by Sheri DeMaris
From the macrobiotic perspective, the liver becomes most active in the spring, because its natural tendency in the body is similar to that of springtime; it moves energy up and outward, just as plants grow up and outward during this season. Of all the organs in the body, the liver is the most susceptible to becoming full of excess energy and heavily burdened by the standard American diet, stress, lack of sleep and overeating, especially before bedtime.
Extreme foods—those that are extremely heavy for the body and those that are too stimulating—affect the liver. Diets rich in high-fat animal products, such as beef, bacon, eggs and cheese, can make the liver too full, hard and tight so that it is not able to move energy up and out.
In the macrobiotic diet, foods that support the liver include light, fresh grains and greens, as well as mildly salty pickles. Since morning is the rising time for the liver, macrobiotic breakfasts include soft, watery grains and lightly cooked, crispy greens.
For a healthier liver, remember these tips when cooking. Use a lighter, quick cooking style, including boiling, blanching and pressed salads. Use oil sparingly, and avoid overly salty tastes. Limit foods that are pressure-cooked, as well as baked flour goods that are dry, and cooked, dry grains; all create liver stagnation.
Use foods with a natural, upward energy. Some examples include barley, dark leafy greens, such as collard and mustard greens, and green and white leafy vegetables such as bok choy and Chinese cabbage. Use light touches of sour seasonings, such as brown rice vinegar, lemon juice and umeboshi vinegar.
Macrobiotic tips to support the liver include to stop eating and drinking three hours before bedtime, walk barefoot in the morning dew and avoid coffee; drink roasted barley tea instead. To satisfy cravings for baked flour products, try steaming sourdough bread. Sunbathing for long periods should be avoided. Learning to express emotions assertively instead of holding them in or being aggressive is also important.
Sheri recommends this liver-friendly recipe:
YIELDS: 4 servings
- 3 cups spring water
- 1 cup pearled barley
- Pinch sea salt
- 1 carrot
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 lemons (juiced)
- 1 Tbsp shoyu (natural soy sauce)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp black pepper
Bring 2 cups water to a boil and add salt; set aside the remaining cup of water. Add barley to water and boil for 35 to 40 minutes. While barley is cooking, cube carrot and celery. In a separate pot, bring the other cup of water to a boil. Blanch carrot and celery for two to three minutes in boiling water, removing them while they are bright in color. Strain and set aside. Strain cooked barley and place in large bowl. Stir in cooked carrots and celery.
Mix lemon juice, shoyu and olive oil. Add pepper and whisk thoroughly. Pour over barley and vegetable mixture and stir well. Cover bowl and place in refrigerator for at least 20 to 30 minutes before serving.
Sheri DeMaris, M.Ed., is a full-time guidance counselor, macrobiotic cooking teacher and author of Macro Magic for Kids and Parents. Connect with her at TeaWithSheri.com. March 2014.