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Spring Cleaning the Mind, Body, and Spirit with Leafy Greens

Contributing Writer

By Shanti Christensen

Spring is the popular season for cleaning, right? We start in the garden with a rake and hoe, get to the inside of our homes with a dust rag and broom. There’s sweeping under beds and shaking out curtains; we shake things up all over the house. This year why not take it one step further by cleansing your body, mind, and spirit as well!

'Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.' 

~Hippocrates of Kos, (400 B.C.)

As springtime approaches, it's time to start thinking about what foods we should be eating and when. If you're following Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), then you'll want to focus on ingredients that are cleansing, growth-oriented, or that provide the body with renewal. After living in China for six years and learning homestyle recipes from families across the country, I learned a lot of interesting things about how people use food as medicine year-round.

Leafy Greens give the body a good spring cleaning

Leafy greens are a nutritional powerhouse that boosts your skin, hair, and nails. They work to keep you looking younger because they support new growth, repair of cells, and detoxification of the body. In addition to being super healthy for your insides, leafy greens make food taste better too! If you're not getting enough from whole foods like salads or sandwiches then I have some great recipes in my cookbook "Family Style Chinese Cookbook: Authentic Recipes from My Culinary Journey Through China."

I can't have a meal—especially with meat—without a good helping of leafy greens. A rich source of vitamins and age-fighting phytochemicals can be found in chard, arugula, kale, and spinach. 

Clean the mind of stress with leafy vegetables

Leafy vegetables not only reduce the oxidation of your cells, they keep hormones in balance. Specifically, cruciferous vegetables such as kale, collard greens, mustard greens, Chinese kale, and cabbage, have been shown to modulate estrogen levels (helpful for conditions such as endometriosis and fibroids). When these hormones are balanced, it will be possible to release stress more easily and focus on what you need to do. 

Get high-vibrational with leafy greens

Leafy greens are often overlooked, but they are one of the best ways to get closer to our source, spiritually speaking. Leafy greens have a unique connection with our energy because not only do they take it in for themselves, but also they can transform into something that we can eat. They contain all the power of the sun and more!

One of the best ways you can connect with "source" is through leafy greens. Not only do these plants convert sunlight into food for themselves by taking in its energy-filled rays, but also transform this energy so that we may enjoy it as well!

It’s no coincidence that shamanistic diets involve high plant volume specific to leafy greens! 

~ Elissa Goodman

Get the vegetables in me!

I am grateful my mother taught me how to stir fry because this is a basic method to know for survival, right after knowing how to build a fire. Assuming you have the fire, let’s make a stir-fry!

Chinese Kale with Ginger Juice

Jiāng Jiǔ Chǎo Jièlán Piàn 姜酒炒芥兰片 | Fóshān, Guǎngdōng  | Chén Qiūfán 陈秋凡

In Chinese traditional medicine, leafy greens are often considered "too cool" for the body. Ginger is a warm food and can be added to leafy-green dishes, like kale, to counteract its cool properties. The juice of ginger complements the slight bitterness of kale while still giving it a bright heat to enjoy for an easy meal.


  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound Chinese kale
  • ¼ cup water 
  • 3 tablespoons ginger juice
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing cooking wine
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  1. Cut the Chinese kale into 1-inch strips. Using a garlic press or mortar with pestle, extract juice from ginger root until you have 3 tablespoons.
  2. Heat oil in a wok. Add garlic and stir fry until fragrant. Add the Chinese kale, water, and salt. Allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes or until liquid has mostly evaporated. Add the ginger juice and Shaoxing cooking wine. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes, salt to taste then remove from heat and serve.

This recipe is an excerpt from Family Style Chinese Cookbook: Authentic Recipes from My Culinary Journey Through China, by Shanti Christensen. Paperback Published by: Rockridge Press (December 20, 2016) 

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