Food, elements and seasons

Veronica Tift enlightens us on the food to eat based on seasons and elements.

Ever heard the saying, Feed a cold, starve a fever? How about chicken soup is a cure for a cold, or an apple a day keeps the doctor away? These old wives’ tales all have merit to them: food is medicine. Food is the fuel that you put into your body. The type of fuel and the quality and quantity you put in makes a difference to the energy that your incredible body runs on. Using good appropriate fuel is vital for longevity and for good performance.

Food is fuel and medicine

There is a lot of information on nutrition and there is widespread controversy on what is the right way to eat. By sticking to the flow of nature and eating what works for you as an individual, based on your element, could go a long way to simplifying and navigating the sometimes complex world of nutrition.

Health costs are rising and during lockdown there was a shift to many of Grandma’s remedies and alternative medicine like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Now the science is catching up proving why these remedies have stood the test of time.

The idea of food as medicine goes way back, to quote Genesis 1:29, “And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.’”

Fast-forward to Hippocrates who believed in treating his patients in a holistic manner, with proper diet, fresh air and looking at lifestyle habits. 

Natures healing ability

Today there are numerous books on the power of food and the healing ability. Ancient healers and modern practitioners understand that everyone is different and that we each have our own connection with the earth and its elements.

As humans, we are wired to prefer nature. Everything about being outdoors is calming to the nervous system. Trees, plants, running water, rocks and wood are way more calming to the human nervous system compared to high-rise buildings.

Simply put organic beats plastic, both in the body and out. This also helps to understand the power of treatments like reflexology. Before the treatment has even begun, the setting is healing, taking the body out of being overwhelmed or over-stimulated to a natural rest state.

The body has its own wisdom and if you take a minute to listen, you will see that your body speaks to you. Think about being thirsty, your body has sent a signal to the brain which then makes your throat dry and you feel thirsty. This is where good choices come in, you can choose a sugary drink or glass of water.

Elements and seasons

The TCM system of medicine has stood the test of time because of its beauty, simplicity and because it looks at balance. The age-old concept of seasonal changes affecting human growth and well-being was rooted and developed in ancient China.

The five-element theory is key in the Chinese system, with each element Fire, Earth, Metal (or Air), Water and Wood all being associated to a season.

Everyone has the qualities of these elements living in them. It’s more of a metaphorical way of explaining and understanding the unique person each of us are. Usually, a person is dominant in one or two elements. However, we require a balance in all elements to thrive.

There are many online sites where you can find out what element you might be dominant in. This can give you insight into not only what food would better suit your element but will allow you to understand yourself and work on new strategies on how to best take care of your health. A good nutritionist or ayurvedic practitioner can help you find the right balance for you as an individual. Consult with your healthcare provider.

Once you have determined which element you are most dominant in you can allow it to guide you on what to eat in each season. Remember as with everything in life, balance is needed. Eating foods in season and minimising the number of processed foods is a great start in balancing the body.


Spring is a time to dance and shine like the sun and is connected to the Wood element. It’s the opportunity to look at what is old and not working, it’s time to bring new awareness in, making changes for good. More whole foods, fresh fruit and vegetables, salads, seeds, nuts and beans will give you the vital life force needed to make changes.Keeping things light, avoid fried foods, alcohol and chemical foods.

This is a great time to start reflexology if you haven’t tried it, helping your body with relaxation and clearing. Fasting could be another great addition to this time of year as a way to spring clean your system. Please only consider fasting under the supervision of a dietitian.


Summer is natures season of growth and is connected to the Fire element. Being more active during this time, you need a diet that helps to keep it cool and light. Nature to the rescue with fruits and vegetables on hand with fruits being the most cooling. Eat fruits during the morning and heat of the day, vegetables are perfect for night. Seeds, nuts and grain and good quality water, cucumber and citrus fruits are especially good; all add value this time of year. Be careful not to over-burden your liver with high caffeine and alcohol.

Ever seen someone eat burnt toast or love strong coffee? This could point to an imbalance; a craving for bitter flavours is associated with this element. A good way of satisfying this need for bitter flavours could be to munch on some green leafy vegetables.

Late summer, the Earth element, is the beginning of harvest time. Vegetables are growing big and plump; fruits are falling ripe to the ground. Natures gifts at this time year are apples, grapes, tomatoes, beans and zucchini. Grains are close to harvest and pumpkins and squashes are close behind.

Whole grains and good quality protein, seeds and sprouts, nuts, beans and dairy products, eggs and red meats, can all be part of the late summer diet that can continue right through to winter, helping keep heat and strength balanced.

Craving sweet things and not just sugar, but high carbs like potato chips can be seen when this element is out of balance. Learning to understand labels and reading ingredients becomes a key to unlocking what your body is craving.


Autumn is associated with the Metal element. This is the season for harvest; people who don’t like autumn show an imbalance in this element by having a hard time harvesting their personal energy. This is the season of gathering all the seeds that you have sown throughout the spring and summer, before the rest of winter.

Citrus fruits, grapes, apples, pears, walnuts, sunflower seeds, brown rice and wheat are already around this time of year. If you crave hot spices or strong cheeses, or maybe you can’t stand curry or peppery foods, either of these can point to an imbalance in the Metal element.


The season of winter is connected to the Water element. Find balance in this season with body warming foods, rest and plenty of good wholesome root vegetables, preventing cold from settling in the bones.

Using plenty of salt can show an imbalance in this element or finding food way to salty. With the colder weather, it’s time to eat warming foods, fruit will be less available, and vegetables are right there to take their place. Cooked whole grains are a great stable in winters and don’t forget those soups. Plenty of garlic, turmeric, ginger, and good quality proteins are also encouraged.

TCM principles about food

  • Don’t over eat. This causes stagnation in your body. Thinking about how lazy I feel after eating a big meal, I can totally agree.
  • Overeating or eating foods that aren’t aligned with what your body needs effects your vital energy.
  • How you combine food can also play a role in digestion. Eat fruit by itself, ayurvedic medicine tends to agree with this, your body uses different enzymes to digest grain and meat, so eating berries, for example, on their own is easier to digest.
  • Sleep is important for many functions including digestion.
  • Eat with gratitude and joy, appreciate your food. This can be done with prayer, or a deep breath before a meal. Put down the phone and take a minute to feel gratitude for food, it’s life-giving fuel and powers every cell in the body.


Inge Dougans Reflexology the 5 elements and their 12 meridian’s a unique approach; Thorsons

Axe, Dr Josh. 2021, Ancient Remedies for modern Life

Haas. Dr Elson M. 1981, Staying healthy with the seasons

Mary-Ann Shearer; The Natural way – a family guide to vibrant health, Ibis Books Jhb 1995

David R. Hamilton Ph.D.; Why the Woo-Woo Works; Hay House 2021

AYURVEDA Lifestyles Wisdom; Acharya Shunya; Sounds True – Boulder, Colorado 2017

Veronica Tift is a therapeutic reflexologist, registered with the AHPCSA, based in Benoni. She continues to grow her knowledge through attending international and local courses on various subjects related to reflexology. Veronica has a special interest in working with couples struggling with infertility.


Veronica Tift is a therapeutic reflexologist, registered with the AHPCSA, based in Benoni. She continues to grow her knowledge through attending international and local courses on various subjects related to reflexology. Veronica has a special interest in working with couples struggling with infertility.

Header image by FreePik