Chinese medicine’s health “encyclopedia,” the Neijing Suwen, translated as ”The Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor,” says that the corresponding relationship among all the "fives" (seasons, elements, organs, flavors, moods, colors) gives clear guidance in how to maintain harmony of body, mind and spirit during the natural cycles of each energetic season.
The color is black for the energetic season of Winter which we have recently entered (Nov. 8 to Jan. 17).
So how do we harmonize with Winter with the color black? One way is through the food we consume during this time.
Believe it not, the Neijing Suwen prescribes the consumption of black foods. In Chinese medicine, black foods are the best for Winter, green foods for Spring, red foods for Summer, yellow foods for late Summer and white foods for Autumn.
Black foods tend to be rich in inorganic salt and melanin. Inorganic salt can help promote fluid metabolism and it is a detoxifer. Melanin can help restrict nitrosamine (a carcinogenic compound) and thus prevent cancer.
FYI!: foods containing nitrosamines include cured meats, primarily cooked bacon, beer, some cheeses, nonfat dry milk and occasionally fish.
We’ve included an interesting list of black foods in the next column along with just a smattering of their bountiful health benefits. One thing you’ll notice is a common thread running through these foods: antioxidants! Black, deep purple, nearly black foods contain lots of them!
Black foods tend to be overlooked in our diets and are just as nutritious as eating green foods which are already commonly accepted as ultra healthy.
Black foods abound in natural plant pigments called anthocyanins (derived from Greek meaning “flower” and “blue”). This is what makes cherries red, blueberries blue, and blackberries black. Actually, most black foods are blue-black or almost black. The darker the pigment of the food, the more anthocyanins are present. Anthocyanins belong to the flavonoid class of molecules and are essentially, antioxidants. The seed coat of black soybeans contains the highest recorded amount of anthocyanins.
During energetic Winter, balance your black food intake with yellow-orange vegetables, tubers and gourds. Put the emphasis on eating warming foods. Warming foods tend to be yang, promoting circulation and metabolism and placing an upward, outward influence on the body.
Now’s the perfect time for stews and soups. Many of the following ingredients can be incorporated into your one-pot meals, especially black garlic, black lentils or beans, eggplant and black polished rice. Have fun! Yum!
Some health benefits of anthocyanin in black or nearly black foods:
- Combatting and prevention of cancer
- Anti-aging effect
- Reduced risk of hardening of the arteries
- A more efficient fat burning metabolism
- Decreased cholesterol and improved blood circulation
14 Nutritious Black Foods That Satisfy and Contribute to Preventive Health:
- Black sea salt (also known as Kala Namak): high sulphur content is very good for your skin
- Black pepper: stimulates food digesting enzymes
- Black tea: loaded with antioxidants
- Black polished rice or Forbidden rice: loads of vitamin E for immune system
- Black soybeans (also known as kuromame): enormous anthocyanin content; see health benefits of anthocyanins below
- Black lentils: loaded with iron
- Blackberries: may help reduce cognitive decline in older age and fiber rich
- Black beans: full of bioflavonoids that protect against cancer
- Black sesame: enhances bone health and helps you sleep better
- Black fungus (also known as wood ear),: rich in iron and vitamin K, regular consumption can help prevent atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.
- Black garlic: contains twice the antioxidant levels as fresh garlic; it is made by heating whole bulbs of garlic over the course of several weeks, a process that results in black cloves, a process which appears to double its antioxidant content
- Eggplant: packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
- Kelp: a major source of iodine, kelp helps regulate the thyroid gland
- Black mission figs: anti-cancer, fiber-rich, antibacterial
Hou, Joseph P. Ph. D. Healthy Longevity Techniques: East-west Anti-aging Strategies. Authorhouse, 2010. Print