Kimberly Ashton: (48:26)
Yeah. At four... I mean, I don't even have a slump, a lot of people do, and that's when they reach for chocolate or cake or things like that. And I don't have it every day, but it's a good idea. Depending on when you exercise, because I also like to work out or do yoga and things at four or five, that's just... So, it really depends. You have to work dessert into your day or week, maybe week. But definitely after dinner is-
Kimberly Ashton: (48:50)
Into your practise, dessert practise. That would be good. But no, if you're going to have it after dinner, I mean, ideally have an early enough dinner, then you can have a break and then maybe have something sweet. But, yeah. I wouldn't suggest it necessarily [inaudible 00:49:03] purely for food combining. But, yeah. And then let me quickly share also some cooking for spring. I'm big on different styles of cooking as well. So, with the five elements with different seasons, adjusting the way you cook. I don't tend to use the oven so much in spring or in summer. It's not like I never do it, and again, depending where you live. If you live in Tasmania or, I don't know, Sweden or somewhere where it's not super hot in summer, then it doesn't matter.
Kimberly Ashton: (49:35)
But for the most part, I'm more of a fan of steaming, blanching, boiling, some broths instead of heavy soups from winter, you can still have beautiful lighter soups. One of my favourite soups is a bunch of different green things, fennels in there, green peas, broccoli, spinach. There's one more. I think I put a potato in there and you boil it and then you blend it. So, it's a green blended soup. Very light, very cleansing. And the fennel is super tasty, so lighter soups. And then a quick saute. So, just something light and fresh. And then maybe, as you said, adding a little bit of pickle or raw, I don't know, a little [inaudible 00:50:18] salad on the side or steamed asparagus. Yeah, some sprouts. So, just thinking in terms of a lighter and fresh approach, rather than boiling and slow cooking and baking, which is more autumn/winter. So, yeah. You can get seasonal with food, and you can get seasonal with cooking styles as well, which will help you adjust to that transition of the spring season.
Yeah. And I guess, even if you are habitual in... I know sometimes I'm like, oh my gosh, I am using the oven a lot. And my mind goes I'm not meant to in this season, not meant to. I'm like, okay. I think, right now I've got my meals, I've got my style, just adding the freshness, adding pickle, and then slowly bringing in the other cooking styles. I mean, it's such a good reminder that maybe we get some cobwebs on the oven during-
Kimberly Ashton: (51:18)
Yeah. It's okay. During the next few months. And again, as I said, it's not that you can't use it. It's more about learning what your body needs and when you need it. So, for example, say you are going hardcore raw food from now until Christmas. And then suddenly in December you think, ah, I need more energy or I need more, we call it yang things. You can go to different foods or herbs or the oven, or the slow cooker, in the middle of summer if you need that energy and that quality from your food. So, nothing is set in stone. It's more about adjusting for your lifestyle, or that condition of your body and mind on the day or that week. So, you don't have to stop using the oven, but ease up on the oven after winter.
Yeah. Just getting a few salads going. Like I'm really just back in salad season.
Kimberly Ashton: (52:10)
Yeah. Salad, it's great... As you said, it can be a meal or it could be a side, half a meal or even less. But just last point on the oven. A lot of people will argue with me and say, "I want to have bread." Well, you can eat bread whenever you want, that's fine. But a lot of traditional cultures actually steamed their bread and not just in Asia. So, the idea of... If you just think of a steamed sourdough versus a pretzel or [inaudible 00:52:39] and dry rye bread, there's a very different quality. They're both good, but there's a very different quality that it'll bring to you as well. So, yeah. Start getting curious about steaming things or different ways to prepare food or warm it or energise it.
I love the approach because ultimately I see everyone developing and allowing the emergence of their own food culture, their own personal culture. Hopefully not in just taking from other cultures, but respecting the entire tradition, and just seeing what the appropriate spillover is, towards you and your life, while you respect the entire lineage of what it took to bring us this wisdom. I think that's always important. But naturally there is a practical emergence of what you and your family on this land do. And there's going to be contributions from many areas. For me, it's always going to be my four or so years I had as a raw foodist that are going to inform something. I really love the French, Italian living kitchen. Italian mama, lots of aromatics there. I've got that beautiful grounding and insight though, from Chinese medicine, reminding me to tune in with the seasons, tune in with the alteration and maybe changing up of what the energy of the meal is, thanks to the cooking and the sourcing.
