Life. It was simple for a few thousand years or so – controlled by the four elements of earth, fire, water and air. Today, life is exponentially more complicated, not least because the number of known elements exceeds 100. However, when it comes to the food on our plates – what we eat, what we buy and where it comes from – returning to a more simplified view of the world might not be a bad shout.
METAL – savoury, pungent and white foods including rice, milk and cream, promote energy circulation. They most benefit sluggish, damp, lethargic and cold people.
One of the biggest challenges in the modern world is to produce sufficient, safe and sustainable food and water for seven billion people without negatively impacting our environment any more than we already have. Earth, air, fire and water – or food, climate, energy and water – are essential components of any attempt to tackle the problems surrounding the production supply, demand and sustainability of food.
With a slew of film releases like An Inconvenient Truth, Food Inc. and Fresh, many of us feel a personal duty to save the planet through individual actions. But the bombardment of news on climate change and famine can be more than a little discouraging. After all, what difference can one person make?
However, making sustainable food choices is one of the best ways of taking a hands-on approach to some of the world’s wider problems. For example, just a few simple tweaks to the shopping list and eating habits can lower your carbon footprint at the dinner table.
A good start is to buy local. Eating what’s grown and produced locally ensures you are eating food that is in season, and hasn’t required excess energy by way of forced growing and transportation. Also, the less far food has had to travel, the fewer CO2 emissions released getting it from A to B.
Avoid waste wherever possible. An estimated 50% of all food produced in the world ends up as waste every year, and when you consider what’s gone into its production, including fossil fuels, it is a catastrophic waste of natural resources.
Did you know that chocolate requires 17,196 litres of water to produce just 1kg? To produce 1kg of meat requires between 5,000 and 20,000 litres of water whereas 1kg of wheat requires between 500 and 4,000 litres only, which is why movements like Meat Free Mondays call for people to eat more veggies and think about meat as a luxury item.
Agriculture is responsible for one third of global warming gas emissions. But livestock production specifically generates nearly a fifth of the
world’s greenhouse gases and 18% of global warming gases, more than transportation. It’s a vicious cycle too, as greenhouse gas emissions contribute towards global warming and any increase in the planet’s temperature could lower food production.
This is why a lot of people who are concerned about recent weather extremes and climate change are now paying closer attention to their dietary choices. Unlike the four classical elements referenced in western culture, the Chinese philosophy of Wu Xing has five: wood, fire, earth, metal and water.
The principles of the five elements, when applied to diet, dictate that a deficiency or excess of one of the elements contributes to a physical health or emotional issue. In the Five Element system, it is important to balance these elements for optimum health. Learning to balance the five elements of food helps ensure that you receive enough nutrients from what you eat and supports the corresponding organs. Our summary of foods associated with each element and their actions on the body might help you feel healthier and happier.
WOOD – citrus fruit, vinegar, olives and most green vegetables can most benefit changeable, erratic and scattered people.
WATER – salty and dark foods including fish eggs, shellfish, pork, and beans have a softening effect and promote moisture and calming of the body. They most benefit thin and nervous people.
FIRE – bitter, red, dried and hot foods can reduce heat. They most benefit slow, overweight, overheated and aggressive people.
EARTH – sweet and starchy foods, including root vegetables and sweet soft fruits neutralise toxins. They most benefit nervous and weak people and they calm aggression.