And the type of food, what that's going to bring to my body. And notice that, wow, that actually, I'm feeling very different. I'm feeling... I don't know. Not as edgy, not as angry. I moved through my anger a little bit more. And it can be that obvious, just through having that slight... You've maybe taken the rules for a little bit, as I did, and then going, well, hang on. I can throw the rulebook a little bit out here because they've just pointed me towards what is possible for me to perceive. And I think it's been important to remember that, for me, I'm also balanced out with that around ancestral style diets, but I don't want to live fully in that indoctrination of any one of those. Those are my influences and they all balance each other out and bring an emergence. But I've got to say, Chinese medicine is that one that keeps me grounded and keeps me in sync with the... Not just off with what my mind thinks I need, but in sync with my actual environment and how my body is relating to the environment.
Kimberly Ashton: (55:06)
Yeah. And just to reemphasize the word feeling. It's like, how do you feel about food? Oh, I like this. No. But how do you actually feel when you eat something? And as you mentioned, just to come back into the body and to centre and make food choices from a point of empowerment, if you like, or embodiment. Very trendy words, but really understanding what your body needs, rather than just seeing an ad on TV or at the food court or whatever, and then just eating. But actually understanding what your body needs. It will take a while for sure. And I love, like you said, drawing on different food cultures and flavours and wisdoms. But they all essentially have the same... Whether it's an Italian grandma or a Japanese grandma, they understood food and they knew it intuitively and innately.
Kimberly Ashton: (55:59)
Like if you were sick, you'd have this herb. They'd just know these things and we've lost that as well. So, it's exciting though, I feel, that in terms of food and nutrition has really changed globally a lot. And things like [inaudible 00:56:15] Chinese medicine, there's a lot of interest in it. And food as energy is a wonderful... I was going to say new, but it's an old topic that people are getting re-introduced to, and that's where my heart lies. It's like, flavor's good. Cooking is good. But how do you actually feel when you eat the food is something that we need to tap back into.
And then we've only just gone over what you faced... In the beginning, it was just like, what's on the shopping list, what are we looking out for? Basic intentions, basic cooking styles. And then, I know you go in, like you mentioned, the Italian mamas and grandfathers and all that. It was just they were like, we know that the tomato with the basil leaf, with the olive oil and salt, there's wisdom in that combination. That's just not random. And I know you go into that in other ways. Just for people, this is a 3D, 4D and 5D conversation that does go deeper, and we'll keep on bringing Kim on, but you can go and check out... What's your best website, where's the best place? Qi Food Therapy, I love your Instagram.
Kimberly Ashton: (57:22)
Yes. Qifoodtherapy.com is where to find me. And there's some eBooks and an e-course and more and more. I've got three or four things that I'm working on, which is really exciting. So, be great to connect with people there, and they can pop their email for the newsletter. Yeah.
Qi is spelled the proper way. Q-I.
Kimberly Ashton: (57:46)
Qifoodtherapy.com. Yeah. Follow Kim on Instagram as well. You've got lots of IDTVs, which are really great resources. You're really generous with your video content I find.
Kimberly Ashton: (57:59)
It's really... That's great. I tune in every now and then, just go and see, just go and get a little... Glean off a little insight around what I'm doing with my diet, when I'm clicking into... I just click into auto mode with life and family and that, and I just go, Jesus, what am I doing here? Where am I? Spring? Okay.
Kimberly Ashton: (58:17)
I'll do more kitchen ones. I've been out of the kitchen for a little bit, but I think it's time to come out of retirement. Because my joy and passion is being in the kitchen. Not just talking.
Well, I think everyone's enjoyed this. I'm sure everyone will be getting greens and doing beetroot juice and getting onto... Maybe switching up into matchas and maybe letting some cobwebs form on the oven a little bit, getting into steaming. And, yeah. I think it's been great. It's been a great reminder and touch base and I'm really happy that we'll get to introduce everyone to you on the podcast now. And we'll... Yeah. They'll just appreciate it so much, really inspiring, really concise, which is nice as well. Really practical information, which I know we all... But the ability to go very deep, which is I think something we all appreciate.
Kimberly Ashton: (59:05)
It's been a pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.
Hopefully we catch you for some summer vibes.
Kimberly Ashton: (59:11)
Enjoy your double wood spring.
Kimberly Ashton: (59:15)
Kimberly Ashton: (59:16)
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